The world is struggling to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, and Mental Health Awareness Month could not be more timely. In the spirit of facilitating meaningful conversation , we went Off the Cuff with Doug Middleton, NFL Football Safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2017, the NFL Player’s Association named Doug the Week 15 NFLPA Community MVP. He earned this honor for his work with low-income children and his mission to increase mental health awareness.
This interview kicks off the Off the Cuff with 1AND1 Life series. Here, we go one-on-one with our favorite entrepreneurs, athletes, and influential people to talk about all dimensions of wellness. Off the Cuff segments are not pre-planned like your usual health and wellness interview. Our conversations are raw and one of a kind. In this half-hour, free-wheeling discussion, Doug talks about his foundation, Dream the Impossible Initiative. You’ll learn how it is raising awareness surrounding suicide and other mental health issues.
Doug’s interest in issues relating to mental health and emotional wellness goes way back. His mother worked for 25 years in the field, and his personal experience with tragedy drove him to do more. The Dream the Impossible Initiative was born out of a desire to help people find the resources needed to achieve a constant state of mental wellness.
Doug’s best friend, AJ Morrison, lived with severe depression for many years. Doug did his best to provide assistance, support and love. However, AJ eventually took his own life. Following that traumatic event, Doug was convinced that AJ’s passing served a greater purpose. It was his best friend’s passing that spurred him to create the Dream the Impossible Initiative.
Through the Initiative, Doug intends to help young people to realize their dreams. They can feel comfortable knowing that they have the resources necessary to help them through tough times.
In the interview, Doug discusses what led him to create the Dream the Impossible Initiative. He talks about his inspiration from his mom, his own challenges and his attempts to help his best friend, AJ. He reflects on what he did and said without knowing any better, and what he would have done differently.
Doug also talks about the need for deeper understanding and more than simplistic answers when dealing with mental health issues. Furthermore, he dives into the challenges within the African American community, and other things that motivated him to act.
Positive thinking and mindset coaching are helpful for many people. However, they may not be enough to support a person who is dealing with mental health issues. In this video interview, you’ll gain insight into the stigmatization of mental health issues among Black males. You’ll also learn how role models like Doug, Kevin Love and LeBron James are helping to break through that stigmatization.
Doug also reveals how many people look at him as living the perfect life. People can’t imagine that he’d have any mental health issues playing in the NFL and having achieved ‘success’. However, he sets the record straight with some truth bombs.
Doug played college football at Appalachian State, North Carolina, prior to signing with the New York Jets as a free agent in 2016. He had two pec tears, which affected his three year career with the Jets. In September, 2019 the jets released him. In that same month he signed with the Miami Dolphins. They released him in early November and he then signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars later that month.
Doug and AJ grew up together in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In fact, they lived just a few doors from each other. They did everything together; running track, playing pick-up basketball games at lunch times and competing on their Middle School and High School football teams.
As they grew into teenagers, Doug was aware that AJ was struggling with his mental wellness. He tried his best to offer support and encouragement. But, not knowing any better, he gave the type of advice that many well-meaning but misguided friends provide.
Sadly, this advice was not helpful, and AJ committed suicide in July 2017. Doug was devastated. During AJ’s funeral service, Doug vowed to create a lasting legacy in honor of his best friend. The Dream the Impossible Initiative is the realization of that promise.
Doug mentors young people, taking a leadership role in public speaking engagements at schools and other venues. He talks about strategies to deal with bullying. Additionally, he shows kids how to get help when they feel overwhelmed or are simply unable to cope with anxiety. The Initiative also provides materially, giving gifts to children who would otherwise go without.
“My part is just trying to remember him however I can, and helping people understand that it’s just as important as your physical health, and provide them with critical factors that could contribute to their well-being and making sure they can do everything from their side to make sure they keep their mental spirits up.
These days, it’s tough. It does not matter if you’re a professional athlete or somebody working a regular job from 9-5. It’s very important that you find things and take out time to just work on your mental health and treat it just as important as your physical health.”Doug Middleton