— Guest Submission by Gerry Chidiac
It is becoming clearer than ever that mental health issues are very real and very prevalent in our society. There are few of us who are not impacted, either by living or working with people who struggle, or dealing with our own mental well-being.
Mental health issues are nothing new. Soldiers returned from war 100 years ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, just as they do today. People likely had anxiety and depression in the Middle Ages. The problem was that no one talked about these challenges as normal. People who had them were seen as weak or were labeled as “crazy”. Very few would therefore talk openly about their struggles. As a result they and their families suffered in silence, and the problems perpetuated.
Even today there is very little understanding of these conditions, and there is great trepidation in admitting we have them.
National Basketball Association superstar Kevin Love, for example, recently stated that he has struggled with panic attacks which prevented him from playing the game he loves. He stated that he kept this a secret out of fear of being seen as “weak or weird or somehow less reliable as a teammate.”
When Toronto Raptors superstar DeMar DeRozan openly tweeted about his trials with depression, it was not only met with tremendous support and empathy, it freed others to speak about their own mental health challenges. Love, for example, admitted that DeRozan’s comment on social media made it much easier to discuss openly what he was dealing with.
There is definitely a great deal of ignorance regarding mental health. Despite the fact that many high school students today deal with anxiety and depression, there is little training that teachers receive in responding effectively to these students, and specialized programs which give students the supports they need often have long waiting lists.
How do we deal effectively with mental health in order to help the individuals who face challenges to achieve their dreams? The DeRozan example gives us many answers to this question.
First of all, his statement regarding depression was met with acceptance and respect. One of the most fiercely competitive athletes in the world told us that beyond the spotlight he faces a darkness that simply won’t go away. It is important to remember, however, that DeRozan is no more heroic than the children who show up for school every day despite the shadows in their lives.
Secondly, DeRozan has demonstrated that depression does not have to be debilitating. He has chosen to accept it as part of his life, to seek professional help, and to continue to grow as a person.
Thirdly, the fact that DeRozan used his celebrity status to demonstrate that mental health issues are normal is extremely important. This is not only very empowering to people who have these conditions, it also gets people talking. The more we talk and ask questions, the more opportunity health professionals have to share useful information. When the truth becomes common knowledge, fear is diminished and the situation improves.
We have a long way to go in improving the understanding of mental health issues, and in serving those who have them. As we learn to treat others with the respect that they deserve, as we share useful information, and as we give people to tools they need to empower themselves, we realize that mental illness is really no different from physical illness. The solutions are also similar, in that healthcare professionals can work with us and point us in the right direction.
The more we learn, the more we realize that facing mental health challenges is simply part of the human condition as we strive to become the best that we can be.
— Gerry Chidiac is a champion for social enlightenment, inspiring others to find their greatness in making the world a better place. For more of his writings, go to gerrychidiac.com
(Note: A version of this column previously appeared at troymedia.com.)
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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