A Lonely Disease: Stigma and Bipolar

Stigma about mental illness is found everywhere, so why not in the intensely macho world of college football?  Brent Guy, a college football coach for 30 years can tell you all about stigma.  He hid his bipolar diagnosis and regular medication from everyone but his wife and doctors.  I’ve written quite a few of these “famous people with bipolar” profiles here on MoodSurfing (see Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey and others) but reading  this one from ESPN really got me choked up.  Guy went through so much just to keep his secret, even his psychiatrist told him: “don’t tell anyone”.

Finally, after nearly 30 years of hiding, Guy had had enough.  He retired from coaching football and has become a mental illness advocate.  Now, he volunteers through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, speaking to first responders and detention officers, so that through his story they can learn to more rapidly recognize the signs of mental illness.

During his time as a college coach, Guy found that he could readily understand and reach out to those student athletes who were struggling with ADHD, dyslexia, or otherwise being “different”.  Even while advising students that they are protected if they seek help, and that they deserve to be able to get help, he was still fearful of revealing anything about his own situation. He hopes to work with the NCAA on ways to help student athletes who are experiencing rising rates of anxiety and depression, and also to work on removing the stigma of mental illness of all kinds throughout our society.  For 30 years, Guy lived with what he calls “a lonely disease”.  He didn’t know anyone who had the same or similar struggles.  Now, he hopes to reach out to others so that young people no longer experience a lonely disease.