Wiley points out to players that things like focus, confidence and managing anxiety are real skills they can possess.
“The good thing about when something is a skill is if you can identify your area of improvement and develop a process to improve, then things can improve over time,” Wiley said. “So I help guys first identify what some of the mental challenges they may be having, whether it’s performance anxiety, focus or concentration on the pitch, [and then] develop routines that help them prepare when they are off the court, whether it is study time, memorizing games, learning to think about certain situations. I provide guys with tangible processes they can use to improve in those areas.”
Carla Suber, team clinician, is another key member of the Bears organization who provides valuable mental health support. She leads individual and group sessions with players and also provides referrals for their family members.
Suber, who was hired by the Bears full-time in 2020, revealed that she helps players “focus, ground themselves and manage their internal motors because they’re so used to going, going, go, but sometimes it can kind of spiral in. So help them to be grounded, help them meditate, help them be aware and help them be in the present.
“They have such a long litany of things to do during the day, so let’s break it down into manageable tasks,” she said. “And then when things get overwhelming, we’ll work on strategies to deal with that overwhelming feeling that they may have.
“We spend a lot of time helping them slow things down. Coaches try to help them slow things down on the football pitch so they can just attack them. I try to bring that to them.”
Suber also stresses the importance of sleep and its impact on mental health.
“My whole mantra for them is as much as I love football and as much as I want us to win a Super Bowl,” she said, “I really want you all to be happy, healthy, human whole, so you can be good husbands, good fathers, good brothers, good teammates, just good humans and be able to live the life you want to live.”
As part of their efforts to provide mental health support and resources, the Bears understand the importance of trying to destigmatize mental health issues.
“Make it as normal as possible,” Poles said. “Coach Eberflus has done a really good job bringing it into his meetings and making it open and talking openly. The other thing we talk about a lot is just behavior modeling. ‘have been quite open. Every two weeks, I meet [a doctor]. I have to talk about the stuff on my chest that comes with this job, and I’m open about that and hopefully it can affect if it’s just one or two or three players or staff. to be comfortable asking for help and just talking to someone if they’re going through something.”
“It’s just the culture,” Eberflus added. “And then you bring it to life. You put it on the table and let them know the services are there and there’s nothing wrong with getting help and using those services. For me, it’s about the attitude and the culture that you’re creating a football team as a whole that Ryan and I are doing and that’s OK everyone has been affected by mental health issues it can be a sister or a brother, it can be an aunt or an uncle, whatever it is.