AS I SEE IT 7/16: One promotion trying SOMETHING

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

More this week on Employee Assistance Plans and about one promotion that at least tried to do something.

This letter from someone calling themselves "Seekers":

"Your most recent article raised a simple question: 'Would an Employee Assistance Program have saved the lives of Chris Benoit, Nancy Benoit, and Daniel Benoit?'

And while you stop short of saying yes, your implication is fairly clear: It certainly could have.

Before I take issue with that, let me state from the outset that I do firmly believe that the pro wrestling needs to clean up its act, and that an Employee Assistance Program is an important component of the benefits that should be offered by any large company, especially when employees are enduring the kinds of stress that pro wrestlers must endure. I will not defend any company that puts itself ahead of the welfare of its employees.

That said, I'm afraid you're wrong. In this case, I don't believe for a moment that an Employee Assistance Program would have helped at all, in terms of helping Chris Benoit keep his demons in check.

There is a significant mental barrier that must be overcome in taking that first step, making that first phone call I speak as the voice of experience, having used an EAP personally on a couple of different occasions. Picking up the phone and talking to a stranger, even a trained specialist whose job it is to say 'It's ok', it's hard. It's much harder than talking to a friend or family member about what's going on. And I'm prepared to go out on a limb and say that if everyone was as shocked as they claim to be about all this, then an EAP wouldn't have helped Benoit deal with his demons. When you're fighting with demons, your friends are the first to know. If he didn't tell anyone he was having a hard time, he wouldn't have called a stranger for help.

Benoit didn't suffer from a lack of resources here. Being able to pay for the services wouldn't have been a problem at his level. And being able to pay for discretion wouldn't have been any more of a problem. You could possibly make an argument that Benoit didn't know where to start in terms of getting Professional Help, but I don't think even that argument would hold much water. You don't go directly from 'I don't know who to call about this' to killing your family and yourself.

I believe that the problem is more cultural in nature, and it has to do with how we as men are perceived in this society. Chris Benoit didn't ask for help. Why not? By all accounts, and people would have gone to the wall to help him. What kept him from asking for help?

I'm inclined to think it's because even today, men are afraid to show signs of weakness. We're supposed to tough it out. That's what our dads did. You are applauded for being 'tough' and working through an injury, but looked at with raised eyebrows if you take 2 weeks off to fully recover from a sprain. If the stress starts to get to you, people say 'He can't handle it.'

The culture has certainly changed, but we're not there yet. There's going to have to be a continued shift in people's idea of what it means to be a man.

I could be wrong of course. We certainly agree on one thing. We'll never know."

Think it won't do any good? Let's at least TRY. Let's start with stopping even ONE death.

I'm well aware that wrestling has a macho culture. That's part of the problem. Wrestlers aren't going to change unless they're forced to...or permitted to...or both. I'm also well aware that companies, even though they offer such programs, seem to offer judgement on those who use mental health services.

But, wrestling, quite frankly, has no choice. Either professional wrestling will enact Employee Assistance Programs (or again... whatever other word, since we all know wrestlers...cough... aren't "employees"), ...or some similar type of programs for their talent; or states will take over drug and other testing for them and remove them from having any role in the process.

Well, at least one wrestling promotion made an attempt to make something positive happen out of the Benoit family tragedy.

At their Best of the Best 7 show this past Saturday night, CZW's Sabine Kernaghan, who processes CZW's ticket orders and works the front door, and who works in the helping professions in her non-wrestling job, came up with the idea of a leaflet in a response to the Benoit family tragedy, that said the following:

Combat Zone Wrestling cares about you. If you are wrestling with real life issues, please look for help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE
Alcohol Referral Hotline (Idaho Careline), 1-800-ALCOHOL
Cocaine Hotline (Office of Substance Abuse Prevention) 1-800-CO
Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, and the NAFARE Alcohol, Drug, and Pregnancy Hotline.

And if all else fails, you can call on us at

CZW's Maven Bentley and Zandig went along enthusiatically. Roger Artigiani of the ECW (New Alhambra) Arena wants to put the numbers up on the ECW (New Alhambra) Arenatrons as a public service as a public service.

Bitch all you want about CZW. Complain about their hardcore style. Complain about something else they've done in terms of promoting or matches they've run or whatever, but they did something post-Benoit that Vince McMahon hasn't done, Dixie Carter hasn't done, and any other promotion in America hasn't done to my something constructive to help someone with the kinds of problems that killed the Benoit family. They ought to be applauded.

Let promotions try SOMETHING...try ANYTHING. Not just face-saving policies that will last until the media and public look away again until the next high-profile death, but real, substantial policies that will help the workers who entertain us to live to something approaching old age.

Until next time...

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