Charles Haley Gives Powerful Speech on Mental Illness During Induction Into Pro Football Hall of Fame
Charles Haley was honored alongside seven other all-time greats at the Hall of Fame Ceremony in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2015.
Haley gave a great speech that included a hilarious story about his first golf experience and a great story -- and impression -- of Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones. Haley was also very open about his struggles with mental illness and depression.
Haley used his 12-minute speech not only to honor the teammates, coaches, friends and family who helped him get to the Hall of Fame, but to call attention to the growing problem of the NFL and mental issues.
After a career of being labeled a hothead and having tension with fellow players and coaches, Haley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after retirement. The five-time Super Bowl champion took some time during his speech to urge players who may be suffering from mental illness to seek help. Haley credited his wife, Karen, with trying helping him.
"Karen, in 1988 she diagnosed me with manic depression, and I thought she was just like the group of guys that wanted to always put me in this box," he said. "So we had problems after that, and I never really listened, nor did I step up to the plate and do something about it."
He continued: "My life spiraled out of control for years, for years, but today, guys, I am getting back into the locker room, to my teammates, and tell them guys the mistakes that I've made, and that the only way that you can grow is that you've got to ask for help."
Haley talked about how his mindset has changed from his rookie year to now regarding his struggles and how he perceived getting help.
"I walked into the league a 22-year-old man with a 16-year-old inside of me screaming for help, and I would not ask for it. I would not ask for that help," said Haley.
Haley went on to talk about how something as simple as asking for help saved his life.
"Today, guys, I take my medicine every day, and I try to inspire others to do the same, and that's because I finally listened and thank you," he said.
This is a powerful message for not only NFL players, but anyone dealing with mental illness. Especially with the induction of San Diego and New England Patriot great Junior Seau, who dealt with mental issues following his retirement and took his own life in 2012, and former Minnesota Viking Mick Tingelhoff, who is battling dementia and memory loss.
Seau battled a different set of battles than Haley. He suffered from traumatic brain injury from 20 NFL seasons, which played a part in the fateful night he took his own life.
"I want nothing more than to see you come on stage, give the speech you were meant to give, give me a hug and tell me you love me one last time," Seau's daughter Sydney Seau said of her father. "That isn't our reality."
If more players like Haley continue to call attention to mental health and the players who are struggling with it, hopefully we can prevent some tragedies in the future.
This weekend not only cemented Charles Haley as a Hall of Fame Football player, but also a Hall of Fame person.
You can check out Haley's full speech at the Dallas Cowboy's website.