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Brandon Brooks, Part II: Opening Up on Teammates’ Reaction to Anxiety Attack

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In Part 1 of our Q&A with Brandon Brooks, the Eagles' All-Pro guard talked about the circumstances that forced him out of the Eagles' game against the Seahawks Sunday after just 12 snaps (see story).

In Part 2, Brooks talked about why he's been so public about his battle with anxiety, how prevalent mental health issues are with pro athletes and how supportive his teammates and coaches have been.

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How have your teammates been throughout this?

Brandon Brooks: "You hear us talking about being a brotherhood and having each others' backs, but actions always speak louder than words. Whether it's me or somebody else, whenever something serious like this happens, teammates rally around each other, and they've rallied around me since I've been here on Day 1. That's why it hurts so much to not be out there when something like this happens."

Why have you been so public with your battles with anxiety?

"I think the biggest thing I always try to say first: I don't do this to have people feel sorry for me or anything like that. The reason I try to share what I go through and my story is for people out there who are scared to get help, who feel embarrassed or ashamed to go through any type of mental illness. Hopefully people who are going through that type of stuff hopefully saw the amazing outreach and outpouring from people across the globe really about my situation.

"So just letting them know it can be OK. Some things can be prevented if you get help at some of the earlier signs. I never really thought it would be such a big impact, but I just kind of wanted to tell the truth and share my story for the one or two people that it could help. That's all I ever really wanted to do."

Have you heard from players on other teams? Other guys who might be experiencing something similar?

Brandon Brooks: "There've been a lot of guys around the league who reached out to me about it. It's a lot more guys than you guys can imagine, to be honest. It's a lot of guys that go through it for a lot of different aspects, not just the one that affects me but for a lot of different reasons."

Why do you think so many athletes are hesitant or reluctant to share their experiences?

Brandon Brooks: "We're supposed to be modern-day gladiators. We're getting paid more than the rest of the public and we're playing what some people call just a game. We're not suppsoed to have any emotions and just do what we're told, but at the end of the day we're people. We're human beings. We go through the same things that everybody else goes through. The everyday issues that 40 million Americans go through. We're no different. When we have issues, the only difference is it's front-page news, but there are a lot of people that go through the same issues that we go through, and I just encourage other athletes who do go through things, whether it's something like mental illness or really anything, speak about it. You never know who you might help, including helping yourself. Who knows? Maybe if I had started earlier in my life or in my career, maybe this wouldn't be the bar that how it starts for me. Seek help, man. Speak out. Use your platform for good."

What's your message to other people who are dealing with similar issues?

Brandon Brooks: "When it comes to mental health issues, the biggest thing is to embrace it and accept it and understand why and really to attack it. It's no different than pulling a hamstring. You've got to go into the training room and ice and stim and do all these different exercises. It's the same thing mentally. You want to make sure people understand that it's something that one, you can attack an it can get better and two, by hoping that it gets better, that's not necessarily the best strategy. It's OK to seek help, it's OK to get help."

What's the best way for the Eagles or any sports team to handle mental health issues?

Brandon Brooks: "The biggest thing is really having an open environment, an open forum, allowing guys to come forward hopefully sooner than later, at their own pace, and seek the help that they need. And just keep an environment where everybody's door is open and guys aren't afraid or shouldn't be afraid to talk about really anything with anybody in the building, and that's the type of environment we have here.

"So for me, when Doug (Pederson) comes out and supports me, I had a conversation with Howie (Roseman) and Doug and Stout (O-line coach Jeff Stoutland) about the plan going forward and how I'm going to attack it, and what the reason was, so if you have an environment like that, [it really helps]."

And the Eagles have handled this better than you think most teams would?

Brandon Brooks: "100 percent. I don't know how many teams would be as open in this situation like this and help the player attack it like they do here."

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