Alliance Profile – Mike Mauti
U.Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year (2012), First-Team All American (2012) Drafted by the Minnesota Viking (2013) and Played Five Years In the NFL, Spokes Person For Ulcerative Colitis, Made Return to the NFL After Having His Colon Removed
What past life experiences, physical traumas or genetics do you believe have had an effect on your mental health?
Over the course of my football career, at Penn State & five years in the NFL, I’ve dealt with & overcome a list of career-threatening injuries as well as being diagnosed with an autoimmune associated illness, Ulcerative Colitis. Before I got into the NFL I already came back from three major knee reconstruction surgeries. UC began to take over my NFL career after I lost 50 lbs midway through my 4th season. I underwent three surgeries to remove my colon & wore an ostomy bag for six months. Depression & anxiety set in, as I set forth to make an unprecedented battle back to the NFL.
How did the effects on your mental health appear in terms of symptoms?
As my physical condition worsened from UC, my mental state followed suit – feeling completely depleted, hopeless, in a state of depression 24/7. Hopelessly searching & unable to find answers to improve my condition, all while trying to hide it from my coaches, teammates, & friends. To put it lightly, I wasn’t exactly comfortable talking about how I was unable to control bowels, sprinting down hallways at work 30x a day. As a pro athlete, I’ve always dealt w physical pain, but the battle between my ears, every day, was a far more difficult challenge.
When and why did you decide to ask for help to get relief?
I have always tapped into the power of the mind via hypnotic meditation to help heal physical injuries & speed up recovery. But it wasn’t until one of my coaches recommended I see a sports psychologist, that I learned different coping strategies to help deal w the issues going on between my ears. In a hyper-competitive environment like the NFL, I was open minded to anything that could help increase not only my performance or efficiency, but my overall well being. (Mike’s sports psychologist is a member of the TSRR Practitioner Alliance.)
What methods helped you individually get/feel better?
Major mental health complications don’t seem to run in my family, but it was clear that I needed to implement strategies to help me deal w the stress & strain of difficult obstacles my career faced. Deep breathing exercises, & mindfulness meditation sessions became my best friends & the most helpful tools for me.
Why did you decide to go public with your story? Who were/are you hoping to help and how?
I shared my Ulcerative Colitis story publicly because I knew it would help people. I knew my platform as an NFL player would give people motivation & hope to fight their own battles. It completely relates to the #SameHere mission as it affects not only your physical body, but ultimately your mental health as well. Like mental health complications, so many people struggle silently bc its an ‘uncomfortable,’ personal topic. I think it’s always worth putting your pride & short term discomfort aside, if it means being able to help some you know who is struggling. Opening dialogue, providing resources & hope are, & always will be critical components to helping more people.
How did people react when you went public with your story?
The outpouring of support I received after I shared my story was completely humbling. Never did I realize the true impact of what I was doing & how much I was helping people by simply sharing my story. People who weren’t even football fans would come up to me in tears, thankful for how much motivation my story gave them to fight their own battles. I received hundreds of emails from UC patients around the country filled w gratitude. It only motivates me to continue helping people in whatever battles they face & help them find their own peak total wellness.