Using "brave" to describe athletes and their feats is almost always a poor choice of words. But it's quite appropriate in describing Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been exhibiting a form of courage that's rarely seen in sports, especially the macho world of pro football.
Marshall holds the NFL record for most receptions in a game (21), but he's about catching more than just footballs. He's on a mission to catch men and women living with borderline personality disorder. He addressed about 250 students Monday at Harvard University, telling them how therapy helps him cope with the NFL's pressure and fame.
"I'm excited for this opportunity," Marshall said. "I'm excited to use my celebrity, my fame, whatever you want to call it, to be one of the faces of mental health."
"My purpose moving forward is to raise awareness of this disorder and how it not only affects the patient but the families and the people in the community," Marshall said last summer. "My goal is to walk the halls of Congress to fight for the right help and the right coverage for this. To walk the halls of the National Institute of Mental Health to raise the awareness, because I have seen my life and how it played out."
Mental illness is nothing to be taken lightly or joked about, although most of us have probably laughed inappropriately at some point. We'd never do that if someone came down with a terrible, incapacitating disease, but we don't have the same empathy for the mentally ill.
When high-profile athletes and celebrities step out, that helps chip away at the stigma. Marshall could have gone about his treatment quietly and kept everything to himself. Instead he subjected himself to skeptics and critics, putting his career at risk in the process.
He should be commended. It takes a lot more strength — and courage — to make that type of play than anything the Dolphins might call in the huddle.
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