Over the last two seasons, the NBA has taken substantial measures to ensure players have the tools to regulate their mental health.
This has stemmed from open dialogues from NBA players, in which they discuss their own mental health struggles. Kevin Love discussed a panic attack that made him hit a wall in an essay for The Player’s Tribune.
“It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe,” Love wrote. Unfortunately, when taken to the hospital the doctors declared Love fine and his anxiety attack was not addressed.
Overtime, other players came forward about their own mental health struggles. DeMar DeRozan opened up about his battles with depression. Former Wizard Kelly Oubre Jr. has spoken candidly about his personal mental health battle.
There was a common thread in all of the players’ stories about mental health. No one is safe from dealing with mental struggles. Professional athletes are not immune to mental health related illnesses and the obstacles that everyday people face.
The NBA takes action to aide players
Since Kevin Love’s initial essay came out, the NBA and NBPA have adopted guidelines to ensure mental health issues are addressed. Teams must have one or two licensed mental health professionals on retainer as well as identifying a licensed psychiatrist to help manage mental health concerns. Additionally, teams must maintain written action plans for mental health emergencies. Allowing players access to these resources display the NBA recognizes that mental health is as important as physical health. After all, mental and physical health go hand in hand. Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions and vice versa.
The NBA and its teams have taken great initiative to bring mental health awareness to the public. This can be seen on the NBA cares website. The NBA cares program has demonstrated that the organization gives back to communities that go beyond the standard community service and holiday toy drives. The league uses its mental health portal to remind fans to take care of themselves. The NBA cares community does not shy away from mind health, which in turn would leave a positive impact on the youth. Many teams remind young fans about mind health, hosting mental health awareness nights for fans as well.
The Wizards play an active role in advocating
The Washington Wizards reminded us all about the importance of mental health awareness this past Wednesday night. These reminders took place before, during and after the game in honor of Mental Health Awareness Night.
The Wizards partnered up with MedStar Health to offer a panel discussion on mental health awareness, which was held for fans before the Wizards took on the Spurs. This panel included a great variety of mental health experts and advocates.
During the game, the Wizards displayed facts and resources concerning mental health on the scoreboard between quarters and time outs.
Dave Johnson, Wizards radio play-by-play announcer, got to catch up with Dr. Neal Horen who is a MedStar Health Psychologist. Horen talked about how we all have mental health and the NBA is helping by normalizing it.
“We all have mental health. Some of us get anxious, some of us get sad.” said Dr. Neal Horen. “All of us have these experiences. 1 out of 5 people will experience a mental health issue. Having folks in the NBA talk about this helps normalize it. It helps people understand it is okay to talk about it.”
Check out Dave Johnson’s full interview with Dr. Neal Horen below.
Scott Brooks and Isaiah Thomas speak out
After a revenge game type win against the Spurs, Scott Brooks was asked to share his thoughts on the mental health awareness night.
Brooks expressed that mental health is a very important topic, especially due to the fact that it is not always openly addressed.
“You look at players and think, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Players have a lot of things going for them, but there are also things that nobody knows about.” Head coach Scott Brooks said. “I believe that we are all here to help each other. Basketball is great. I love it. I’m passionate about it. I care about it and I care about our players but its secondary to that [mental health].”
Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas also chimed in, recognizing the positive effects of the NBA working towards ending the stigma that comes with mental health.
“For the NBA to bring awareness to mental health, it makes it easier for people to come out and talk about their problems or talk what is going on in their lives.”
Isaiah Thomas is no stranger to difficult and trying times. Thomas leans on the people he can trust when going through those difficulties. It’s important to have those people on and off the court.
“It’s always good to have somebody to talk to about things that you may be holding in or having difficulty dealing with. I have a close knit group of friends and family. My wife and my parents. They help me out a lot.”
Isaiah Thomas hopes that mental health will continue to improve in the United States. The plan is for mental health to improve all around.
Mental Health Resources