The Los Angeles Rams and United Way of Greater Los Angeles partnered with EVERFI's Character Playbook to host the second mental wellness session for more than 500 LA region students (grades 6 – 9).
This month's virtual mental wellness session featured a panel discussion with Rams Legend Chris Thomas and Cheerleader Jennifer P.
The Rams hosted the first virtual "Mental Wellness Basics" session last month. Each session has covered mental wellness topics designed to help students learn about the complexities of mental health and healthy coping skills.
"In October, we gathered and discussed ways to develop a healthy mindset. This included writing a few things down that you're grateful for and reminding yourself of them daily," explained moderator and Rams Community Affairs representative Karissa Davis. "It's sometimes hard to accept truths and overcome mountains in front of you when your belief is that you're the only one dealing with the current situation. However, today I want you to know you're no longer alone. The reality is mental wellness is something we all need to take care of throughout our lives. We hope to show you what you can do today to be prepared for whatever life throws your way."
The focus of last week's session was healthy habits and building a mental wellness plan. The interactive webinar allowed students to participate in polls that encouraged them to think about their own mental health. Students also submitted questions for the panelists to discuss throughout the session.
"It's a very powerful topic," said Thomas. "It's at the forefront of everyone's mind now. Mental health is more significant now in people's lives than ever before, so I am glad we are talking about it."
Former wide receiver Chris Thomas spent two seasons with the Rams, winning a Super Bowl title in 2000. He shared some of the challenges he encountered throughout his professional football career.
"I was confronted with obstacles that there was no book for, that really debilitated me for a bit of time while I was in the NFL because I didn't know necessarily how to overcome some things that I had never experienced in my life," explained Thomas. "I was really thrown in the fire to figure out how to let my mind work for me, not against me, and that began a four-and-a-half-year process of unlocking every compartment of the mind and the power it has to allow us to own the experiences that we have every single day of our lives."
The Q&A began with a question focused on experiencing stress.
"I've dealt with anxiety my entire life. This is something that I was very ashamed about and very embarrassed about," Jennifer shared. "With anxiety, it brings up a lot of uncertainty and fear, so a lot of emotions are going to start hitting you at once. What I've learned in those moments when I'm stressed, I have to always find grounding in myself and in my values. I have to ask myself three questions, 'Will this affect me in 24 hours? What's the worst scenario? What's the best-case scenario?' When you're feeling a wave of emotions, you have to learn how to talk to yourself through those moments."
The group discussed how friends can impact mental wellness, "People can influence your mental wellness and truth be told, more often than not, it is our environment, on some level, that is the trigger for feeling stressed, anxious or depressed," explained Thomas. "It is the environment and often times it is the people of that environment that you're in that are the trigger."
The group also explored how empathy and social awareness can combat how others might affect one's mental wellness and how social media can affect personal perception. Davis shared the quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy," before posing the question, "How can comparison make it difficult to keep a positive mindset?"
"Comparison is the thief of joy because you are comparing everything that everyone else has curated, while you have an abundant life already whether it may look like the next person's or not," Jennifer shared. "I think gratitude is really something that can ground somebody that feels the negativity of comparison because the moment you take a step back and you say, 'Wow, I have my health, I can walk, I can play sports, I have a roof over my head…' just those basics you come back to. I think those are really good steps to take, especially when you're going through that downwards spiral. You have to walk that journey on your own, you have to go through the good times and the bad times, you have to make your mistakes because the biggest lessons are from your mistakes. So, again, ground yourself in gratitude… I promise it helps."
Thomas added, "I would encourage you to stop looking for someone else or something else validate you and tell you what your life should look like. You're the author of your own book. Write your own book, don't let someone else do that for you."
Vulnerability was the closing discussion topic. Thomas shared, "The biggest challenge of being vulnerable is creating that safe space for people to know that it's okay to share what's on their mind and what's in their heart."
The Rams will continue to host monthly virtual sessions for LA region students through January 2022 in partnership with EVERFI, an interactive, digital learning solution that gives organizations the ability to deliver health and wellness education to communities – wherever they are. As part of the leaguewide initiative, the NFL is sponsoring five schools and more than 800 students in the LA region to have access to EVERFI's mental wellness curriculum. The league-sponsored schools include Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High, Newbury Park High School, El Camino Real Charter High School, Bell Senior High and Kern Union High School.
To learn more about the Rams' community programs, please visit www.therams.com/community.