Thompson on mental health transparency: ‘If you're helping just one person, that's a win'


Nate Thompson knows the importance of playing a role.

The 37-year-old center has played parts of 15 NHL seasons and for nine different teams. His 86 playoff games have included trips to an Eastern Conference Final and a Western Conference Final.

He has made a long career out of playing a role — maybe not the biggest, but an important role for the purpose of victories.

Off the ice, Thompson is striving to help others clinch victories in life.

The Anchorage, Alaska native has been sober for over five years after battling addiction earlier in his career. A result of his fight, the benevolent Thompson has become an advocate of mental health awareness.

"Just getting rid of that stigma," Thompson said in a recent interview with Taryn Hatcher as part of NBC Sports' HeadStrong initiative. "It's that old-school mentality before where it's, 'I've got to be tough, I don't want to show any weakness.' But you're not weak if you're trying to show courage and ask for help — that's not weak. I think just being able to be brave and come out with it, it can help other people. And if you're helping just one person, that's a win."

Thompson, who is in his second stint with the Flyers, said he was initially hesitant to go public with his past struggles. When he did, there was an "overwhelming amount of support," Thompson said.

"I think probably after my first year of being sober, I kind of decided, 'All right, this is bigger than me,'" Thompson said. "It's tough being open about something and know that if you're going to be open about it, you're probably going to have to talk about it. But after talking about it, it was just like anything — when you talk about something that's hard, usually after, you feel better. And that was the case for me. That was the biggest thing."

Sharing his story can make a difference.

"I was very apprehensive about talking about it, but with all of my struggles, the things that I've gone through and overcome, and the things I still have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, I know that it can help someone else," Thompson said. "By talking about it and being open about it, someone else can be like, 'You know what, I'm going through the same thing, maybe I should go ask for help.' And I think that can go a long way."

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