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DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love help NBA start conversation about mental health

From NBA media reports

It was a milestone stretch for those who are affected in some manner and degree by mental health issues after three NBA players spoke out about it. The conversation was kick started by DeMar DeRozan, then upped by Kevin Love and continued by Kelly Oubre Jr..

Suddenly, it was not only safe, but appropriate for famous athletes to disclose that part of their private lives.

All three players believe that addressing the issue will help others confront their fears and feelings about mental health and perhaps in some way chip away at the stigma that’s often associated with it.

Whether it encourages others to publicly disclose their battles remains to be seen, but this is a first step, says Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Washburn took a deep dive into the players involved and what it all means:

Mental health among NBA players has long been an issue that has been kept private because of the perception that 1.) millionaire athletes shouldn’t have any real issues because they’re rich, and 2.) going public about mental health issues or depression may affect a player’s future earnings if teams have the impression that he struggles with the pressure and/or criticism of being a star.

DeRozan and Love should be commended for their bravery in admitting that there are extreme mental burdens from playing in the NBA. The question now is, how do players deal with this stress and continue to be productive players, and how do they seek treatment privately if they feel teams are going to judge them for their admissions?

Sports psychologist Brent Walker, a former president of Association of Applied Sport Psychology and a liaison for the NBA Retired Players Association, offered his thoughts on the challenges of highly paid athletes dealing with mental health issues.

“The reality is that professional athletes are not different,” Walker said. “Everyone has their struggles regardless of what it looks like on the outside. We all have stuff we have to deal with. Where it gets different and difficult for the professional athletes is that it’s worst in a team sport in that, ‘I can’t let anybody know. I’ve got to be a man [or woman]. I can’t let anyone know there’s something wrong with me.’ ”

“You’re spending abnormal amounts of time away from your family, you’re sleeping patterns are absolutely atrocious,” he said. “A lot of the basic well-being items that we would recommend for people, staying close to people you’re close to, getting adequate amounts of sleep. Professional athletes don’t have that luxury during the season.

“Speaking [of] the money, you sign a big contract and then you feel the need to justify your worth of that contract. They have a lot of external pressures that the average person doesn’t deal with.”

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