Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Herschel Walker visits Veterans, raises awareness
Herschel Walker, former NFL running back and winner of the Heisman Trophy, visited with Veterans, family members and employees at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Aug. 6 as part of his national tour to raise awareness about mental illness.
Walker spent the day meeting with active-duty service members at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and then turned his attention, during the evening hours, to those who had already served and returned to civilian life - Veteran patients at Charleston VAMC.
The College Football Hall of Famer visited and conversed with inpatients in the facility’s mental health ward, discussing his own personal, lifelong battle with dissociative identity disorder, a condition which causes a person to suffer from disjointed thoughts and memories and, often, a disconnected sense of personal identity. Walker also spent time with residents and families in Patriot’s Harbor Community Living Center, signed autographs and posed for several photographs with patients and staff around the hospital.
Walker explained that, despite his numerous accomplishments, he often found it hard to fit in as a young man, and he was plagued by feelings of inadequacy.
“I didn’t love myself or who I was,” he said. “Everyone was telling me I was doing great things but I couldn’t see it.”
The football star now uses his celebrity status to speak out and dispel negative opinions people may have about those suffering with mental health issues. He encourages individuals battling with mental illness to reach out and seek help before it is too late.
Walker is the spokesman for the Patriot Support Program, providing emotional and motivational support to service members, Veterans and military families by conducting public speaking engagements at more than 80 military installations nationwide. He speaks out on behalf of programs specializing in mental health and addiction treatment.
Veterans struggling with mental health related issues, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide, should reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line by visiting their website at www.veteranscrisisline.net or calling 1-800-273-8255 and then pressing 1. The Veterans Crisis Line offers comprehensive, round-the-clock support for Veterans in need, and callers are connected directly to VA responders who can assist in helping them get their lives back on track.
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs staff contributed to this article.