When Browns offensive lineman, Chris Hubbard, signed a $37.5 million five-year contract this summer, he didn’t relish in his success. Instead, he suffered as he battled with depression.
“The whole free agency change coming from Pitt (Pittsburgh) to now a new team, I don’t know anybody,” Hubbard said. “Then being offered that amount of money, being in that spotlight. I have never had that kind of money at all, never seen those kinds of numbers. So that is a big jump for you and it kind of brings out people out of the neck of the woods for plenty of different things.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness about one in five Americans are affected by mental health conditions. Additionally, researchers have linked mental illness to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease caused by concussions. While the blows to the head increase a football player’s chances of developing CTE and related mental health problems, Hubbard believes concussions are not the only risk factors for athletes.
“The toll that goes on your body and the amount of time you spend in meetings and training; it is very physical and you have to get your mind ready for that,” Hubbard said.
In a sport where athletes like Hubbard train by lifting and pushing hundreds of pounds, during the offseason Hubbard felt strained from carrying the weight of his emotions.
Hubbard recalled, “You’re not eating, you are not sleeping.”
While athletes are coached to fight back from deficits on the scoreboard, Hubbard said they’ve also been trained to silence the struggles in their lives.
“No matter what it may be, you have to suck it up and play through it. Play through the pain, play through anything,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard felt being African American added another obstacle with seeking help for depression.
“Just being a black African man, we are so prideful and the things we do, we like to keep stuff to yourself,” he said.
According to a News 5 report, African-American males commonly do not seek help because of the stigma that some associate with mental health. But Hubbard, motivated by his family, ultimately decided to see a counselor. Now he is trying to help remove that stigma by encouraging others to prioritize their mental health and pursue the treatment they need.
“It just needs to be heard, Hubbard said. “I am telling people now don’t be scared of what you are going through; someone needs to hear what you're going through."
When Hubbard reached a milestone in his career by signing his name on a coveted NFL contract, he found himself at crossroads.
“As athletes, we are told to just go out there and play football. it is not that simple like we have a life too,” Hubbard said
Nearly midway through his first season with the Browns, Hubbard said he has learned his personal happiness is not predicated on his professional success. And similar to how he coaches, trains and heals his body so it can perform at its peak, he’s realized his mind and his emotions require the same attention to live a healthy life.