NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love open up about mental health
Published Tuesday, May 1, 2018 2:39PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 1, 2018 10:23PM EDT
They’re some of the strongest people on the planet, but NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love struggle with mental health.
DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors point guard, launched a conversation in February when he tweeted: “This depression get the best of me.”
On Tuesday, he helped the NBA launch its Mind Health campaign, which aims to reduce stigma and offers resources for people to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
“A lot of people suffer from a lot of things," DeRozan told reporters ahead of the first game in the Raptors’ second-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“They're afraid to share, they're afraid to bring to the light and be better,” he added. “Anything that's beneficial to (bringing) this to light and being happier, that's what it's all about,” he went on.
LeBron James offered his support, saying that while people think professional athletes are “invincible or we don't have problems and things of that nature ... we're human just like everyone else.”
Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love is also speaking out, telling CTV’s Peter Akman that it was DeRozan’s admission that empowered him to share his own story.
Love said that mental illness “doesn’t discriminate,” and “people shouldn’t hide from it. They should create a sense of community and face it head on.”
“Everybody is going through something that you can’t see,” Love added. “It’s definitely something people should face and not be ashamed about.”
Men and boys are less likely to open up, according to Love, who described his struggle with a panic attack in a feature article published on The Players’ Tribune.
It was November 5, and Love writes that a “perfect storm” collided on the court during the 10th game of the season.
“I was stressed about issues I’d been having with my family. I wasn’t sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 4–5 start, were weighing on me,” Love writes.
Love explains that at halftime he could feel his heart racing faster than usual and was having trouble catching his breath.
“It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head,” Love writes. “The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out.”
Love describes running for the locker room while hoping that his heart would stop racing.
“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,” he writes.
After that, Love went to see a therapist, despite having “scoffed at the idea of seeing one” in the past.
“I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about?” he adds.
“I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one,” he goes on. “I didn’t want to look weak.”
Love writes that one of the biggest breakthroughs came after talking about his grandmother Carol, who was like a parent to him.
“During my sixth year with the T-Wolves, Grandma Carol made plans to visit me in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then right before the trip, she was hospitalized for an issue with her arteries. She had to cancel her trip. Then her condition got worse quickly, and she fell into a coma. A few days later, she was gone,” he wrote.
“I was devastated for a long time. But I hadn’t really ever talked about it. Telling a stranger about my grandma made me see how much pain it was still causing me. I’d never had a chance to really grieve, and I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years.”
Love says that he’s sharing that personal story because of how “eye-opening” it was simply to “talk about it.”
“We are all walking around with experiences and struggles -- all kinds of things -- and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them,” he writes.
Fardous Hosseiny, from the Canadian Mental Health Association, said that he believes the campaign will help reduce stigma.
“When a powerful athlete like DeMar DeRozan openly talks about his struggles, it gets everyone else to also speak up,” he said.
But Hosseiny stressed that governments should also step up.
"Canada ranks last in G7 countries when it comes to mental health spending, so there’s been a chronic under funding within the system,” he said.
With a report from CTV’s Peter Akman in Toronto