Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, owner Jim Irsay discuss importance of ‘Kicking the Stigma’ campaign

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are hoping to kick the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness.

Linebacker Darius Leonard and owner Jim Irsay both appear in a public service announcement to discuss the issue. The “Kicking the Stigma” campaign is reaching a national audience through spots on CNN, Fox News and the NFL Network.

The PSA appeared during the Super Bowl. It was created in cooperation with the band R.E.M. using their song “Everybody Hurts.”

Leonard and Irsay both talked to CBS4 about the importance of the campaign, which is designed to raise awareness for the issue.

“It’s just really important, I think, that we put ourselves out there and talk about, you know, our recovery,” said Irsay, who’s struggled with addiction.

Irsay’s daughter, Kalen Jackson, also lent her voice to the campaign. She said her father’s struggles have affected the entire family.

“It’s no secret that my dad has had addiction issues in the past,” Jackson said. “And we’re all daughters of an addict. That comes along with its own experiences, if you will. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. I went to therapy since I was in third grade. All of us have gone through therapy. For us, we’re blessed to have that experience.”

Leonard’s anxiety and depression come from a personal tragedy–he lost his brother to violence as a child.

“People think you live this lifestyle [as a professional athlete] and everything’s perfect,” he said. “But people don’t understand, once we take that helmet off, we’re human beings just like everyone else.”

Leonard believes people were taken surprise by when he talked about depression and mental health.

“So many people came up to me and thanked me [for speaking about it],” Leonard said.

“You just never know who you touch. You’re not trying to reach everybody,” Leonard said. “You’re just trying to reach that one person [who needs it].”

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Jackson added. “It’s OK to talk about that. It’s OK to be vulnerable.”

The Colts have earmarked $4 million for the effort and will hold fundraisers throughout the year. You can learn more at Colts.com/KickingTheStigma.

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