Q&A: Eisenhower Center on the ATI Program and Mental Health

A Q&A about mental health and the After the Impact® Program for current and former NFL players with Devin Hutchings, Vice President of Business & Government Affairs at Eisenhower Center.

What is the "After the Impact" Program? What resources and treatment can a player get from it?

After the Impact® (ATI) is a 30-60 day residential treatment program located in Jacksonville, FL and Ann Arbor, MI. The program brings together some of the most underserved communities facing difficulties with career and life transitioning, PTS, neuro-cognitive function and behavioral and mental health challenges: Veterans, Athletes and First Responders.

The program offers a ""Total Team"" approach to address difficulties individuals face – Attacking root causes, educating and developing plans to aide in the recovery and transition from their former identity. Participants receive 20+ hours per week of the following services: Counseling, Occupation Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy (neuro-cognitive), Music Therapy, Nutrition, Movement Therapy (yoga and massage), Recreational Therapy, Recovery, Health Education, Community Reintegration, Case Management and Behavioral Modification.

What sorts of challenges do current and former players face that can be addressed by the ATI Program? What are some common challenges that are addressed?

The ATI program addresses symptoms of depression, anxiety, isolation, anger management, cognitive decline, memory loss, comprehension, audio and visual processing life transition, loss/grieving, and executive functioning. The program focuses on building skills to address declining areas and building up mental fitness.

What are some common misconceptions about mental health?

  • There is nothing you can do about it.
  • Medicine is the only treatment.
  • You are less of a person.
  • All people with mental health challenges exhibit physical signs or psychotic behavior.

Why is mental wellness so important? How do mental health challenges affect other areas of A player's life?

Just like training for a big game or tryout, players must mentally train. The brain is the largest muscle in the body, and it is vital that we keep it high on the priority list of self care. Neglecting your mental health can lead to other issues down the line that will ultimately affect the player and their family, so early and consistent intervention and practices are key.

How can families benefit from the ATI Program?

Participants and their family gain ease and a sense of relief that things can get better from the education and tools the players learn while in the program. Family members are also incorporated in the program.

What are some red flags, warning signs or early indicators that players and their families can watch for as they relate to mental health?

The most common red flags will be isolation, loss of interest in activities or things enjoyed previously, and becoming easily agitated or frustrated.

What can a player who is facing challenges do?

Speak to a trusted family member, counselor, former teammate or coach. Part of mental fitness is expressing feelings and thoughts to find answers or coping mechanisms to address the issue.

What else should a player know about this benefit?

We have fortunately been able to address the needs of many players struggling with depression and loss of worth. The biggest challenge is taking the step to ask for help, and know that no one gets anywhere alone. We here at the ATI program are ready to help you just start the next chapter in your life, with experienced professionals and your peers!

Devin Hutchings is the President of the Eisenhower Center. Click here for more information about the Eisenhower ATI Program.

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