Toughness and the Battle for Mental Health

The five years I spent as a member of the University of Cincinnati’s football team shaped my life in important ways. From the time I spent on the team – and the many years that I’ve watched and supported as an alumnus – I can tell you first hand: That program breeds toughness for those that endure.

One of the tough guys who passed through those halls a few years before me was a safety from Ashtabula, Ohio named Urban Meyer.

Since leaving Cincinnati, Urban has become one of the most famous people in American sports. As a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and now Ohio State, Urban has not only won three national championships, but done so while demonstrating the traits that so many former athletes admire: Dedication to his craft, tenacity in the face of challenges, and an ability to inspire the best in the people around him.

However, as Urban revealed in a tremendous recent Bleacher Report magazine interview, as his career accomplishments have piled up, privately, he has been gripped in a battle with mental illness.

This interview hit me in many deep and personal ways. Aside from our connection as former Bearcats, and the presence of my old strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti on his Ohio State staff, I can relate to the “tough guy” mentality Urban describes of his attitude on the field, in the weight room, or in life. However, more than anything, Urban’s message appealed to me as someone who has dedicated my career to advancing the cause of mental health.

For the last two decades, I’ve worked at companies like Lundbeck to help bring new and better treatments to people living with mental illnesses. Over that time – and from my own personal experiences – I have seen, heard and felt the pain these diseases cause and witnessed the debilitating effect they have on talented, energetic lives. That’s why it’s so important for voices like Urban’s to come forward.

Mental illnesses come in many forms. For some, they arrive with the web of symptoms that accompany depression. For others, it can be psychotic or manic episodes spurred on by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For Urban, it has been anxiety and obsessiveness. He’s not alone.

More than 40 million American adults experience some form of mental illness every year. Despite the number of lives that these diseases touch either as patients or caregivers, mental health issues often go unacknowledged, undiscussed, and untreated. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), last year, 24 million people suffered from mental health issues without receiving help. Twenty-four million.

Like heart disease, diabetes or a pulled hamstring, mental illnesses are real. Every morning, tens of millions of tough men and tough women wake up and face a struggle with diseases like depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, not because they are weak, but because they are human. We must do everything we can to support and empower these individuals to come forward. Whether it’s sitting down with a mental health professional, accessing an appropriate medication, or adopting a more balanced lifestyle, help is available, and they deserve a shot at a healthy mind.

At Lundbeck, we have thousands of colleagues around the globe working tirelessly to innovate new and better therapies for people living with these diseases and advocating for patients to be able access to the medicines they need. I am thrilled to see another Bearcat step forward and join the effort, and I commend Urban for his leadership on this issue.

To learn more about what you can do to support people living with mental illness, visit the NAMI website. I encourage you to get involved!


Video: No Stone Unturned in Mental Health Research
By Doug Williamson, MD
In this video, Dr. Doug Williamson, Lundbeck's Chief Medical Officer and VP of US Medical, discusses putting patients at the center of drug R&D and how Lundbeck is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of new treatment options.