Brandon Marshall – Our Mental Health Must Be An Everyday Conversation
Retired NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall has gone public with his story detailing his experience with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Marshall said he’s experienced symptoms since childhood. This past May, he shared his story of living with the often-misunderstood mental health challenge during The Menninger Clinic’s annual luncheon.
Marshall said during his speech that he struggled with his emotions for years before receiving a BPD diagnosis. It wasn’t until 2011 when his agent told him to get help after several events unfolded that he sought a professional diagnosis. Marshall visited McLean Hospital in Boston where he met with the late John Gunderson, MD, considered a pioneer in BPD diagnosis, treatment, and research.
Marshall credits Gunderson with not just changing his life but saving it. He believes that Gunderson continues to help those in need through his efforts. Marshall, after learning how to communicate and teach about mental health, is encouraging other people to seek help for their mental health challenges.
Marshall’s ultimate goal, along with help from his wife Michi, is to end the stigma concerning mental health issues.
The couple launched Project 375, an organization that wants to change how people view mental health. The foundation takes the approach that mental illness is all around us and affects everyone. The goal is to change the conversation about mental health and offer education so more people understand the issues.
According to Marshall, “We want to take mental health from a taboo topic to an everyday conversation. It is at the forefront of our country and now we need to change the narrative and break the stigma. People are talking about it, but are we talking about it the right way?”
Marshall and his wife are practicing what they preach, too, and have made teaching their children communication, validation, and meditation a priority so their kids have tools their dad never had for dealing with difficult emotions.
As he deserves, Marshall has received credit from the mental health community for his efforts. There is also a great deal of acknowledgment about how important it is to change the attitude toward mental health – something Marshall has made a priority.
John Oldham, M.D., interim chief of staff at Menninger and world-renowned expert on BPD, says, “Stigma surrounds all forms of brain disorders. It takes phenomenal courage to seek help—to tell your family the thing you have kept secret, to tell your friends and especially to walk up to any podium and tell your story. But courageous and outspoken evidence like Brandon’s represent the most powerful antidote to the stigma that stubbornly clings to conditions like BPD.”
What is BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a brain disorder that is named for how it forces a person to exist on the metaphorical border between a major mood disorder and a major impulse control disorder.
People with BPD tend to struggle with regulating their emotions and controlling their impulses. They experience self-image issues, have difficulty managing both their emotions and behavior and tend to develop a pattern of unstable relationships.
Many of them feel an intense fear of abandonment and struggle when alone, but their anger, mood swings, and impulsive behavior tend to drive people away. As a result of the challenges of the disorder, feelings of depression and sometimes suicidal tendencies arise. The disorder can also lead to struggles with alcohol or drugs, anxiety, PTSD, or other personality or disordered behavior.
BPD tends to run in families and can result in a lifetime of suffering and harm to others. Doctors also believe that childhood trauma increases a person’s risk of developing BPD later in life. Sexual or physical abuse, neglect, separation from parents or caregivers, and parental substance abuse seems to have occurred at a higher rate among those diagnosed with BPD.
In general, most people with BPD experienced some type of conflict or instability in their families as children.
Treatment for BPD
Treatment for BPD usually includes a combination of approaches, including psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication. Sometimes emergency intervention and hospitalization are required. The goal of therapy is to get the situation under control and then to help the BPD-diagnosed person to learn to manage his or her uncomfortable emotions. Therapy often focuses on improving interpersonal relationships so the person will have a support system.
There are no medications approved by the FDA specifically to treat BPD, but doctors often prescribe medication to help with symptoms of co-occurring problems. For instance, a person with BPD might take medication for depression or anxiety.
Marshall hopes that by sharing his experience more people will be able to recognize BPD and be willing to seek help for what they’re going through.