By now, most people must know that the Green Bay Packers won the football Super Bowl this past Sunday. Although the game of football may seem far from the challenges of recovery from mental illness, there may be much that we can apply.
This is not flag-waving by a Packer fan. Even though I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I’m from Chicago and root for their arch enemy, the Chicago Bears.
I suppose the Chicago Bears offer us some inspiration, too. Just take this line from their fight song: “Bear down, Chicago Bears. . .” Bearing down, in the sense of trying as hard as possible to overcome mental illness, is relevant as long as it’s not meant like that old saying, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. Much more than that is needed, and we can see some of what’s needed in the Packer season.
The Packers are the only community -owned, not-for-profit National Football League (NFL) team. In fact, they are the only such team in all of professional sports in the USA, this despite being in a very small market. Most of the NFL teams are either family owned, like the Bears and the Super Bowl losing Pittsburgh Steelers, or for-profit corporations. Unlike for-profit businesses like the managed care companies that dominate healthcare, the Packers seem most like a public community mental health center at its ideal.
One of the best I ever worked at (1975-77) was the Calhoun-Cleburne Mental Health Center in the small town of Anniston, Alabama. It was a source of pride for this community and achieved early and successful cultural integration in its staff. It is still thriving, whereas many big-city centers have been downsized or fragmented as funding has been cut over the last 20 years.
While the Packers were pre-season favorites of many to win the Super Bowl, the team was devastated with major injuries to star players. The same thing happened in the Super Bowl game itself. Yet, as an organization it had the depth, coaching, and education to overcome these losses. Their multidisciplinary teamwork was exquisite at times. And, in comparison, to many other teams, their players do not seem to have nearly as many of the off-the-field behavior problems. Leadership remained appropriately confident. Our organizations would do well to also be able to overcome losses by staff stepping up when needed and hiring new staff that will fit into the system.
Green Bay in the past was a small, virtually all white Midwestern town. African-American players were reluctant to come and live there until the star Reggie White came and succeeded in the 1990s. Since then, the team has become a model of cultural diversity and the town became enriched in the process. Our own organizations should do as well.