Herschel Walker signs autograph
Herschel Walker signs autographs at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., March 18 after speaking about how to recognize and overcome mental health challenges.

ARLINGTON, Va. (March 18, 2010) -- Sports superstar Herschel Walker visited Army National Guard members here today to share his story about overcoming a mental illness and to help others understand the stigmas surrounding mental health disorders.

Called one of the greatest football running backs, also an Olympian, businessmen, author and professional fighter, Walker said he struggled to understand a mental illness that affected him throughout his life.

He stood before at least 200 Soldiers, still a powerful-looking athlete, and explained how he had lost control of his actions and misread himself until he realized he had a problem.

"It's O.K., everyone suffers from something," he said. "But you just have to get up, you have to get up and do something about it, because a big man is not a man who stays knocked down."

Walker said he turned to his religious faith and then sought professional help to overcome his issues. Now he encourages and tries to help others with mental disorders to do the same.

"There's no shame in my game," he said. "You have to admit when you have a problem. You go get it taken care of, and that's when you can see freedom."

Army Capt. Joan Hunter, director of psychological health for the National Guard Bureau, thanked Walker for sharing his story.

"The fact that you're coming here to the National Guard and telling your story is incredibility important to all of us," she said.

Hunter said that the Guard's newest physiological health program saw more than 2,000 Soldiers in the last year, with 200 receiving assistance for high-risk mental health needs.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith writes for the National Guard Bureau.)

Page last updated Thu March 18th, 2010 at 16:12