how 'bout that haley

Dallas Cowboys legend scores big with Houstonians in revealing mental health discussion

Dallas Cowboys icon tackles mental health in revealing Houston talk

Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Bun B and Charles Haley
Bun B and NFL legend Charles Haley. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Melanie Lawson and Charles Haley
Haley (right) candidly discussed his battle with bipolar disorder. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Susan Sportsman, Armando Colombo, Kathy Flannagan
Susan Sportsman, Armando Colombo, and Kathy Flannagan. Photo by Jenny Antill
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Sylvester Turner, Charles Haley, Melanie Lawson
Mayor Sylvester Turner, Charles Haley, and Melanie Lawson. Photo by Jenny Antill
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Kathy Flannagan, Dr. Jenine Boyd, Jessica Brown, Clare Fontenot-Gray
Kathy Flannagan, Dr. Jenine Boyd, Jessica Brown, and Clare Fontenot-Gray. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Anzel Jennings, Bun B, Kennard McGuire
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Anzel Jennings, Bun B, and Kennard McGuire. Photo by Jenny Antill
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Harris County Sheriff’s Department, recipients of Vital Balance Award
Harris County Sheriff’s Department, recipients of Vital Balance Award. Photo by Jenny Antill
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Linda Griffin, Glynda Underwood, Tami Dyer, Neva Dawson
Linda Griffin, Glynda Underwood, Tami Dyer, and Neva Dawson. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Bun B and Charles Haley
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Melanie Lawson and Charles Haley
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Susan Sportsman, Armando Colombo, Kathy Flannagan
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Sylvester Turner, Charles Haley, Melanie Lawson
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Kathy Flannagan, Dr. Jenine Boyd, Jessica Brown, Clare Fontenot-Gray
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Anzel Jennings, Bun B, Kennard McGuire
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Harris County Sheriff’s Department, recipients of Vital Balance Award
Menninger Luncheon 2022 Charles Haley Linda Griffin, Glynda Underwood, Tami Dyer, Neva Dawson

Since its inception, the annual Menninger Clinic’s Signature Luncheon has been a local platform for national celebrities and power brokers to candidly share their struggles with mental health or addiction issues.

Recent past speakers include former ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas; veteran actor Sean Astin (beloved in The Goonies, Rudy, and now, Stranger Things); and NFL star wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

This year was no different, as the 12th annual luncheon at the Hilton Post Oak Hotel featured a powerful discussion with massive pro football legend Charles Haley, who appeared before a distinguished list of more than 400 locals. The menacing defensive end/linebacker, who punished opposing quarterbacks on the way to a Super Bowl and NFL Hall of Fame stardom with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, sat down with ABC13 anchor Melanie Lawson to discuss his battles with bipolar disorder.

“Silence is a killer,” said Haley, who was hardly silent during his famed, 13-year NFL career that saw two Super Bowl rings with the 49ers and three with the Cowboys. “Being bipolar is something I’m going to deal with for the rest of my life and I'm not ashamed of it. I take every adversity and turn it into a positive force — I’ve been through it all and it will never make me hang my head.”

With a football-themed title “Rewriting the Mental Health Playbook,” Haley’s discussion centered on the stigma of mental health issues in the often unforgiving, alpha male-world of pro sports. While the extreme emotions may have helped Haley amp himself up on the football field, he struggled with those same emotions once he retired. Once he accepted that he had a mental illness — specifically, bipolar disorder — his whole life fell into place, Haley told Lawson.

Now, the six-foot-five superstar hopes to be a lifelong advocate for mental health.

The luncheon, which saw guests such as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and local hip-hop icon Bun B, was chaired by noted mental health leaders Kathy Flanagan, M.D., and Susan Sportsman, Ph.D., R.N. The event honored the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for setting new standards in how law enforcement responds to people with mental health needs.

“The Menninger Clinic has the responsibility to be a thought leader, educator and innovator for the future of mental health care,” said Menninger Clinic CEO Armando E. Colombo. “We are committed to reinventing mental health treatment. To begin to solve what we are facing requires innovative, evidence-based treatment and the building of a true continuum of care that allows us to meet our patients and clients where they are.”

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For more information about The Menninger Clinic, its programs, and services, visit www.menningerclinic.org.