For one and a half hours, Brandon, who is an all-pro wide receiver for the New York Jets, answered questions from Andrew Stockey and audience members about his diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, how and where he began treatment, and his outspoken advocacy efforts including the infamous $10,500 fine from the NFL for wearing green cleats during Mental Health Awareness Week.
Brandon insisted that you don't need a platform of thousands to make a difference with advocacy and the lives of those with mental illness. He credits the group therapists and clinicians at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts for their pivotal role on his road to recovery. He talked with candor about growing up in Pittsburgh, his family, his football career, his wife and newborn twins and, jokingly, why he could not play for the conservative owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- even though the audience cheered for and encouraged it.
He left the stage to another enthusiastic standing ovation and said NAMI's conference was the best speaking engagement of his life.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was present and published an article on Brandon and the conference.
Prior to Brandon's entrance, stigma researcher and professor Dr. Otto Wahl of the University of Hartford gave an excellent presentation on combating the stigma of mental illness. "Stigma undermines the possibility of recovery," Dr. Wahl said.
In the afternoon, Dr. Dennis Daley of the University of Pittsburgh led an indepth plenary session on addiction as an illness.
A highlight of the day was awarding longtime advocate Connie Roman, one of NAMI Southwestern PA's founding members and a former board member, the coveted Dick Jevon Advocacy Award. Mr. Jevon, now retired, was present and also shared a few words.
Six simultaneous workshops closed the day: Ask the Doctor, Two Tales of Suicide Stigma, NAMI Smarts for Advocacy, Teen Social Media and Mental Health Usage Trends, Anxiety and Depression in Children, and Future Planning for Individuals with Special Needs.
Thank you to Value Behavioral Health of PA, pictured below with Brandon Marshall, for serving as our Keynote Sponsor of this event.
On behalf of the NAMI Southwestern PA staff, thank you to all of our board members, sponsors, exhibitors and everyone who attended!