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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:33:39 AM CST

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Kip Patrick Russell, The Brandon Marshall Foundation

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall promotes mental illness awareness this week by wearing green cleats during Thursday night's game at Soldier Field. 



Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall greens up Chicago for mental health week

by Anna Bisaro
Oct 9, 2013

The Chicago skyline and two feet on Soldier Field will glow green Thursday evening to promote mental illness awareness and mental health advocacy.

“Since being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) in 2010, I’ve learned how to treat my disorder and have now shifted my attention to helping others with similar afflictions while breaking down the stigma of mental illness,” Marshall said on a flyer promoting The Brandon Marshall Foundation’s work this week.

BPD is characterized by unstable relationships, behavior and moods, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Marshall, a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, will sport lime green cleats Thursday night in the game against the New York Giants. In addition, the Trump Tower, Intercontinental Hotel and the Wrigley Building agreed to glow with green lights to spread awareness about mental illness recovery.

“Lime green is the new black,” Louie Correa, CEO of The Brandon Marshall Foundation said. “Green goes with everything.”

Correa said the organization chose green as its color because, “green is associated with growth and hope.” Especially after long Chicago winters, Correa said, seeing a green leaf sprouting is a real sign of new life.

Breaking the stigma associated with mental illness is an important goal of the organization, not just this week during Mental Illness Awareness Week. In addition to promoting awareness, the foundation partners with treatment facilities, searches for research projects to donate to, and works with legislators for political advocacy.

Congress established Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990 in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Illinois.

“Not everyone believes, knows and understands that recovery from mental illness is possible,” according to Lora Thomas, the executive director of NAMI Illinois.

Thomas said the recent opening of insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act is exciting for the mental health community, particularly in Illinois, as more people will be able to receive insurance coverage for their care.

NAMI of Greater Chicago has noticed an increase in calls to their help line since six mental health clinics were closed two years ago because of budget cuts, according to Alexa James, associate director.

“There are very few resources for people now since those clinics shut down,” James said. NAMI Chicago is not a service provider, but runs support groups.

Reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is a main goal of the organization, James said, because about one in four Americans suffers from a mental illness. This is particularly important for people with BPD, as she said self-acknowledgement could be difficult.

According to Correa, about 70 percent of people with BPD will attempt to commit suicide, making it a very dangerous disease. When Correa began working for The Brandon Marshall Foundation in September, Marshall dropped his other advocacy group Project Borderline.

“Project Borderline is a great name and a worthy effort, but we don’t have the capacity to run two nonprofits,” Correa said. For now the focus is on helping all people affected by mental illness, not exclusively the 6 percent of Americans suffering from BPD.

The NFL will fine Marshall $5,000 for wearing the lime green cleats, an amount that will come out of Marshall’s paycheck. Correa said NFL fines are usually donated to charity. The Brandon Marshall Foundation wants to partner with the NFL to match the fine and give the same amount to an organization helping people cope with a breast cancer diagnosis, Correa said.

The organization is now directing its focus to major illnesses that have psychological implications, he said. In light of breast cancer awareness month, the foundation wants to help those diagnosed with breast cancer and their families cope.

“Green goes with pink,” Correa said. “And mental health goes with everything.”