The Menninger Clinic, one of the nation’s leading psychiatric hospitals, has established a patient and community advocacy partnership with former professional athlete Ryan Leaf to expand conversations about mental health and addiction.
Leaf, a college football standout, Heisman Trophy finalist and second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, played four seasons in the National Football League before struggles with mental illness and addiction ended his professional football career and spurred a downward spiral of destructive behaviors.
“There’s no better voice for the recovery community than someone who has lived that struggle at some point in their life,” said Armando E. Colombo, president and CEO, The Menninger Clinic. “Ryan’s story of overcoming addiction, and his commitment to encourage others to begin their road to recovery, is inspiring to all of us. We are thrilled to work with him in sharing the message that there is hope and a better future in recovery.”
As part of the partnership, Leaf will spend time in Houston on an ongoing basis, and through virtual platforms, to share what led to his struggles with mental health and addiction, what led him to seeking recovery and lessons learned from those experiences. He will kickoff the partnership on December 15 at The Menninger Clinic with an open house celebrating the expansion of addiction services at The Menninger Clinic, including a new Recovery Intensive Outpatient Program for Adults.
Leaf was once labeled by the sports world as the “No. 1 draft bust in NFL history” because of his struggles after leaving the professional sports world, which included drug use and interactions with law enforcement that eventually led to a prison sentence. He credits his time in prison as the catalyst for his journey to recovery and to ultimately make it his mission to use his story and experience to reach someone in need.
“I am living proof that a better life is always possible and, with hard work and the right support, happiness and health is achievable,” said Leaf. “Menninger is a leader in the mental health space and improves the lives of so many who suffer from addiction and mental illness. I’m excited to join them in reaching more people who are unable to imagine a better life for themselves.”