NFL player sparks discussion about mental health and substance abuse

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – NFL star Josh Gordon is stepping away from the football field to focus on mental health. His decision sparked a discussion here in Utah where many in our state suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues.

The New England Patriots wide receiver announced his decision on Thursday.

Shortly after his tweet, the league announced Gordon was suspended indefinitely for substance abuse violation.

Gordon, 27, has a long history of mental health and substance abuse issues and has participated in just 10 games between 2014 and 2018.

Back in college, he was suspended indefinitely by former Baylor University head coach Art Briles for failing a drug test and testing positive for marijuana. Gordon then transferred to the University of Utah in August of that same year, but he sat out after declaring too late for the NFL’s 2011 supplemental draft. 

“Famous people are still people. They are still humans and they get to struggle,” explained Christina Zidow, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Chief Operating Officer for Odyssey House Utah.

According to Zidow, the treatment center severed over 7,000 Utahns last year. She says about 80 percent of those helped, struggled from both mental health and substance abuse disorders.

“is there a direct correlation between mental health and substance abuse?” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

“Definitely,” Zidow replied. 

“Some of those mental health disorders are pretty severe and significant and visible to other people — like schizophrenia. But then, a lot of people suffer in silence from depression and anxiety,” she explained.

Zidow says Utah has some of the highest depression rates in the nation and most people turn to either alcohol or marijuana to self-medicate and escape.

It’s referred to as maladaptive coping.

“The other side of the equation is that using marijuana or alcohol can also make you feel more depressed because it’s a depressant,” Zidow told ABC4 News.

She admits realizing you have a problem and getting help can be terrifying, and as a community, it’s something people should embrace and support.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health and, or substance abuse, there’s help. 

Contact the Odyssey House at (801) 322-3222 or click here.

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