Steelers defensive lineman Chris Wormley took part in a mental health panel discussion in conjunction with Pittsburgh Public Schools, joining other current or former athletes and local educators to discuss mental health issues that have faced them, while answering questions from students to help them deal with the daily issues they have to combat.
The panel shared resources to help area students who are struggling with mental health issues, something that has become even more commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic and has become an open topic during May, as it's Mental Health Awareness Month.
One of the key messages was to not be afraid to take the steps to get help, that there is no shame in it, and there should not be a stigma around mental health in any way, shape or form.
"Having the conversation we are having now and making it a point to have mental health month, I think is going to help individuals talk more about their own mental health," said Dr. Anthony Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. "It won't be a stigma for them, and they won't be ashamed to talk about their own mental health. It's important we tear down this stigma and talk about it and make sure individuals are supported in that process."
Last year Wormley took part in a muscle and mind fit challenge while he, and all of the country, were dealing with the quarantine due to the pandemic. He said like everyone else, he had struggles during that time and he shared some of those struggles and the positives of how he coped with it via Instagram.
"For me, I think mental health is a combination of everything, especially when I apply it to my job and football," said Wormley. "It's physical, it's mental, it's my emotional well-being. For me that changes on a day-to-day basis. I have to take a moment to myself in the morning or at night to rethink it and calculate how my day went, how my mental health is for that day. Mental health changes from day-to-day, whether you have a more stressed day or laid-back day. Overall, it's how is my well-being.
"It might be the most important thing you can try to work on. If you are not mentally well, it can affect everything else in your life. Being able to talk about it more. Mental health was not something I liked to talk about until my wife pressed me a little bit, trying to talk more about it with me. It kind of opened me up a little bit. I was more guarded with my feelings. She would ask how I was feeling, and I would just say I am good. I would just give the easy answer instead of giving some thought to it and thinking how I do feel on a day-to-day basis. You have to normalize talking about it and feel comfortable discussing these topics."
Mental health issues can be triggered by many things, including stress. That happened for Wormley multiple times, including in college when he was injured his freshman year at Michigan and had what he loved most taken away from him missing playing time. He also experienced it last offseason when his football life was in flux. When the 2020 season ended, he knew he was about to become an unrestricted free agent and he wasn't certain the Steelers were going to bring him back, leaving him with concerns about stability for his family and so forth.
"It was a three-month process of a waiting game," said Wormley. "I really didn't think I was going to be back. Just that stress of the unknown. I didn't know where I was going to be, if I was going to play football with the Steelers again, having to uproot family and move. Signing back was a relief and took stress not just off my shoulders, but my wife's shoulders."