Bell Let's Talk, NBA, Royce White, Lamar Odom, Metta World Peace, Deonte West, Luther Wright, atbnews

“He’s crazy!”

“What the hell is wrong with him? Why would he do that?”

“He’s got issues, keep it off the court.”

“Just get over it! Suck it up”

Those are all phrases you or have witnessed someone express while watching the NBA. Don’t be quick to call someone names or make a sudden assumption. It’s especially easy when it comes to sports, the anticipation of what’s going to happen next, the rush of excitement, and the letdown. Sports are live and everything is in the moment.

Today, let’s be more aware of the obscenities we attack others with, whether they can hear us or not.

January 25th is #BellLetsTalk day in Canada. This annual awareness campaign and day is to help kickstart the national conversation to help reduce this stigma and promote awareness and understanding when it comes to mental health.

For every text, call, tweet and Instagram post, Facebook video view and use of the Snapchat filter, Bell will contribute 5 ¢ more to mental health initiatives.

Last night when the Toronto Raptors hosted the San Antonio Spurs, Raptors TV, and in-court host Kat Stefankiewicz interviewed Olympian and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson Clara Hughes at the ACC yesterday, the eve of Bell Let’s Talk to help raise awareness.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, half of Canadians will experience a mental illness by age 40, and mental illness and behavior disorders cost the Canadian economy $51 billion annually in lost productivity.

But this day helps us dig much deeper than just Canada. In the NBA, a multitude of players have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, and it’s time fans become aware and learn to understand that professional athletes suffer, too.

Imagine not feeling comfortable in your own skin — you aren’t able to be yourself. The basketball court is usually a sanctuary for these athletes, and the sound of the basketball falling through the net — swish — is like music to their ears, it’s home. But for some, not even lacing up their kicks and throwing on a jersey is enough anymore. They need an escape, but where can they go?

There are certain NBA players that have publicly struggled with a mental illness. There was former Utah Jazz Luther Wright, now 44 who spent 30 days at a mental hospital in order to treat his bipolar disorder.

Remember Delonte West, the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard? He confirmed that he was battling depression and bipolar disorder in 2008. He said it had “been haunting me my whole life, self-destructive behavior. Everything is going well for me — being on a great team where anything less than a championship is unacceptable this year, getting a new contract, being in a good situation, When everything is on the upside, I’m feeling the worst.” Maybe that explains the beef with King James and this Instagram post (that has since been deleted) that read: “Since @kingjames wanna talk bad bout his pops I had to repost dis #Ha #NawReallyDoeImLebronSPops #AskGloria,” posted West on Jan. 1.

Metta World Peace, the man formerly known as Ron Artest, has publicly wrestled with anger management issues.

There was also Lamar Odom. Maybe it was all the injuries, or not being able to handle being a Kardashian —but he has fought drug-related problems since arriving in the league in 1999, problems which have been attributed to his supposed mental instability, that caused him to almost lose his life.

Dr. Bernard Vittone, Director of the National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety, and Depression, stated: “Men, in general, are less likely to go to treatment because of the stigma where it implies they’re weak or somehow less of a man if they seek treatment. In fact, men are much more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol, trying to self-medicate because it’s more socially acceptable.”

The stigma that when a man feels any sort of emotion makes him weak or a “girl” needs to be erased. Unfortunately, even in 2017 people still tell boys and men to “man up” or “walk it off” when trying to deal with normal human emotions — this is unacceptable.

This is also why Royce White, who is only 24-years old, the first-round Houston Rockets draft pick in 2012, is constantly fighting for the NBA league to engage in a conversation about mental health and understand how important it is to implement into the league.

As a teenager, White was diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder and has since had a fear of flying. After a bitter dispute with the Rockets about managing the condition, a narrative emerged in the media casting White’s anxiety as incompatible with an NBA schedule built around air travel.

Unfortunately, White was treated like an outcast, you could say.

The Rockets said that White had to go to a psychiatrist every day, even though the team-recommended psychiatrist told White that he had informed the team that he didn’t recommend White come to him every day, However, that the team informed the psychiatrist that if White didn’t see him every day, the team would fine White and that the psychiatrist felt obligated to inform White of that fact.

This in no way means that the Houston Rockets organization was wrong for this. It seems as though they just didn’t know how to handle White’s situation, which leads to him not playing in the league at all anymore. And he will not compromise a career in the NBA until they do something about this.

White wrote about this for The Cauldron, where he explained why this isn’t a topic of discussion in the NBA:
“That problem isn’t restricted to team owners and CEOs, by any means. When it comes to issues of mental illness and mental health … discussing fear, anxiety, stress and depression remains stigmatized. The attitude is we’d rather not know. Why? Because mental health is an issue that requires and amplifies our individual and collective responsibility to ourselves and others. It’s a mirror that reflects who we really are — yet we keep running from our reflections.”

Fans get mad when players act out, say they aren’t acting like a role model, but there might be something deeper – and is there anything being done about it?

The league says that while there is not currently a separate and distinct mental health policy enumerated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all players have access to mental health professionals and treatment programs as part of their benefits package.

Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs said ”Each case is obviously individual and not, the policy is a little stricter than the word I would probably use. In addition to the policy and the care, is trying to make sure that players understand how important it is that they avail themselves of these resources and that they understand that it’s not a sign of weakness to say that they might need help.”

Teammates consider each other family, reach out and recognize signs or symptoms, or ask someone how they’re doing. But not just for conversation, actually mean it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you ever need to talk. Everybody needs somebody. And don’t forget to tweet, Instagram, Facebook status, text or use the Snapchat #BellLetsTalk filter to help contribute 5 ¢ more to mental health studies.

Here at ATB, we are willing to listen.