Yousuf: ‘It saves lives’ - Dak Prescott opens up on mental health, value of transparency

Iamtdg

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By Saad Yousuf Sep 10, 2020

Three days before Dak Prescott leads the Cowboys onto the field for his fifth NFL season, most of his media availability session had little to do with the opponent. In fact, it had little to do with football. For more than half of his meeting with the media, Prescott discussed a far more important topic than the Los Angeles Rams or throwing touchdowns.

Prescott is the quarterback of America’s Team. First, however, he’s a human being. 2020 has been a trying year for nearly everybody, and it’s rare you can make such a sweeping statement. But that’s the nature of life when a pandemic hits, among other world tragedies. For Prescott, a tough year became harder on April 23 when his older brother, Jace, committed suicide at the age of 31.

In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Prescott revealed details of some of the emotions he went through in the Spring.

“It’s crazy. All throughout this quarantine and this offseason, I started experiencing emotions I’ve never felt before,” Prescott said. “Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression. (I) didn’t necessarily know what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all.”

It’s worth reiterating that Prescott, who lost his mother, Peggy, to cancer while he was in college seven years ago, was experiencing depression before his brother passed away. Prescott’s media availability on Thursday was the first time he was available for comment since the interview with Bensinger went public.

When Prescott was initially asked about his difficult offseason, he illustrated his struggles while also being sensitive to less fortunate people in the world.

“Yeah, for sure it was (difficult), as it was, I’m sure, for the majority of the world,” Prescott said. “I’m a people’s person. I’m somebody that likes to be around people, like to inspire, like to put smiles on people’s faces, day in and day out, and I like to lead. When that’s taken away from you simply because you’re forced to quarantine and forced to not be around people as much as you would like to, yeah, it’s tough.

“As I explained, it creates new emotions. Emotions that I never felt before but dealt with and obviously got the help that I needed and was very open about it. I think that’s why I was fortunate enough to get over it, as not all of us are.”

Those last few words are harrowing when you understand where Prescott’s comments are coming from. Hearing Dak talk about his brother’s struggles during the Bensinger interview provides a different level of perspective.

“Jace, at the time (of Peggy’s battle with cancer), was home and was with her,” Prescott said. “He watched it. She couldn’t necessarily hide it from Jace, because he was there every day. He saw the times where she would have to spend probably 10-plus hours throwing up, this and that, and all of the medicine she had to take. Almost, you can’t even put into words the burden. It’s something only Jace knew and he didn’t necessarily share that. Jace never was really much of a talker so when something like that was a huge burden on him, he didn’t know how to share it, he didn’t know how to be vulnerable about it.”

Prescott has experienced up close what not being vulnerable about these negative emotions can lead to. In his answers, Prescott reiterated a couple of times that he knows there are people out there who have it worse and are in less fortunate situations than he is. He has always been one to take things in perspective, so his humility with those sentiments isn’t surprising but also not required. Depression doesn’t pick favorites. Whether you’re a blue-collar worker or quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, it can hit you, and it can hit hard. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health, and Prescott addressed that head-on.

“Mental health is a huge issue and it’s a real thing in our world right now. Especially the world we live in where everything is as viral and everyone is part of the media, I guess you can say,” Prescott said. “(People) can get on social media and be overcome with emotions or be overcome with the thoughts of other people and allow that to fill into their heads when those things aren’t necessarily true, whether it’s getting likes on Instagram or something being viewed or being bullied or whatever it may be. All of those things can put thoughts into your head about yourself or about your situation in life that aren’t true. I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge to talk, I think it’s huge to get help and it saves lives.”

Prescott said he initially opened up transparently to his inner circle, including friends, teammates and ex-teammates. He also got help from the Cowboys’ mental coaching staff, including Chad Bohling, who in addition to serving as a consultant for the Cowboys, is the director of mental conditioning with the New York Yankees. That made it possible for him to speak about these issues in the interview with Bensinger and then openly address them in such great detail afterward.

I hoped to make it through this entire piece without granting any attention to the comments made by Skip Bayless on his FS1 talk show, but it’s hard to completely avoid the comments he made in reaction to Prescott’s transparency in his interview with Bensinger. I intend to pay Bayless as little mind as possible so instead of dissecting everything he said, I’ll focus on where he went wrong.

“I have deep compassion for clinical depression,” Bayless started out on the topic. “But…”

That’s it. From my perspective, there is no “but” when it comes to mental health issues. Based on the remainder of his thoughts on this, he proved the flaws within his position. Bayless’ comments aired before Prescott’s meeting with the media, so after Bayless took the position that Prescott’s vulnerability detracts from his leadership, Prescott was asked if leaders should hide those emotions.

“No, I think that is a fake leader. Being a leader is about being genuine and being real,” Prescott said. “As I said, if I wouldn’t have talked about those things to the people I did, I wouldn’t have realized my friends and a lot more people go through them and they are as common as they are. I don’t think for one second — leaders or not, I don’t care how big a person you are — if you are not mentally healthy, if you’re not thinking the right way, then you are not going to be able to lead people the right way.

“So before I can lead, I got to make sure my mind is in the right place to do that and lead people to where they want to be. I think that’s important, to be vulnerable, to be genuine and to be transparent. That goes a long way when you are a leader and when your voice is being heard by so many and you can inspire.”

Prescott’s transparency should be lauded. By bringing attention to a tragic issue that prematurely ends lives, Prescott may save some. No number of touchdown passes or wins on Sundays can accomplish that.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and Sep. 6 — Sep. 12 is National Suicide Prevention Week. If you or somebody you know is dealing with mental health issues, please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
 

ravidubey

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Bayless is a fricking buffoon.

The issue is bigger than any football team. Anxiety is real, and just by going public with it Dak may have helped a lot of people, including some of his fellow football players.

If it helped a single individual when Dak shared it (including and especially Dak himself) it was waaaay worth it relative to the BS Bayless was spewing.

Admitting a health concern is a sign of strength of character, not weakness.
 

DontCryWolfe

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Regardless of the circumstances his take would have been stupid, but when you take into consideration that the guy has lost his mom, and his brother just committed suicide, how could anyone deride someone for being depressed?
 

boozeman

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Regardless of the circumstances his take would have been stupid, but when you take into consideration that the guy has lost his mom, and his brother just committed suicide, how could anyone deride someone for being depressed?
I don't fault him. But then again, I am not a dork sports personality who has to say stupid shit to be relevant.
 

DontCryWolfe

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I don't fault him. But then again, I am not a dork sports personality who has to say stupid shit to be relevant.
I mean, I respect and hope most people harbor their own opinions. But, considering that Skip‘s contract with FS1 is almost up, and the current societal climate we are in, he shouldn’t have expected anything less than this sort of response. If that was his endgame, solely being Sensationalist Skip, then more power to him I suppose. I’m not a cancel culture guy. But if he honestly believes this and doesn’t think there is anything wrong with it, well, he’s a moron.

I doubt any of us here give enough of a shit to expend the effort trying to decipher what from what.
 

ravidubey

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Even deeper, Dak’s brothers suicide, if depression induced, may be genetic. For all we know, Dak may have a similar condition.

You are supposed to support people who need it, not attack them.

Stupid and irresponsible on multiple levels. Now there will be ignorant fucktards who will cling to and repeat this diarrhea.
 
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