After entering the NFL in 2006, Brandon Marshall quickly
began to establish a name for himself in football. Entering into the league as
a Denver Bronco, Marshall ranked 3rd among NFL wide receivers in
reception and was the 9th player in NFL history to have at least 100
receptions in back to back seasons (2008-2009). In 2009, he set an NFL record
for 21 receptions in a game and went three consecutive years with 100 or more
receptions. He was nicknamed “The Beast” for his physical prowess on the field.
While Marshall’s performance on the field was celebrated; his off field
behavior was a growing concern. Marshall’s career has been marred by arrests
for behaviors that include DUI’s, domestic violence, brawls, and assaults.
In 2011, Brandon Marshall was stabbed near the abdomen by
his wife after an argument. At the time, the police reported that his wife
stabbed him in self-defense (Farrar, 2012). Later, the two reported that he was
cut by broken glass. While Marshall never disclosed full details, he admitted
himself into an outpatient program at Mclean Hospital in Massachusetts for
mental health treatment. After undergoing neurological and psychological
evaluations, Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Unlike many people with mental illness, Marshall openly acknowledged the
disorder with a press conference in July of 2011. He reported that his “life
was spiralling out of control".
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder can be characterized by unstable
moods, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, unstable relationships and impulsive
and reckless behaviors. Many therapists depict BPD as one of the most difficult
disorders to treat. Patients can be manipulative, hostile, aggressive, refuse
to talk and are prone to storming out of treatment threatening suicide. Treating
BPD can be exhausting and can lead a therapist to burn out.
While BPD can be treated through Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) developed by Marsha Linehan (1978)
has been the most studied form of treatment and the most effective. DBT
combines cognitive behavior therapy with radical acceptance and mindfulness. Marshall
appeared to grasp the concepts of the treatment modality. During the press
conference in July of 2011 where he announced that he had BPD, he verbally
shared the techniques that he learned while attending treatment. One that he
named, radical acceptance, taught him to accept the world as it is as well as
others (Farrar, 2012).
Standing Against The Stigma
Since leaving treatment in 2011, Marshall has become an
advocate for BPD and began Project Borderline. Project Borderline is a
non-profit organization whose mission is to raise the awareness of BPD and
fight the stigma associated with the mental illness. The organization strives
to advocate and bridge the gap between patients, clinicians and the public. Marshall
stated that he desires to be the “face of BPD”. In addition, Marshall began filming
a documentary shortly after finishing the program at Mclean Hospital. The
documentary titled Borderline Beast tells of Marshall’s journey with BPD. Marshall’s openness about his struggles may be
a powerful step in ending the stigma associated with mental health. Because of
the stigmas, many people including athletes may not reveal the need for
treatment. Often times, athlete’s deviant behaviors are not addressed until it
becomes public and potentially damaging to the team. Marshall’s courage in
publicly facing his difficulties has paved the way for others. He argues that
many people especially NFL players suffer in silence with mental illness.
Former NFL player, Davone Bess, was diagnosed with depression after being
arrested and released from the Cleveland Browns. His relationship with Marshall
ignited his honesty about mental illness and facing trauma from his childhood.
Marshall indicated that Bess’ story is a case of workplace treatment for mental
illness and the need to remove barriers and stigmatization (Cohan, 2015). Marshall’s
public campaign for mental illness has not only reached professional athletes
but others as well. In an interview titled, How Brandon Marshall Saved My Life,
Megan Armstrong, a senior at the time at the University of Missouri, discussed
her bout with depression and suicide. She stumbled upon an interview with
Marshall discussing his diagnosis publicly and it changed her life. She felt
that she could relate to him and sought treatment (BR studios, 2015).
Currently, Marshall appears to be managing BPD without
medication. He doesn’t proclaim that he
is cured by acknowledges that he now has the skills to cope with life in a
healthier manner. Marshall is a wide receiver for the New York Jets. He has not
had an altercation with the police since 2012. He risked his career and livelihood
by publicly admitting to having mental illness and it appears to be paying off.
BR Studios, Featured Columnist (2015; October 21) How
Brandon Marshall Saved My Life How the Star’s bravery kept one person alive.
Retrieved January 20, 2015.
Carey, B (2011; June) Expert on Mental Illness reveals her
own fight. Retrieved January 20, 2015
Cohan, M (2015; February 25) The Pursuit of Radical
Acceptance. Retrieved January 20, 2015
Farrar, D (2012; November 28) Stronger than Ever. Retrieved
January 20, 2015
Solotaroff, I (2014; September 4) The Grind, Pro football
and Mental Disorders: NFL Star Brandon Marshall Reveals How He Suffered in Silence.
Retrieved from http:www.youtube.com