DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love play for opposing teams in the National Basketball Association. But the two stars are on the same side in tackling another opponent: mental health issues.
Recently, DeRozan, an NBA all-star with the Toronto Raptors, spoke publicly about his ongoing battle with depression. DeRozan’s admission inspired Love to come forward about his own struggle with anxiety.
DeRozan’s challenges hit the public eye when, on Feb. 17, while he was in his hometown of Los Angeles to take part in the NBA All-Star Game, he tweeted, “This depression get the best of me.” That led to DeRozan speaking to reporters in more detail about his struggles.
DeRozan’s admission had an impact on Love, who then opened up about his own issues in an essay for the Players’ Tribune, a website featuring content written by professional athletes. In the article, titled “Everyone Is Going Through Something,” Love revealed being stricken with an anxiety attack during a home game Nov. 5.
Love also discussed the stigma athletes face if they show weakness.
“Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act,” he said. “You learn what it takes to ‘be a man.’ It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own. So for 29 years of my life, I followed that playbook.”
The stigma doesn’t just apply to athletes, but can hound anyone who dares to reveal a mental health issue.
Love said DeRozan’s admission gave him the courage to share his own struggles publicly. In doing so, Love will likely encourage others who battle similar issues.
DeRozan said in a Canadian Press story Wednesday that he’s received a huge outpouring of support since revealing his ongoing fight with depression. Commenting on Love’s acknowledgement that DeRozan had inspired him in his own struggles, the Raptor star noted, “It made me feel great, that was my whole intent with speaking out. I understand it’s hard to step up and do a thing like that. If I had to be the sacrificial lamb to open up that gate and make everybody else feel comfortable and share their story and help the next person, that’s what it’s all about.”
In sharing their personal stories, these two NBA stars have performed a valuable service in the ongoing quest to bring mental health issues into the open. The stigma surrounding mental health is one of the main obstacles to be overcome. The Mental Health Commission of Canada website notes that each year, about one in five Canadians, or about seven million people, experience a mental health problem or illness, and “60 per cent of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labelled.”
That fear keeps many people from seeking help, and that’s a shame. But when public figures such as DeRozan and Love open up about their mental health struggles, it allows others to see that they’re not alone in their challenges, and gives them the courage to come forward, too. And that’s the first step toward healing.
Regardless of how the rest of the NBA season turns out for these two all-stars, they’re both champions already.