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Playing with pain in the NFL

September 28, 2008

Re "Depression? Just shake it off," Opinion, Sept. 21

The story of NFL player Vince Young's struggle with depression is a glaring example of the mental health crisis among men. They are lonely and misunderstood by everyone, and most of all, themselves. Their precarious notions of manliness are being challenged every day by the highly competitive business world and by women who want connection in modern relationships.

Corporations, like professional sports franchises, don't respect vulnerabilities -- particularly emotional ones. Men were not raised to be emotionally connected or expressive, especially when they hurt. They were taught that success has only one yardstick: material wealth.

As a psychologist, I see more men than ever in my practice with depression and anxiety because of these stresses. But you'd never know it: The man sitting next to you won't tell you that he needs help or that he is getting it.

Let's give men a chance to trade in their shame for self-healing before it's too late. Evelyn Kohan

Calabasas

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I found Zirin's comparison of the NFL to a chest-bumping, music-blaring frat party to be an analogy fraught with contradictions. According to Zirin, the NFL refuses to acknowledge depression as a league issue because it damages the image of its iron-made players, who champion an organization built only for the strongest men. This very portrayal challenges Zirin's carefree frat-party illustration.

What's more, suggesting that ardent football enthusiasts -- I count myself among them -- cannot be bothered with such human emotions as depression because they interfere with the NFL's testosterone-driven image paints a distorted picture of detached and indifferent fans. Following players' stories makes most people care even more about a player, human flaws and all.

Samantha Ann Perez

Van Nuys

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