Kicking the Stigma

One in five U.S. adults — including one in four Hoosiers — suffer from some form of mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and other illnesses that affect them and their loved ones. The Indianapolis Colts and the Irsay family are working to reduce the stigma around mental illness through Kicking The Stigma, an initiative that will raise awareness, raise funds and raise the idea that it’s OK to not be OK.

Kicking The Stigma brings awareness through an anti-stigma PSA campaign, and raises and distributes funds to nonprofits and other organizations for direct treatment services. As an organization, the Colts are making a commitment to mental health and working to eradicate the
stigma surrounding mental illness, while also encouraging anyone who is struggling to seek help.

“Unlike other disorders of the body, many are reluctant to step forward to get help because of the shame and stigma that has long been attached to mental health issues,” says Colts owner Jim Irsay. “The Colts and my family stand together to ‘Kick The Stigma’ around mental health, and encourage our friends and neighbors battling these disorders to seek the help they need.”

The Colts organization is hoping to use their platform to bring the issue of mental health front and center. “By being part of the NFL, we are afforded this important platform to entertain, inspire and unite, and we are using it to emphasize the importance of mental health and to remove this stigma that stops people from seeking help,” says Kalen Jackson, vice chair and owner of the Colts. “People with mental health difficulties are among the most stigmatized groups in the world today. They often are worried about negative reactions from friends, family or employers, leading to the end of relationships, the loss of jobs, or even the loss of life. Simply put, this stigma is a matter of life and death, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.”

A new virtual fundraising effort will kick off in May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month. From May 3-6, this four-day virtual fundraiser will include a virtual panel, featuring current NFL players Darius Leonard, Hayden Hurst, Solomon Thomas and Darren Waller sharing stories about their own personal challenges. Funds raised will support annual programming with Mental Health America of Indiana, NAMI Greater Indianapolis and Project Healthy Minds.

Funds also will be distributed via a Kicking The Stigma grant program that will offer Indiana-based nonprofits the opportunity to request necessary funding for projects and programs focusing on the education, support and advocacy of mental health and mental illnesses.

“We need to find ways to get people to feel safe and not to feel judged or persecuted when they are trying to seek help and get better from an illness,” Irsay says. “Kicking The Stigma is our commitment to eradicating and getting this environment changed. Kicking The Stigma is our call to all our brothers and sisters to battle this thing.”

To learn more about Kicking The Stigma, visit Colts.com/kickingthestigma.

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