NBA’s Fight to End the Stigma of Mental Illness Starts with the Players
“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.”
Mental illness is a disease very much prevalent in today’s world. Often times seen as taboo to discuss so openly, anxiety and mental health are now at society’s forefront. People are now encouraged to speak out, there are resources out their to aid those in need, yet so many stay silent. So many are in fear of being judged, looked down upon, perceived as weak.
Since a young age, boys have been taught a certain code of how to be men. Girl’s cannot remain sissies either – they must be independent and brave as showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Something as primitive as telling people to just stay strong and not to cry, when really, being able to weep and open up about haunting issues is sometimes a real testament of true strength.
“I want to write that again: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see,” an exert in All-Star Kevin Love’s The Players Tribune entry. “The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life.”
This depression get the best of me…
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) February 17, 2018
No matter how many millions of dollars we could make in our lifetimes, no matter the amount of loving and caring friends we accumulate, we are all human at the end of the day and there come times where we still feel alone, helpless, and defeated – like the weight of the world is on our shoulders or a heavy bowling ball is on our chest. Mental illness can only be defeated through speech and acceptance – and it requires us all to unite as a people.
On the NBA level, it starts with the players – role models and leaders who are strong enough to admit to the illness and seek help. These are people that thousands of millions look up to and if these players have the strength to come out and speak about their problems, that will have a domino effect on the rest of society.
That being said, the League itself must do more to help their players and realize they are not all as invincible as they look on the court.
“I find it offensive that they don’t feel that they are more than a sports league,” Royce White comment on the NBA back in 2017. “They tell the players to ‘represent yourself, your family, your community, this organization, in a way that you’d be proud of.’ So that lets me know you understand it’s bigger than the game, bigger than four quarters, bigger than practice, bigger than the training you do. It’s bigger than the money you make.”
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Royce White, a promising young player, was a lottery pick of the Houston Rockets back in 2012, but never played a single NBA regular season game due to an inability of working out an agreement with teams to comply with his anxiety and fear of planes. As more NBA players open up about their issues, the NBA will continue to help their players and in turn should raise awareness surrounding mental illness.
“We’ve invested in all these state-of-the-art facilities and cryogenic chambers, hydro pools and all that, but we haven’t focused on mental health,” Lakers Owner Jeanie Buss said. “That’s the next level of care.”
As the need for help grows, the NBA will need to find revolutionary and effective ways of helping their players.
“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are,” said DeRozan in an interview with The Star in Toronto, “we all got feelings . . . all of that. Sometimes . . . it gets the best of you, where at times everything in the whole world is on top of you. This is real stuff. We’re all human at the end of the day.”