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NFL player reveals struggle with mental illness

August 2, 2011
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, 27, held a press conference this past weekend (as reported here in the Miami Herald) in which he talked openly about being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The four-year veteran of the NFL said his struggles with mental health started manifesting toward the end of his rookie year with the Denver Broncos in 2007.

Since then, the media has followed his troubles off the field, which included involvement in the fatal shooting of teammate Darrant Williams after a nightclub altercation, being arrested for DUI, and a number of domestic disputes that culminated with Marshall being hospitalized in April with a stab wound to the stomach, originally thought to be inflicted by his wife—a claim that Marshall denies.

“Everything [in my life] has been all reactive,” he told the members of the press. "Football players say you have to be able to turn that switch on and off. There has never been a switch for me.” And while Marshall said his impulsivity and reactive personality made him who he is today (something he appreciates on the football field), he added that it also has “ruined” him in other ways.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), BPD is characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. Originally thought to be at the "borderline" of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation.

Marshall’s decision to go public with his diagnosis of BPD was made in the hope that his story could be used to help others “get the proper help and the proper treatment,” he explained.

“This is the most stigmatized disorder out there, but yet it is very treatable,” Marshall said. “With the right help, the right treatment program, the right [treatment providers], one diagnosed with BPD can live a healthy, effective, peaceful life.”

After spending the last few years trying to understand how someone “so blessed” could feel the way he felt inside, Marshall said that by making himself vulnerable, his “journey begins.”

“This is an exciting day … it's a day I've been waiting for,” he said. “I get to help others; this is my purpose here, my mission moving forward. I love [football] and I have a new appreciation for the game. But it's not my priority anymore.” "I would have been disappointed if I wasn't diagnosed with something," Marshall added. "For so long, I have been trying to get help." As public figures continue to talk more openly about their issues with mental health, what effect does it have on the fight against stigma? How are these types of statements interpreted in the field, and what can the average consumer learn from them?

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Good for you Mr. Marshall, for speaking up and out! I've worked in the behavioral field for over 20 years. It is always inspiring and reassuring to hear from those that struggle with mental illness and who feel they have reached a milestone in getting the right help. Sharing your story, hopes and struggles is often the best way to reach out and I am glad you weren't afraid to do this. Best of wishes in your recovery!

Nick Zubko

Associate Editor

Nick Zubko


Nick Zubko is associate editor of Behavioral Healthcare.

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