VIC COLUMN: Basketball, and mental health
I was hardly listening. I had gotten home just a little while before, and rested then cooked dinner. We had the NBA game on - my wife is rooting for Cleveland and I want Toronto to win.
Just another night - like any other night, May 1, 2018. The first night of Mental Health Month. On the counter in our kitchen is an invitation to the May 7 morning drop-in at the Laurens County Mental Health Clinic. I received it because I am a member of the Beckman Board for Mental Health; by coincidence, our next board meeting in Greenwood is the evening of May 7.
I knew on May 1 that I would be attending both on May 7.
Then, in my just barely attentive state, I saw on the TV screen, Kevin Love.
Talking about ... mental health.
The NBA and its Players Association, I now know, have started a new mental health initiative. Tuesday at work, I looked up something about it, and ran across a March 18, 2018, article on The Daily Beast by Robert Silverman. It points out the evolution of this new initiative, sparked in large measure by the public disclosures of Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan and Kelly Oubre Jr. of their bouts with depression and anxiety. There’s a long way left to go, the article points out, and then it concludes this way:
“Still, what DeRozan, Love and Oubre have done should not be overlooked. New programs are great, but unless players and teams can overcome the deeply-held biases about mental health, it won’t matter. And the impact it’s having on fans is nothing short of remarkable. DeRozan (said) strangers have been reaching out, telling him that his words enabled them to seek out help. ‘It’s incredible,’ said DeRozan. ‘By far one of the most incredible things in my career that I’ve witnessed outside of basketball.’
“The self-evident and yet radical notion spurred by all these players was that for anyone, no matter how difficult, painful, and frightening confronting past traumas and self-defeating behavior will be, please do it. ‘Everyone is going through something that we can’t see,’ Love wrote. ‘I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through. Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.’”
It is difficult for me to put into words the admiration I feel for these three men. It choked me up a little just reading to the end of Silverman’s article. Just like it stunned me a little to see that commercial last Tuesday night.
You see, 45 million Americans struggle with some kind of mental illness - and I know some of them. I was drawn to an agency, when invited by Jermain Disasa to join the board, that is trying to do something to help. Plus, it’s Mental Health Month - lots of government boards and agencies will adopt resolutions observing it, but not really understanding it.
I wish the Laurens County Council would appropriate a moderate amount of money to send to the Beckman agency. We are the only county in our 7-county region that does not make this appropriation - an investment in the human side, not just the “public service” side of our county.
Yet, even without money, the people of the Laurens County Mental Health Clinic come to work every day, and school counselors go into work with our children day-in and day-out, to help with mental health issues. These can be severe, debilitating, and deadly - or they can be a minor annoyance, as my mild depression is to me. Controllable by medication, my depression is handle-able; for many others, it’s a deep, dark pit from which there is no escape.
With help and medicine and, sometimes, just somebody to talk to, We - the Mental Health Community of South Carolina - can go to work every day, have families, buy houses, and pay taxes. With just a little encouragement, so many of us could do so much more.
So, Thank You, Kevin, DeMar and Kelly - and Royce White, Larry Sanders, Metta World Peace, Michael Phelps, Brandon Marshall, Jerry West, Joey Votto and Chamique Holdsclaw - for your courage in telling us that even “super-human athletes” are people, just like us.
Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. Reach him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org