than A Game: An NBA Player’s Impact on Mental Health Awareness
More than A Game: An NBA Player’s Impact on Mental Health Awareness
September 7, 2021
By Raywon Kim
As we enter the month of September, it becomes
especially important to recognize a struggle impacting a countless
number of people. Although only the month of September represents the
fight for Suicide Prevention Awareness, every day should be a reminder
to us to share goodness and happiness to others around us.
Our world today has stigmatized the ideas of suicide and mental health
problems. We often associate mental health problems with those who may
be less fortunate, but this is simply not true; suicidal thoughts can
impact anyone regardless of race, gender, age, or background.
In fact, this stigma of mental health shattered as athletes slowly
began to share their own struggles publicly. Never once did people
imagine that athletes, with all of their money and talents, could also
struggle from forms of anxiety and depression.
The bravery of NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, has set the
milestone for increased mental health awareness in the basketball
It all started when the ex-Toronto Raptors star,
DeMar DeRozan, tweeted: “This depression get the best of me…”, the day
of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
DeMar DeRozan’s unexpected, ominous seven word message to the world
immediately shocked the sports world. For a 4-time NBA All-Star and
two-time All-NBA Team member to reveal his own struggles to the world
was unheard of. Yet the public response to DeRozan’s courage sparked
nothing but love and support.
One fan wrote: “Just like you proved the critics wrong, prove
depression that you can overcome it too. You got Compton, Toronto, the
Raptors organization, and all of Canada behind you. #ProveEm
Around a week after tweeting of his struggle, DeRozan took an even
braver step forward as he shared his bout against depression and
anxiety in a candid interview with the Toronto Star.
As he discussed his troubles as a young child, one message truly
changed the trajectory in which depression and mental health should be
viewed, as he stated: " It’s not nothing I’m against or ashamed of. ...
I understand how many people go through it."
These simple yet powerful words that the world should not shame those
with mental health problems, invoked a powerful message of courage
within many other athletes in the basketball community.
In fact, the current San Antonio Spurs star was able
to encourage and embolden NBA player Kevin Love in publishing his own
struggles in the Player’s Tribune.
Titled “Everyone is Going Through Something”, Kevin Love recounted the
fear he felt when he suffered a panic attack during a game against the
Immediately at tip off he states: “I was winded within the first few
possessions. That was strange. And my game was just off. I played 15
minutes of the first half and made one basket and two free throws.”
Recognizing that he was not in the right state of mind, Love ran
to the locker room and found himself running from room to room, heart
racing, and gasping for enough air to breathe.
What weighed on Love the most after this experience was not the fear of
his panic attack itself. In fact, he recounts that the most fear he
felt was that he did not want people to find out, or talk about the
fact that he was mentally struggling.
In his own words he states “It was a wake-up call,
that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the
panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it
happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it.”
It was when DeRozan spoke up about his own tribulations that Love
decided that he would no longer be held back by his own fears. In his
own interview he took his mission one step further as he said: “we are
all walking around with experiences and struggles --all kinds of
things-- and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them.
The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our
friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with. ... But creating
a better environment for talking about mental health … that’s where we
need to get to."
Current Toronto Raptors star Fred Vanvleet described
the impact that DeMar DeRozan had on the basketball world perfectly:
"He changed a billion dollar business," "He changed it pretty much
single-handedly [by] speaking out. And then obviously a lot of guys
felt more comfortable, and that's what it's about. So for him to do
that was huge and we won't know the impact, we'll never know the
impact, but we just know that it's a great impact that he had on the
league and on guys, on players, coaching staff, whoever -- that this is
DeMar DeRozan and he goes through [expletive] like everybody else.
Although Vanvleet may be correct that we may never knew the full extent
of the great impact his teammate has had on the world, we know for sure
that mental awareness has been slowly removed from its past stigma.
Kevin Love has championed his own mental awareness foundation known as
the Kevin Love Fund, to promote mental well-being. In addition, DeRozan
has been active in promoting wellness through participating in several
Just as mental health awareness is becoming an important part of
athletes’ lives, it is important that we realize that more people than
we think may have a personal struggle they have a hard time talking
about. Just as these two NBA players stepped up when it truly mattered,
it should always be in our best interest to do the same for others.