by: Jeff Yalden & Janet Kelly
Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?!
I love this time of year. Fantasy leagues, tail gaiting, yellow flags, painted faces, and big signs in the shapes of "D" and "fence".
Josh Gordon, wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, isn't quite ready to participate with his teammates in training camp for the 2018 NFL season. He posted on Twitter that his absence is "all a part of [his] overall health and treatment plan". There is no mention of substance abuse; there is no mention of mental health or anxiety.
While I applaud Josh Gordon for taking time for his health and I appreciate the Cleveland Browns for respecting Gordon's privacy and his overall well-being, I wonder why, at least officially, there's a mystery regarding Gordon's absence.
For the most part, Flash Gordon's fans have been kind on Twitter. Football, after all, is just a game. There are, of course, a few derogatory comments such as Mikey's (@cataldo9crfb), "Is it that hard for this dude to just not get high?" Overlooking the split infinitive, it seems much more socially acceptable, even when highlighting someone else's flaws, to point out a history of substance abuse over any kind of mental health issue. There's got to be a tangible reason, right? John Smith (@CooperAmerican) follows up Mikey's tweet with this comment - "Yep. This tells me he's dirty and needs time to clean up."
Considering the absence of any concrete reason, perhaps Josh Gordon is suffering from anxiety about this upcoming season. The Browns haven't won a game since December of 2015; that has to cause anxiety for any member of the Browns' franchise or fan base.
I assume that Nate Hopson (@HopNate) disagrees with me. Regarding Gordon's absence from training camp, Hopson tweeted, "Don't be stupid... Read between the lines. He's getting ahead of the story that's about to come out."
It's no secret that Josh Gordon has dabbled in a multitude of substances including cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. In "J.G." the mini-documentary on Uninterrupted, he was asked why he was willing to speak up publicly. "I'm able to give this message... for you to learn from my mistakes..." Gordon goes on to explain that, "because of [his] ability", he was often given second chances he might not have deserved. For example, when Gordon played for the Baylor Bears, he was aided by a coach who provided "detox drinks" before he was drug tested. To Gordon's credit, when the producer asked if he "failed the drug test because the coach didn't come by with the detox drinks that time", Gordon replied, "I failed the drug test because I was getting high."
Gordon admits that his first experience with rehab seemed more like a "publicity stunt". He spent roughly two weeks "eating a bunch of good gourmet meals" during which he "took a little break" and then went on to lead the league in receiving yards for the 2013 NFL season.
In July of 2014, Gordon got a DUI and was suspended for one year. His suspension was reduced to ten games thanks to changes in the NFL drug policy. In reality, he only missed five games. But his unlimited "second chance" passes ran out. He was (successfully) suspended for the entire 2015 NFL season due to his most recent violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He applied for, and was denied, reinstatement for the 2016 season for the same reason.
Why? Why would someone with great talent and so much promise sabotage his life in this way?
Today's headlines regarding Josh Gordon read, "Browns WR Josh Gordon is dealing with 'mental health and anxiety' issues." Unnamed "league sources" told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Gordon abused substances such as marijuana and alcohol to deal with anxiety, which is a common form of self-medication. In fact, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
Josh Gordon has already spoken up publicly about his issues with substance abuse; I do hope he is willing to do the same in regards to anxiety and mental health. There is a stigma surrounding mental health and it needs to be shattered.
All too often, those who suffer from anxiety or PTSD or depression or OCD or Bipolar disorder are resistant to speak up to garner more awareness or reach out for help. How many people might avoid making a forever decision of suicide if they were able to reach out and understand they were not alone? How many people might benefit from being able to speak up without being ridiculed for doing so?
I challenge celebrities and professional athletes as well as all of us to speak up about our troubles; reach out to the resources available to us in this modern era.
Good luck to you, Josh Gordon. I not only hope you remain healthy and stable, I hope you are brave enough to speak up about what it is that ails you. And, of course, I hope the Browns win at least one game this season (just not against the Panthers)!
Jeff Yalden is a mental health speaker and celebrity life coach who specializes in suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Jeff is also the founder and Executive Director of The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. The Foundation’s mission is to prevent suicide, improve community mental health, and shatter the stigma of mental health by initiating a positive movement to speak up and reach out.
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