Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic highlights the league’s work supporting its players.
Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss openly, particularly when you are a high-profile athlete or celebrity whose livelihood depends, at least to some extent, on public perception. This week Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic published an extensive article (subscription required) about the NBA and its efforts to demystify and destigmatize mental health struggles.
Vorkunov maintains that the NBA is at the forefront of professional sports leagues in making mental health not only a priority, but a topic worthy of discussion. His argument centers on a meeting in Manhattan this week, where league officials, representatives of mental health organizations and professionals in the field discussed the issue as it relates to professional athletes.
Among the notable participants was former Portland Trail Blazers point guard and current President of the Players Union, CJ McCollum. Vorkunov quotes McCollum talking about the difficulties associated with even admitting mental health issues as a professional athlete and how he hopes the story is changing:
“I think it’s more about our communities; the communities that many of us come from,” McCollum said. “Black communities have historically been hesitant (and most communities have been hesitant historically) to talk to people about their issues in general from a point of comfort. But I think a lot of people are doing it and a lot of people are talking about it and little by little more professional athletes are starting to talk about the fact that they are seeking help and that it has been helpful and beneficial to their lifestyle and their career. and what they want to achieve on and off the court. “But I think there is an increase in the number of people not only talking about it (hence the conversation today), but also people using it. You just don’t hear about it that often, do you? You hear stories here or there, but then if you ask in the locker room, you know that more guys are doing it now (and) they feel more comfortable sharing.”
McCollum also points out the importance of opening up the topic to create peer support and access to experts, big steps forward for communities dealing with hitherto taboo topics:
“I think it’s extremely important because we go through all these emotions from the game and from our lives that sometimes we don’t know how to deal with them,” he said. “Whether you are the first generation of millionaires (some of us are the first generation of millionaires) or you are the first generation to graduate from college, whatever the case may be, I am a professional athlete. No one has experienced that before, so they don’t know what it entails. So who do you talk to about your problems, if no one can relate to them? “I believe that sometimes your thoughts are correct, sometimes they are not, and being able to talk to a professional gives you advice, but it can also be a roadmap or a guide.
The article is worth a read and commends the NBA for normalizing mental and emotional health as part of the overall professional experience.
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