An important dialogue about mental health has taken the National Basketball Association by storm. Several weeks ago, DeMar DeRozan, a guard for the Raptors told the Toronto Star about his struggles with depression.
Through sharing his personal stories with an international audience, DeRozan garnered private and public support from fans and NBA players alike. One player, in particular, found such inspiration in DeMar’s story that he decided to go public with his own mental health challenges.
Published in The Players’ Tribune, Cavaliers forward Kevin Love detailed his first panic attack, which occurred just after halftime of a basketball game earlier this season. Despite surviving the frightening experience, what stood out to Love following his panic attack was the fear he held about others discovering his mental health challenges.
“It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened – and why I didn’t want to talk about it,” Love said.
Through self-reflection, Love discovered that it was his cultural conditioning–the messages he received from loved ones, coaches, players, and society–that made him worry about disclosing his emotional discomfort.
Love articulated that, as a young male, he received constant messages to “Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own.” And all of these messages taught him to associate emotions with weakness, which is why he was afraid to tell others about his panic attack–he didn’t want them to think that he was an unreliable teammate.
Many people currently struggling with mental health challenges can relate. They too are stuck suffering in silence. Afraid to discuss their struggles with others. Unable to ask for help. But Love courageously took a risk–he asked for assistance.
The Cavaliers organization found him a therapist. Following their first meeting together, Love conveyed, “I think it’s easy to assume we know ourselves, but once you peel back the layers it’s amazing how much there is to still discover.”
Love articulated that seeing a therapist and asking for help was a little scary, awkward, and difficult, but he also shared that it has changed his life for the better. It has made him a better player, person, and increased his compassion for others dealing with similar struggles.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Love’s bravery. Similar to his experience, many entrepreneurs have been socialized to believe that their emotions aren’t important. That their feelings don’t matter. And that the only thing that does matter is their work.
Developing a successful business is undeniably one of the most difficult and admirable tasks that can be achieved in a capitalist society. There’s constant competition and endless work to be done. But when that work causes you to feel unable to express emotional vulnerability, that’s a problem.
You are more than your occupation. And even if your occupation is your pride and joy, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from emotional trials and tribulations.
Prior to engaging in therapy, Love thought, “What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about?” Here he was living his dream and still experiencing hardship.
That’s part of being human. As I tell my clients, just because you have a broken arm and your neighbor has a broken back doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to heal. We all experience pain.
Suffering is relative. And the more that individuals–like entrepreneurs–feel empowered to openly discuss their mental health, the more collective healing can occur.
Perhaps our common humanity can be a gateway to healing. As DeRozan said in his interview, “It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day.”
Through sharing their personal experiences, DeRozan and Love have opened the door for the 56 million US citizens that struggle with anxiety and depression to speak up about their experiences. To seek help. And to access the care that they deserve.
Entrepreneurs can play a similar role. As role models and iconic rock stars of the modern era, openly discussing their own inner battles can give themselves and others permission to access mental health resources. To live more fulfilling lives. And to perform at their absolute best in personal and professional settings.
Having mental health challenges doesn’t make you weak. Describing your feelings doesn’t make you fragile. And asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re flawed.
The opposite is true: having an open dialogue about your emotional suffering–something that is a normative experience in modern society–requires strength, courage, and self-awareness.
It models vulnerability and privileges communication rather than silence. It encourages others to practice what they preach and live according to their values rather than cowering behind misguided social norms.
If you truly value self-development and professional fulfillment, then follow the example set by Love, DeRozan, and others. It’s time to speak up.
The time for change is now.