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Published on October 04, 2019

Former NFL Quarterback Ryan Leaf Shares Message of Hope During Bryan Health’s Mental Illness Awareness Week

Former NFL Quarterback Ryan Leaf shared an inspirational message of hope as the featured speaker during Bryan Health’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. The event took place at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in front of a record crowd of over 500 people.

Ryan Leaf rose to fame as one of the best college football quarterbacks of the mid 90s. The signal caller at Washington State was a Heisman Trophy finalist and selected as the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. After winning his first two games as a starter, Leaf’s career began to fall apart. He struggled as a pro and played for multiple teams over the course of his career. Despite his talent and promise, Leaf retired after only four seasons in the league.

After leaving football, Leaf developed a severe addiction to vicodin. The Grand Forks, Montana, native was arrested multiple times, attempted suicide by slitting his wrist and spent time in prison. It was during his incarceration at Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby, Montana that things turned around. Leaf started tutoring and teaching inmates how to read. It gave him a new mission and purpose.

After spending nearly three years in prison, Leaf was released. He took a position at Transcend Recovery, a sober living community in Los Angeles. After only five months, he was promoted to program ambassador and began to share his life story with others. Today, Leaf travels around the country as an advocate for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues. He also serves as a college football game analyst for ESPN, hosts a radio show on Sirius XM and has started a family with his fiancé, Anna.

“You either get help or you die with these types of diseases,” Leaf said. “The fact that I can have an impact on people, that validates what I continue to do. If I can leave a little hope for those who still struggle, that is the ultimate objective with what I do. It inspires me everyday.”

Mental Illness Awareness Week is a national campaign designed to educate and raise awareness about mental illness. It takes place annually during the month of October. Bryan Health is the region’s foremost health care provider of educating and treating mental illness in people of all ages.

Learn more about Bryan’s mental health services, and to take a free, confidential mental health screening.

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