When it comes to pro sports players in any league, they’re often perceived as superhumans due to their athletic abilities that allow them to play the sport they love at such a high level.
We watch these amazing athletes give their all to their respective sports from our couches, beds, classrooms, and sometimes even in person. Betting on what teams will win, lose, and make it to the finals is all part of the game.
But there’s more to sports. Athletes are people too and often deal with anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses. A week after the Aaron Hernandez documentary hit Netflix, footages were released of former NBA player Delonte West sitting in the street looking mentally distraught.
During the Aaron Hernandez documentary, viewers are informed that after his death doctors reported he suffered from the worst case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) they’ve ever seen.
While that is no excuse for the crimes he committed, it brings to question why he was only diagnosed after his death. How can such a closely watched athlete’s medical health fall under the ropes so easily?
The system fails again with former NBA player Delonte West who suffers from bipolar disorder. It’s publicly documented that West has suffered from mental issues in the past, yet the NBA has done nothing to shed light on his situation.
The heartbreaking video of Delonte West reveals that even heroes need rescuing sometimes, especially at the hands of mental illness. This issue brings to question a majorly unaddressed topic in the world of professional athletes.
What does the league need to do to help a player suffering from a mental illness?
Cavs star Kevin Love spoke out on his own mental health recently and said,
“Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.”
Athletes worldwide suffer from mental illnesses that remain untreated due to a lack of care by their respective organizations. Dozens of players suffering in silence due to the same “playbook” they had all learned.
The NFL and NBA are not the only associations that have failed their players. Numerous well known and established athletes from all sports suffer from mental illnesses that the world is unaware of.
One of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson suffered from depression.
U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps suffered from depression while earning our nation over two dozen metals. Phelps said,
“For the longest time, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness because that’s kind of what society teaches us. That’s especially true from an athlete’s perspective. If we ask for help, then we’re not this big macho athlete that people can look up to.”
“Well, you know what? If someone wants to call me weak for asking for help, that’s their problem. Because I’m saving my own life.”
Former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who suffered from borderline personality disorder and depression throughout his playing career, has been one of the most outspoken figures on mental health in sports for years now.
Roughly, 46.4 percent of Americans suffer from mental illnesses, yet none of these diagnoses are shown when you Google any of these athletes.
There’s no recognition or support from their respective leagues. Must a player be dead for them to be rightfully diagnosed?
Athletes give their all to the game, pushing their entire being to the limit every day to meet the demands of their fans and coaches. Yet when it’s our turn to take care of them, we ignore it. We treat it as if acknowledging it makes them less of an athlete.
A rolled ankle? Have it taped up and get back in the game. A jammed finger? Have it taped and get back in the game. A mental health disorder? We can only wonder what the diagnosis is.
After the video of Delonte was posted, his former roommates and former NBA player Jameer Nelson took to social media to voice his concerns for his friend.
People have begun to reach out to the NBA as well as West’s former teammates to help the obviously unwell former player.
— Jameer Nelson (@jameernelson) January 21, 2020
After Aaron’s suicide and Delonte’s obvious unstable nature it brings to question just how well the league takes care of there own. In both cases, treatment could’ve been easily attained. Still, treatment was quickly ignored.
How many more athletes must suffer in silence until they either choose death or are beaten in the middle of a highway before we give them the help they need? This issue affects not only professional athletes but athletes at all levels.
Depression is not a weakness. Being bipolar doesn’t make you crazy. As humans we were all born with imperfections, however, some simply stand out more than others.
Still, what are our options? Is there a possible solution? Yes, we can start to focus on the bigger picture. Brands like UNINTERRUPTED are proving that there are avenues and other ways for athletes to prosper.