Ryan Leaf wants NFL players to deal with their mental health in the moment

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 24: Ryan Leaf /

Talking about mental health is always important, but to Ryan Leaf timing is key.

After going through is own experiences with mental health, Ryan Leaf wants current players to speak up before it’s too late.

Mental health is always a hot button topic when it comes to athletes at any stage, that is especially true in football. From the earliest stages, football players are taught to be tough, have no fear and never show emotion. But that type of outdated thinking is causing deep-rooted issues on the mental side for many players. Instead of expressing their feelings and sharing what they’re feeling it’s being locked up and being expressed in more harmful ways.

That is why Leaf, chairman of  the Focus Intensity Foundation, wants players to get to a place where they feel comfortable talking to someone in the moment rather than bottling up all those feelings and waiting until their career is over to deal with their issues.

“I want to see a guy walk into his coach’s office after a huge great game and if he’s struggling with depression say, ‘coach I’m having a hard time getting out of bed I don’t know what’s wrong I need to seek help,'” Leaf told FanSided’s Mark Carman. “That’s what I want to see switch because that will be when we see a shift in the paradigm when it comes to mental health and substance abuse.”

Likely the reason we see players become vocal about mental health after their playing days are behind them is due to fear of how it will be perceived by teammates, coaches and anyone on the outside looking in. But Leaf believes that in this day and age speaking out about it in the moment would not receive backlash.

“I think a guy could go into his coach’s office and tell him that and things would be okay, we just need to continue to shine a light on it and raise awareness so that can continue to happen,” Leaf said.

Although we haven’t seen very many players be open about their struggles with mental health while still playing, the number of former NFL players speaking out on the issue is growing every day. If that trend continues it’s only a matter of time before mental health is no longer a taboo subject in NFL locker rooms.