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Herschel Walker speaks at Camp Lejeune against mental health stigma

Herschel Walker speaks at Camp Lejeune against mental health stigma

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -

A former football star is opening up about his struggles with mental illness.

During his visit to Jacksonville Monday, retired NFL player Herschel Walker urged Marines and Sailors at Camp Lejeune to get help for any mental health conditions they may have, while recounting his own painful episodes with dissociative identity disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder.

"I have a personality that won a Heisman trophy. Shoot, I have one that won an NFL Russian title. But I also had one that wanted to kill me," said Walker.

That tendency toward violence is what spurred the former Dallas Cowboys player to get help.

Walker he says mental health treatment saved his life.

"If I had not got that treatment, I would be dead today, or I would have killed my ex-wife, or what kind of dad I would I have been," said Walker.

Walker believes his illness stems from school days, when he says his classmates beat and bullied him, taunting him with names like fat and retarded.

His message on the powerful impact of treatment resonated with hospital patients.

"I've been diagnosed with several things, but probably the most common that people have is post traumatic stress disorder," said Chief Warrant Officer Alexsander Hernandez, a Camp Lejeune Marine.

Hernandez he says was nervous about getting treatment for PTSD following his helicopter accident in 2006, but realized he needed it after pushing his son into a wall. He has been receiving treatment since 2008.

"He [Walker] had mentioned a story over him wanting to hurt someone, and I think that to know that he was a person like me who was at that level…I kind of felt better that he had struggled just like I had struggled," said Hernandez.

Hospital staff members are hoping visits like these can break down a long-standing stigma.

"For him [Walker] to say he went to go get treatment, I'm hoping it's inspiring to other people to go seek the treatment they need, because there's nothing wrong with that," said Petty Officer Tawanda Nesby of the U.S. Navy.

Walker played pro football for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Minnesota Vikings before retiring in 1997.

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