NBA’s advice to players: Use our league’s mental health resources early and often

As far as professional sports associations in the United States, the NBA is no doubt the most-progressive. There’s work to be done, but in terms of diversity in management, gender equality in coaching and officiating, their stance on politics, and freedom of expression, the league has no peers in their small group. One of the other aspects that the NBA is ahead of the game on is their growing awareness of their players’ mental health and mental well-being.

NBA players are often reminded that mental wellness and assistance is available if they need it, and the league urges the players to take advantage of those resources no matter how small the issue may seem. In September 2018, prior to the start of the season, a letter came down from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, the NBAPA executive director that talked about the upcoming season and be aware of their needs in the crush of a stressful season.

“Each of our offices has newly-enhanced mental wellness programs, which we encourage you to use to manage stress, anxiety and other challenges,” read the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press after it was distributed Tuesday. “It’s a critical step that can also encourage teammates and fans alike to understand that it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help.”

The NBA understands that even though the league is full of extraordinary athletes, that they are still very much humans that go through the same struggles as any other human. Case in point were NBA All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love having revealed last season that despite their status as some of the best of the bests, were both struggling with their mental health.

That doesn’t mean that they’re crazy, but that they were anxious and questioned themselves. It’s no surprise that in a league so competitive and under the constant surveillance of the fans, that there’s a lot of stress that comes along with that. Especially high profile players. Take Trae Young for example, he came into the league with as much hype as any other rookie, but despite good numbers, he’s very much struggled throughout the season. With those struggles come the naysayers and criticism and that can take a toll. Even on the most confident of players.

“Of course it’s tough,” Young says. “I just go back to the hotel and relax, not even turn on the TV, because I know they will be talking about me. [The criticism] isn’t gonna help me. I’ve tuned out social media because that’s a place that can really bring you down if you pay too close attention to what everyone is saying. So I don’t.”

On top of Young, Love and DeRozan, Cleveland’s head coach Tyronn Lue said during the NBA Finals that had been treated for anxiety during the regular season, and new Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford wasn’t sleeping enough due to the stresses on being successful.

The letter from two of the top executives in the league also mentioned that both the league and the union will continue supporting players’ efforts to make societal help you find the most meaningful ways to make that difference,” Silver and Roberts wrote.

“We continue to support your efforts to bring together families, community leaders and law enforcement to rebuild trust in our neighborhoods; mentor and empower young people; encourage civic engagement; and amplify the voices of organizations that champion the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”

“We may not always agree on every issue, but we still look out for one another,” Silver and Roberts wrote. “We listen and learn from each other. And we understand that we’re all part of something bigger than just a game.” With healthier NBA players comes a healthier league, and vice versa. We applause the NBA’s stance on de-stigmatizing mental health issues.

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