May is national Mental Health Awareness Month and Eagles legend Brian Dawkins is on a mission to erase the negative stigma around mental health.
And in the middle of a global pandemic, it's an even more important topic than ever.
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"Mental health: We all have it,"" Dawkins said to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark. "If you are breathing right now, you have mental health. We all have it just like we all have physical health. If you're breathing, you have physical health. Same thing with mental health.
"The problem is that when I say mental health, what usually happens is a person will think of depression. They'll think of stress. They'll think of negative things when you say mental health, but we all have it. Not everybody has a mental issue or a mental illness, but everybody has mental health. So if we can begin to separate the two. There's such a negative stigma when it comes to mental health. That's why I changed it to something else."
When it comes to his own mental health, Dawkins said he chooses to call it cerebral wellness. It doesn't have the negative connotation and, to him, it encompasses more.
Dawkins, 46, has been a advocate of mental health awareness for a long time and has been open about his own struggles with depression. Early in his NFL career, he turned to alcohol and had to fight off suicidal thoughts.
But since then, Dawkins has found ways to deal with that depression. That includes his faith and a daily routine.
"I do specific things daily in the morning and at night to make sure that I'm operating in a place that I want to be in," Dawkins said, "that I'm making sure I tell my body to shut up and get in line."
Dawkins said every morning when he wakes up he spends at least 20 minutes praying, meditating and writing in a journal. He also focuses on breathing techniques, something he began doing after joining his wife at Lamaze classes. He was fascinated that breathing techniques could help women manage pain while giving birth, so he began to use those techniques himself during his football days.
"I've taken ownership of it," Dawkins said. "It belongs to me."
Dawkins realizes that everyone will have different things that work for them, but he's invested in sharing his own experiences to help anyone who might be listening. And a lot of that simply starts with a refreshing reminder that mental health shouldn't come with a stigma at all.
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