NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – “We’re All A Little Crazy” is the first-ever mental health alliance teaming up with sports stars and celebrities.
Professional sports executive Eric Kussin, onetime chief revenue officer for the NHL’s Florida Panthers, tells WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond the project stemmed from a personal trauma he suffered.
Kussin says he failed to address his trauma at a younger age, which led to severe depression that left him nearly immobilized for almost two and a half years. Eventually, medical practitioners taught him ways to heal the central nervous system and regain control of his life.
Determined to spread the message that everyone is touched by life’s inevitable traumas and losses, Kussin went public with this story and it went viral on social media. He became so overwhelmed by the personal responses he received and offers from others to discuss their own traumas, he started “We’re All A Little Crazy.”
When coming up with a name for the project, Kussin says he wanted to avoid the stigma around the term “mental illness.”
“It’s a very exclusive, instead of inclusive, term, because there’s the people who ‘have an illness’ and then everyone else. So the problem is, when we say ‘mental illness’ we’re talking about the people who are diagnosed a certain way and then all the other people who don’t want to be considered in that category, so they don’t ask for help,” he says. “So the power of all the folks up here coming out with their story – and I’m humbled that they would come and be a part of this – is that they’re willing to say, ‘No, you know what, all of us go through it.’
“We’re going to change this, we’re going to flip it around. It’s ‘we are,’ the ‘crazy’ is meant to be disruptive, it is meant to turn heads, there is a little bit of a fun play to it. I think at the end of the day, I think we’re taking ‘crazy’ and we’re turning it on its head and we’re saying crazy is the new normal because we’re all that way.”
The project launched this week in New York, with the help of an all-star roster of athletes, including American swimmer and seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, who has written about her struggles with depression, bulimia, drug abuse and toxic relationships.
“I always felt like it was a weakness. So if I talked about some of my issues or some of the things I was feeling or through, I always thought my competitors would think I was weaker than them,” she says.
Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning hockey player Theo Fleury says he was sexually abused by a former coach.
“It’s hard to believe 14 years ago I had a fully loaded pistol in my mouth ready to pull the trigger and end my life, because I was completely exhausted from living in emotional pain and suffering, and I tried absolutely everything on the plant to get rid of this feeling,” he says.
Fleury says sharing his story has given him purpose.
“It has given me a reason to get out of bed and it has alleviated those feelings of depression,” he says. “When you ask for help, it does not mean you’re weak. It means you are a person of tremendous character and courage, and I don’t know why it got flipped around.”
American cyclist Tyler Hamilton was teammates with Lance Armstrong. He says the doping scandal and the lies compounded his struggle with depression.
“I was winning some of the biggest races in the world, ringing the opening bell on Wall Street, national televised interviews – insane. But on the inside, I was a mess. It was like I had a lead blanket,” he says.
They’re also joined by American swimmer and Olympic medalist Anita Nall, whose career faltered because of chronic fatigue, despair and illness.
To learn more about the “We’re All A Little Crazy” project, click here.