On September 30, 2022, the Belmont Hill Community welcomed Ryan O’Callaghan, a former NFL player and founder of the Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation, to the Hamilton Chapel. He discussed his battles with mental health and his challenges in opening up to the world about his sexual orientation.
Mr. O’Callaghan, a gay man, is one of only 16 current and former NFL players to publicly declare that they were and are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Belmont Hill, an all-boys school with currently no students who have publicly come out reflects a similar pattern to that of the NFL. They are both difficult environments for men to declare their sexuality because of their archetypal portrayal of manliness and how men should conduct themselves. While the view that men cannot be a part of the LGBTQ+ communities in these environments prevails, it is difficult to argue that boys and men do not exist in the same realm. Mr. O’Callaghan’s mental health crisis led him to adopt a plan after his NFL career in which he would commit suicide. His experience and difficulties with his own mental state can be compared to the hundreds of thousands of student-athletes who suffer from depression or other related troubles with their home lives, performance anxiety, or just simple stress and anxiety about an undetermined future.
Mr. O’Callaghan’s poignant talk encouraged students to seek counseling and conversations with trusted adults on any of these issues. Mr. O’Callaghan’s stature in the athletic and LGBTQ+ worlds helps those who are in both communities. The Panel thanks Mr. O’Callaghan for his speech and wishes him well in his efforts to continue the conversation.