When an NFL player dislocates his finger or severely twists his knee, it’s off to the training room where trainers can have a look and come up with an adequate treatment plan. But, what happens when there’s a wound to the mind beyond slumps, X’s and O’s and teammate discord?
That’s a concern of the Carolina Panthers, one of the first teams to hire an in-house psychological clinician. In late-September, the team brought on Tish Guerin, 35, to be their director of player wellness.
Among Guerin’s responsibilities? Serve as a resource for players, coaches and staff who are struggling with depression, anxiety, loss or a major life transition. After all, just because these athletes are competing on the gridiron doesn’t mean they’re exempt from life’s stressors, past or present.
She will also help cultivate an environment where regular mental health check-ins are as normal as a gameday stretching routine.
“It’s going to be imperative that I hear from (the players): What is it that you need? What do you feel like you’re missing? In terms of your emotional and mental health, what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Guerin told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer.
— Tish Guerin (@GuerinTish) September 30, 2018
Guerin (MSW, LCSW, LISW-CP, DCC) has undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology from Winston-Salem State, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina.
“I always knew I was going to do this. I didn’t know in what capacity, but I knew that I was going to be working with people.
“I hope that everyone will see the benefit of having someone full-time on staff who the players can use as a resource. The hope is that you’ll see fewer issues or recurrences off the field. The hope is that anything that could have been taking them out of their head for the game (will be gone), because they’re talking to someone about it and working through it. … My hope is that I’ll be over-utilized,” she said.
Many NFL teams contract with mental health professionals, but the Panthers see the benefit of having someone within their walls, who the players can develop a long-term trusting relationship with.
After all, their team’s season and, more importantly, their health, depend on it.