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The NBA Makes an Effort to Promote Mental Wellness

How the proposed initiative may affect more than professional athletes.

Within the last few years, a wave of celebrities have shared their mental health narratives in an effort to spark change. Athletes such as DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love, Keyon Dooling, and Royce White have all been a part of the crusade to assert that mental health is as important as physical health. Their messages may be causing a critical shift in the perception of mental wellness.

The NBA has reportedly released a memo detailing mental health policies for the upcoming season. The plan allegedly requires that each team:

  • Identify at least one mental health professional adept at assessing and treating clinical mental health concerns
  • Identify a licensed psychiatrist for collaborative purposes
  • Establish an emergency action plan
  • Attend a mental wellness meeting
 Wikimedia Commons
Kevin Love
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This potential plan is not the first sign of mental health advocacy demonstrated by the NBA. The organization previously established NBA Cares to support the wellness of fans, youth, and communities. More specifically, the Mind Health initiative highlights the commitment to improving mental health awareness, education, strategies, and resources. However, the NBA has also been critiqued for not adequately addressing mental health concerns. For example, Royce White has openly criticized the NBA for lack of accountability.

It is important to step back and note that the first and potentially most critical step made towards mental wellness within the field of professional basketball is credited to the athletes who spoke their truth.

Lack of mental health education is a hazard that spans far beyond basketball. Distorted views about mental health can cause individuals who are struggling to feel confused, isolated, embarrassed, and ashamed. Without proper mental health awareness and information, stigmatizing views of mental health eventually create a dangerous distance between individuals in need and the services they require.

Athletes who share their mental health stories to challenge the myths that may stand in the way of individuals who need help. These narratives help to correct the villainized view of mental illness that is often portrayed in the media. In actuality, one in four individuals lives with a mental health concern. Anyone can develop a mental health concern regardless of background, income, stature, values, or beliefs, and when influential individuals speak out about their experiences, they remind us of this.

 Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Professional athletes have the platform to spark change. In addition to changing perspectives, the experiences of these athletes highlight that action and accountability are necessary to support mental health initiatives. If the reported plans become official, the NBA will set a precedent that emphasizes the necessity of proactive and supportive mental healthcare. While previous statements have conveyed the NBA’s support for addressing mental health concerns, this plan would demonstrate a clear dedication to fostering mental wellness.

More from Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC, NCC
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