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Herschel Walker, Heisman Trophy winner, professional athlete, businessman and author, is the national spokesman for the Patriot Support Programs of Universal Health Services. Walker discussed the importance of seeking help for mental illness and substance abuse with Marines March 24, 2015, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Walker now provides emotional and motivational support to service members, veterans and military families by conducting public speaking engagements at military installations nationwide.

Photo by Lance Cpl. April Price

Heisman Trophy winner reaches out to service members

27 Mar 2015 | Lance Cpl. April Price I Marine Expeditionary Force

Asking for help can be difficult while trained in an environment where leadership and self-reliance are necessary. Many Marines go through tough situations, whether it’s on a deployment or back home which may cause a traumatic impact on their mental and physical state.

Many people may recognize changes within themselves, but face a dilemma when it comes to voicing it. The slightest possibility to be viewed differently by loved ones and peers could concern the strongest warrior.

Herschel Walker, a professional athlete and Heisman Trophy winner, businessman and author, is the national spokesman for the Patriot Support Program of the Universal Health Services. In this role, he provides emotional and motivational support to service members, veterans and military families by conducting public speaking engagements at military installations nationwide.

During his visit aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, on March 24, Walker emphasized that even the toughest of people still need a helping hand every now and then.

“I think everyone has their set state of mind that difficulties with mental health is something bad and I’m here, as an example, to say that it’s not,” said Walker, who is overcoming his struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is described as a relatively rare mental condition where a person has two or more distinct personalities.

After his retirement from the National Football League in 1997, Walker said the disorder began to overwhelm him. At one point, while sitting in his kitchen, he said he played Russian roulette with a loaded pistol.

"To challenge death like I was doing, you start saying, there's a problem here," Walker told the Marines sitting in the audience. “I realized what I was doing wasn’t healthy and went to a hospital to seek some help and still go now, but that’s not to say I haven’t been improving. There is always a light at the end of a tunnel and I want to be able to express that to people.”

Since 2008, Walker has visited numerous military installations and shared his story to thousands of service members and families including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

“A lot of the men and women who serve have seen more than what we as civilians have,” said Walker. “Most of us fail to realize how important what they have to do outside of our country is and how much what they witness can affect them when they return home.”

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a top contender when it comes to military members and can occur following a life-threatening event, such as combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents and serious accidents. Walker stated that the feeling of shame, fear, denial, and other factors often prevent individuals or their families from seeking help.

“We’re often so wrapped up in the symptoms that we can’t see that what we’re really suffering from is an illness and not just a bad day, bad week or bad month,” said Walker. “And I honestly feel that’s how many people think and I don’t want people to feel as though they’re obligated to 'be strong' or deal with problems by themselves. There is no shame in asking for help. I did.”