DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love push mental health conversation forward by revealing their own struggles

Jay Asser 14:40 07/03/2018
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Kevin Love wrote about his mental health issues for The Players' Tribune.

From the outside, Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan look like they have it all. But everything isn’t always as it seems underneath.

The two All-Stars have grabbed headlines recently not for their play, but for their courage in revealing their battle with mental health issues.

DeRozan first acknowledged he suffers from depression, which paved the way for Love to pen an essay on The Players’ Tribune about his own mental health struggles.

In his piece, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward admitted he was overcome with a panic attack in a game this season and credited DeRozan as his inspiration to come forward.

“Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another,” Love wrote. “It’s part of life. Like DeMar said, ‘You never know what that person is going through.'”

DeRozan may not have expected his own admission to be a rallying cry for someone else in the NBA to let the public in on what they’re dealing with, but the Toronto Raptors star was proud that he could be a positive influence.

“It made me feel, you know, pretty damn good, honestly,” DeRozan said. “So it’s cool to be able to help somebody.”

Who knows if others in the league will open up and follow suit, but even without another player joining them, DeRozan and Love have already done immeasurable good.

A cynical way to look at the awareness they’ve raised is by deeming it short-lived and an eventual casualty to the viscous news cycle.

But while the conversation will die down in the mainstream, there’s every chance it’ll stick with players in the league, and hopefully, just maybe, make outsiders think twice before rushing to judgement.

It would be encouraging to see any athlete in any sport open up about mental health, but the stature of Love and DeRozan, as well as the fact they play in the NBA, can’t be understated.

These aren’t two guys toiling away on the end of the bench – they’re two All-Stars who’ve inked nine-figure contracts and seemingly living the dream.

If people who’ve achieved this much success can still be plagued with depression and anxiety, no one, in any walk of life, should feel ashamed of going through something similar.

And that Love and DeRozan have reached their respective levels in an environment like the NBA should challenge our views and assumptions.

Sport in general operates in a machismo culture, but that’s especially true with the NBA, where the nature of the game means the flip side to constantly being in the spotlight is having nowhere to hide.

A basketball court is a relatively small playing field and because there are only 10 players on the floor – all without a helmet or cap to help conceal emotions – it’s nearly impossible to go unnoticed.

That means every interaction, trash talk or highlight puts a magnifying glass on the participants.

Get crossed up like Wesley Johnson was by James Harden, or get called ‘soft’ by Draymond Green? Everyone is going to see it and then humiliate you to some degree.

There’s nothing wrong with poking fun at players, but empathy is important because you never know what the next person may be going through.

The more players, and people in general, share their experiences, the more the walls will come down – not only the ones we put up around our vulnerabilities, but the ones we’ve constructed around our long-held beliefs.

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