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Why It Matters That NBA Players Opened Up About Mental Health Struggles

Why It Matters That NBA Players Opened Up About Mental Health Struggles

Basketball stars face the same stigma and pressure as any professional in their respective field. They have raw, natural talent, strength and ability they work hard for, and skills they train for daily. Along with it comes dealing with managers and agents, pressure to have a successful career, a big paycheck, and the constant balance of reputation and public persona.

A Closer Look At Mental Health Struggles

What could possibly lead professional athletes to develop mental illnesses?

Forbes offers an insightful answer when discussing two players and their struggle: “The answer is both Love and DeRozan are humans, not robots. And even though they are exceptionally tall and athletic humans, they are susceptible to the same feelings and challenges that affect many, many humans.” Kevin Love, currently of the Cleveland Cavaliers, opened up in 2018 about his experience with panic attacks. DeMar DeRozan, currently of the Toronto Raptors, opened up in 2018 about his experiences with anxiety and depression. Both players spoke about their mental health struggles as part of a campaign for Mental Health America’s Mental Health Month.

Playing a professional sport requires premium talent, focus, skill, and ability. Mental health struggles can quickly get in the way of athletes who are expected to perform at the top level. Experiencing the symptoms of mental illness can be upsetting to professional athletes and even feel embarrassing, because of the pervasive stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma is closely related to shame, and acts like a “scarlet letter”, condemning the individual who bears the branding. Professional athletes often hesitate in opening up about their struggles and this can cause their struggles to worsen. What professional athletes experience in their industry is similar to what professionals experience in other industries, like medicine, law, and more. When these pressures mount too high, they can lead to substance abuse, depression, extreme anxiety and more.


Why It Matters How The NBA Responds To Mental Health

Many professional fields still keep the topic of mental health and mental illness relatively “hush hush”. There are few protocols to ensure a professional gets the help they need and take care of the problem, once it arises. The NBA, on the other hand, has taken an impressively proactive approach with a few initiatives.

First, the NBA is naming a Director of Mental Health and Wellness, who, according to the NBA, “…will run an independent mental wellness program that is being jointly funded by the league and union.” The NBA’s mental wellness program “…will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams,” and in addition to their team physicians, as well as other resources.

Second, as part of NBA Cares, a “Mind Health” page with resources has been published. Lastly, the hugely successful mindful meditation app Headspace entered a partnership with the NBA recently in order to provide all employees with free access to mindfulness training. Mindfulness is proven to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with mental illness, reduce stress, enhance focus, and improve overall health.

You can be open about your mental health too, regardless of your profession. The Center For Professional Recovery offers the privacy and professionalism you need to recover mind, body, and spirit.

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