MISSOULA – Ryan Leaf still holds the honor for the highest drafted Montanan to the NFL.
While part of his identity will always be connected to football, he was recently in Missoula to discuss his struggles with mental health and addiction.
After quitting the NFL, Leaf became addicted to painkillers and served jail time after robbing homes of their prescription painkillers.
He says that one of the big issues in treating mental health and addiction is the stigma that continues to surround asking for help and getting treatment.
Leaf suggests that one way to break through that stigma is to be open with others about your struggles and for people in his elevated position to continue sharing their stories.
“Well I think that you should, you just continue to shine a light on it. People such as myself who have dealt with mental health disorders as well as substance abuse, actually talking about it and letting everyone know that it is a disease and it is ok and there is a solution and it’s not a shameful thing that has occurred,” Leaf said.
He added, “I think for the longest time I had so much shame and guilt about who I was and what I was doing that I was not able to seek the help that I truly needed. If we continue to shine the light on that it opens the door for that stigma to dissipate.”
Leaf’s next stop on his Montana tour is Cut Bank.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News