Former Gator Wil Dalton Raises Awareness for Mental Health
May is mental health awareness month, and June is men’s health month.
1 in 5 adults struggle with mental health problems each year. It could be your neighbor, your best friend, your mom, the cashier at the grocery store or your favorite athlete. Yet, you may never know.
Why is that?
There is a certain stigma surrounding mental health. Some think you’re weak if you speak up. Some think you’re soft if you can’t get out of your own head. However, in reality, it takes strength in any situation to admit what’s going on – to admit you need help.
The only way to end the stigma surrounding mental health is to speak up.
Wil Dalton did just that.
The former Florida Gator was drafted in the eighth round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.
Dalton was assigned to the Salem Red Sox on May 4 of this year. Then, on June 17, he was moved up to the Red Sox High-A team, the Greenville Drive.
In April, he took to Instagram to express his own struggles.
Dalton cites February of 2020 as his breakthrough, as the date he finally decided to ask for help.
“The biggest thing for me was finally getting comfortable and being vulnerable enough to realize it’s okay to talk about,” Dalton said.
It was time to stop pushing things under the table and acknowledge what was going on.
Dalton credits not only his friends and family, but the Red Sox organization for helping him.
“The organization that I play in and love to be a part of acknowledged what I was going through without judgement, and it made getting help easier for me” he said.
Admitting he couldn’t tackle this alone was uncomfortable, but it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
Males and Mental Health
Mental health is not a topic that everyone wants to address.
Oftentimes, it’s harder for males than females to discuss.
Dalton said he thinks this stems from the belief that men are supposed to be strong. Growing up, you don’t usually see them crying or talking about their problems.
“People think you are weak if you are struggling or if you admit it,” Dalton said. “When in reality you’re not.”
Just because you are a male doesn’t mean you can’t struggle. It doesn’t mean you can’t admit you need help.
It takes strength to deal with what’s going on in your head.
- Male Population ~ 151,781,326 million
- Roughly 6 million males affected by depression each year
- Since 2000 male suicide rate consistently increasing
- More than 4x as many men than women die from suicide in the U.S.
Athletes Raising Awareness
Dalton was not the first to speak up about mental health, and he won’t be the last.
“If me speaking up, admitting I’ve struggled, reaches just one person, then the goal has been accomplished,” he said.
Numerous athletes have used their platforms to break the stigma surrounding mental health.
Most people know Terry Bradshaw as the hall of famer who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to eight championships and four Super Bowl titles, but what many don’t realize is he has had to battle more than just opposing team’s defenses. Bradshaw has struggled with attention deficit disorder and clinical depression.
Larry Sanders, former Milwaukee Bucks center, ended up leaving the NBA to address his mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps has also spoken up about mental health. He has admitted that he struggles with both depression and suicidal thoughts. Phelps openly discussed with ESPN what it has been like battling depression during the pandemic.
Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka came out admitting that she has fought long stints of depression ever since winning her first major tournament in 2018, the U.S. Open. Osaka even pulled out of the 2021 French Open citing mental health issues. Some media outlets criticized her calling her weak for withdrawing. This just shows that mental health remains a controversial topic. It is not treated the same as physical health, especially in the workplace.
Other notable names that have come forward with their struggles are Andrew Luck, Kevin Love, Serena Williams, Dwayne Johnson and Amanda Beard.
According to Athletes for Hope, up to 35% of elite athletes struggle with mental health.
No one is immune.
If you are struggling, you are not alone. And – you should never feel that way.
National Alliance on Mental Health
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m., ET.
1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.