NBA is Taking A Stance Against Mental Health Stigma

In support of Mental Health Awareness Month and in support of its players, the NBA is encouraging mental health wellness and taking a stance against the stigma that colors mental health disorders as ugly and poisonous. Two NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love spoke out about their struggles with anxiety and depression and received an outpouring of support from the general public and from the NBA. Stigma and the fear of being stigmatized are what prevent numerous people from openly discussing mental health issues and getting help when needed. As a way to fight against stigma, both basketball stars worked together to film a public service announcement for Mental Health Awareness Month. This public service announcement is set to run on TNT, ABC, ESPN and NBA TV throughout the NBA Playoffs and Finals.

To offer players opportunities to discuss and address their mental health challenges, the NBA will soon name a Director of Mental Health and Wellness, who will run an independent mental wellness program for players. Through a NBA new partnership with Headspace, the NBA is also providing free mindfulness training for all league and team employees and new mental wellness programming for youth through the Jr. NBA and NBA FIT programs. Additionally, the NBA will be launching a web site that will include a variety of mental wellness resources for the general public.

Understanding stigma

Why does stigma exist? One reason is insecurity. People like to make fun of others to make themselves feel better. A second reason is ignorance. Many people fear and repel what they don’t understand. A third reason is politics and how mental health has been misused in political battles. Some political sharks make mental health claims about their competitors in attempts to discredit them, which only furthers the negative connotations of mental health issues. Although many mental disorders are not 100% curable, the signs and symptoms are treatable with the right care. “Stigma” is 100% curable with the right attitude of compassion, concern, open-mindedness, and understanding and with education. Educating others about mental illness, how and why it occurs and how it can literally affect any individual at anytime in their life; can help promote change around this controversial topic. The goal of spreading awareness is to lift the stigma and to promote individuals to seek professional help and support from their loved ones.

The impact of mental health disorders

According to NAMI, nearly 1 in 4 Americans (62 million persons) are affected by mental illness annually, and 1 in 25 adults in the United States live with a major mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Close to 20 percent of teens from 13-18 cope with mental illness annually, and about 30 percent of adults cope with anxiety disorders. The cost of mental illness is staggering 193 billion dollars annually in lost earnings, according to NAMI. In fact, mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder represent the third most common cause of hospitalization for both youths and adults aged 18-44.

Mental health disorders can also have a direct result on the physical health of individuals. Adults who have a serious mental illness are at an increased risk for chronic medical illnesses such as coronary artery disease, diabetes and hypertension and research has shown that adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier secondary from not receiving treatment for such chronic medical conditions related to their mental heal disorder.