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Herschel Walker talks with Navy Capt. David Lane, the commanding officer of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Aug. 9. Lane explains how the hospital helps service members who battle against mental health problems.

Photo by Pfc. Joshua Grant

Herschel Walker’s “proudest moment”: getting help

9 Aug 2012 | Pfc. Joshua W. Grant

Marines and sailors can suffer from visible injuries; wounded warriors can face missing limbs or burns from improvised explosive devices, but many service members suffer in a way no one ever sees.

Mental health issues are prevalent in society and are present in service members alike. Although there are many resources available for those with mental health issues, many, especially in the military, don’t seek help due to the stigma associated with it.

Herschel Walker, the winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy from 1982, made a special visit to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Aug. 9 to speak out about mental health. The Heisman Trophy is presented to one college football player who is deemed the most outstanding player in a collegiate football season.

Mental health issues are an ongoing struggle, but for the past four years, a new advocate in the battle against the stigma of mental health emerged as an example of strength.

Walker, who grew up in Wrightsville, Ga., said he suffered from mental health issues even as a child, though he didn’t know it at the time.                     

In 2008, Walker published his autobiography titled “Breaking Free.” In the book he announced, for the first time, his battle with dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder.

The DID is characterized by blackouts or memory impairment of important information that cannot be linked to normal forgetfulness.

Walker said because of his disorder he was unable to remember winning the Heisman Trophy. It wasn’t until he learned of more dangerous blackouts, in which he told his former wife he was going to kill her, that Walker decided he needed to get some help. Through the help of his pastor he found a hospital where he began treatment.

Although DID can be dangerous, through treatment Walker is able to control it. Walker said he began to love his personalities. He became the person he is because of their actions.

“The first time I ever told myself that, I was in the hospital,” said Walker. “I love who I am, and if I have 25 different personalities I love them all, good, bad and ugly.”

Walker said there is no shame in getting help. He encourages anybody with mental health issues, whether it is a loved one, a friend or a fellow service member, to seek help.

“The best thing that ever happened to me was going to the hospital,” said Walker. “It was the proudest moment of my life.”