Brandon Brooks, an offensive guard on the Philadelphia Eagles who has been public about his struggles with anxiety, spoke at “De-Stress and Pet”, a student-run mental health awareness event in Alter Hall on Friday afternoon.
Brooks spoke about his experience with anxiety, which started in his second or third season in the NFL and had caused him to miss two games during the Eagles’ 2016 season.
Brooks admitted that it was one of the toughest times in his life.
“I really internalized [my anxiety], and it started eating me inside out,” Brooks said. “I started having ulcers in my stomach, I was getting violently ill before games once or twice a year, and they did every test you could think of.”
Brooks decided to go public about his anxiety after missing those two games in December 2016.
“I never wanted any pity for it, and I never thought that me talking about it would have the impact that it did,” Brooks said. “But once I did, it was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders, and it reached people and let them know that you should never feel ashamed to ask for help.”
What helped Brooks the most was not taking anti-anxiety medication, but talking to a psychologist, he said.
“You think that your anxiety problems that the issue is on the surface,” he added. “But usually, it’s much deeper than that, it started much earlier than that.”
In addition to Brooks, there were therapy dogs, art therapy, food, and tabling for the Wellness Resource Center, Tuttleman Counseling Services and Philadelphia-based online mental health resource Healthy Minds Philly for students to interact with.
Multiple students asked Brooks questions about what motivates him, how the media reacted to him missing games, and how he coped with his anxiety during the season.
“In a sport like this where the talent gap is so small, I had to cope with not being able to control everything, and being okay with making a mistake and not dwelling on it,” Brooks said. “Before I would go out to games, I would tell myself to go out and have fun, and it doesn’t matter what happens, what people say about you.”
Roman Spicer, a senior psychology major, was one of the five students that planned the event as part of their business course on leadership.
“We’re just trying to spread awareness about issues in college mostly,” Spicer said. “This is a topic that touches most of us personally, is important to us, and is too often ignored and we wanted to bring it to light.”
“It’s very impactful to have someone like [Brooks] come in and speak to us because this issue is so largely ignored,” Spicer said.