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Thursday, July 26, 2012

NSPL Partners with the NFL

Today, in partnership with the National Football League (NFL), Link2Health Solutions (L2H) is launching the NFL Life Line, a 24/7 helpline for members of the “NFL family” to assist them when they are in emotional distress. The NFL Life Line is the newest component of the NFL Total Wellness initiative, which builds upon current NFL programs and services that help members of the NFL family deal with pressing matters such as physical and mental health, family safety, lifestyle and post-career life. Service provision for the new NFL Life Line is targeted towards current and former players, NFL staff, and family members and will be provided by two Lifeline crisis centers: LifeNet in NYC and Centerstone in Nashville, TN. More information about the service can be found at http://www.nfllifeline.org/.


How did the NFL Life Line come about?

Soon after the May 2012 suicide death of Junior Seau, a popular and highly talented retired player who spent the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers, the NFL reached out to consult with a group of experts in suicide prevention. They spoke with key representatives from the National Action Alliance, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute of Mental Health, SAMHSA, the Jed Foundation, and our organization, among others. We learned a lot from the NFL about ways in which their community could receive more support. While our discussion looked at the health and mental health needs of the entire league and player community, a particular focus on the needs of retired players was evident.

While the media has given much attention to concussion-related issues in the lives of former players and family members, other transition and adjustment stressors commonly loom large in their lives. Issues such as changes in their financial status, changes in their social supports (loss of the “locker room culture” and how significant others regard them), changes in their sense of identity (“I am a football player”), and a need for developing new skills to adapt to careers beyond playing football routinely challenge many players in the months and years after leaving the game.

Today, we are launching the service with two Lifeline crisis centers (Centerstone and LifeNet) responding to calls. Within the next 3 months, the NFL Life Line service will incorporate a 24/7 online chat service as well as a self-check quiz, consistent with the instrument adapted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for the Veterans Crisis Line service on the http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ site. The launch of this service today is a tremendous moment for further recognizing the central suicide prevention role of crisis centers in America.

Above all, this program could potentially have a major impact on national public health efforts to prevent suicide. The NFL turned to our suicide prevention community for help preventing suicide and building a more robust support network for their players, former players, league staff and family members towards “total wellness.” However, it is clear to all of us that the problem of suicide, limited help-seeking among men, and the need to establish more workplace models for mental wellness are all issues that are culturally and geographically boundless. The VA led the way to helping the world see the need that “tough guys need help, too,” and now the NFL will have an opportunity to help us drive this message deeper and wider into our culture.

(From John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)