Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty
Mental health affects everyone, it doesn't pick a specific race or gender, it doesn’t care if you have all the money in the world or none at all. Talking about mental health used to be frowned upon and wasn't taken seriously. Now it's becoming a worldwide discussion for everyone to end the stigma of mental health, to embrace it by talking to someone about how to improve it.
A few seasons back, Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love left a game early against the Atlanta Hawks on November 5th, 2018, a few months later he saw a therapist and wrote about it in the Players Tribune later that season. His message was clear, he wanted to have a productive conversation about his mental health experience and get people to start talking about the issue. Love pointed out that initially seeking help for his mental issue was a form of weakness, which many of us has had that same feeling. That same season, former Raptor and current San Antonio Spurs guard Demar Derozan opened up about his depression and anxiety he's been battling since he was a kid. Derozan explained in the Toronto Star that we’re all human at the end of the day, even if it seems we’re indestructible. "We all got feelings. ... (Sometimes) it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you." Derozan got a lot of positive support when he came out publicly about his mental issues.
The NBA has decided to boost the amount of help for their players will receive from a mental health point of view. According to Sam Amick of the Athletic, the league will have guidelines for all 30 teams to complete for their players to better their mental health problems and help them acquire a more positive mindset. The league will have a mental health and wellness meeting in Chicago on September 12th to explain further on the plan. The league will also hire licensed psychiatrist for mental health awareness and also separate a psychiatrist for managing the player's wellness too. Another requirement is that teams will have to ensure a written action plan in case of emergencies and that teams will provide confidentially about their players or staff members on the issue.
Adam Silver has talked about the importance of their players and their mental health. During this past season, he felt a lot of players he spoke felt isolated and unhappy. Back in 2012 Houston Rockets rookie and BIG 3 player Royce White were outspoken about the league's lack of understanding of his mental illness. He also said how the league needed to do a better job handling their players when it came to their mental health. He felt that because he had a fear of flying and had an anxiety disorder that he was basically blackballed from the NBA.
The NBA has stepped up about making a difference in the NBA community. A lot of fans look up to basketball players as role models, whether it's buying a jersey or buying the new shoes or anything that is affiliated with that player, seeing their favourite player speaking out against the stigma of mental health will make a difference. The NBA looks to be the trailblazer in the sports world when it comes to the importance of mental health. It's not easy being an NBA player with all the glitz and glamour, but also the pressure of playing at a high level and winning games. This new plan can help the players get some much needed weight off their shoulders.
The other league's need to follow suit. Many athletes have lost their lives because of the negativity of having conversations about going through depression and anxiety. Back in the summer of 2011, three NHL players passed away in a span of 16 days. Two of them were suicide deaths, while the other was an overdose. While CTE probably was a big cause of their deaths, there is no question that all three were suffering from some form of mental illness. Wade Beak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard were all enforcers that fought day in day out for their entire careers. Though life as an enforcer isn't easy and at times challenging with their responsibilities causing them at times pain and suffering.
While the NHL has done little to improve, the NBA shedding light on the matter is a huge step in the right direction. What Adam Silver has done might be the biggest thing he has accomplished as a commissioner. Silver could expand the league to 5 other countries and still wouldn't be a bigger achievement than the mental health program he's imploring to the league and possibly improving it years down the road.
For the players, this is a big step to get out of that macho mentality and go seek help if needed. Seeing examples like White, Love and Derozan show that no matter how much money you have, you are not untouchable. What these men did and countless others who might have not gone public but did behind closed doors, was open a window for so many others to talk about the problems they're facing. Kudos to the NBA for their forward thinking into the next generation and beyond.