The Colts, through the team and Irsay family's Kicking The Stigma mental health initiative, were nominated Tuesday for the prestigious 2023 Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year ESPY Award. The ESPYs will air on July 12 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
The Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award is given to a sports franchise that's making a significant positive impact on a community or cause.
For the Colts, that cause is mental health – which Kicking The Stigma has ardently supported since its founding in 2020. To date, Kicking The Stigma has committed over $24 million to mental health awareness, research and treatment, and has awarded over $6 million in Kicking The Stigma Action Grants to nonprofits and organizations that've directly improved mental health treatment and research in the state of Indiana and beyond.
Through Kicking The Stigma, the Irsay Institute opened at Indiana University earlier in 2023. The Irsay Institute is led by some of the nation's foremost experts in stigma and mental health, and will conduct impactful research that will accelerate mental health treatments — and, too, expand the number of qualified mental health professionals able to conduct those treatments.
Another example of the Colts and Irsay family's reach through Kicking The Stigma is the Be Happy program at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, which was started with funding from a Kicking The Stigma Action Grant. Not only is the program impactful for expanding evidence-based mental health treatment across the state of Indiana, but the simple idea of the Colts' support goes a long way not only for patients, but practitioners as well.
"It helps our morale — it's really hard to do this work, and the clinicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers who are all working in this area, when they feel like the community values them enough to actually give money to what they're doing, it's very validating and it's really useful for us in terms of helping people feel vital in the work that they're doing," Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, Riley Director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said. "Like – the Colts think that you guys are doing incredible work, so much so that they are actually going to give money to do the work that you do, which is so valuable. It's high profile and shines a light on this work signaling how important it is. The Irsay family thinks that this is what should be happening, and I think it makes people feel grateful to be acknowledged but also messages that their work is important."
The Colts in September 2022 hosted the inaugural Beyond the Sidelines event, which featured sports media personality Kay Adams and multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer and raised more than $1.6 million to support mental health programs. Several Colts players supported Kicking The Stigma with custom cleats for the NFL's annual "My Cause, My Cleats" game, and the Colts dedicated the team's first Monday night home game since 2015 to highlight Kicking The Stigma.
The Colts also produced several national PSAs for Kicking The Stigma featuring players, coaches, staff and team ownership. Colts Owner/Vice Chair Kalen Jackson wrote an op-ed for the Indianapolis Business Journal focusing on how Indiana's behavioral health system can be fixed, and Kicking The Stigma content has generated over 26 million impressions across social media platforms.
"Initiatives like Kicking the Stigma are vital to putting an end to the epidemic of mental illness in Indiana and across the country," Indiana Lieutenant Governor and co-chair of the Indiana Roundtable on Mental Health Suzanne Crouch said. "By speaking up and sharing our personal stories, we each can play a role in combating mental illness and addiction in our communities. The Colts should be recognized for taking a leadership role in Indiana's fight against mental illness and addiction."