— 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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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