Prompted by the public struggles of some of its young players with mental health issues, the NBA is making a bold move and requiring every team in the league to have at least one full-time mental health professional on staff.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ five-time NBA All-Star player Kevin Love hit a wall two years ago in the middle of a game against the Atlanta Hawks.
His heart was racing, he couldn’t think, the room was spinning, he recalled in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.“It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die.I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe,” Love wrote. He was taken to a hospital in the third quarter, but the doctors said he was fine.
That 2017 panic attack, as well as Love’s own public discussion of his struggles with anxiety and depression, helped prompt the NBA players’ association to sketch out a new framework last season to help professional basketball players struggling with the pressures of the game and mental health issues.
Former player Keyon Dooling and San Antonio Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan have also gone public and shared their struggles with depression and other issues.
The NBA will now require that every team have a psychologist or behavioral therapist on staff full-time and available to the players.
During a conference last February, league commissioner Adam Silver said, “What strikes me is that they’re truly unhappy,” when discussing the mental health problems in an interview.
The National Basketball Players Association launched an attempt to deal with the problem last year:
The new guidelines are the most significant steps the NBA has taken in mental health. The National Basketball Players Association in May 2018 announced its own mental health and wellness program headed by psychologist William D. Parham with Dooling serving as the program’s Player Wellness Counselor.
That program connects players with licensed mental health professionals in every city where there’s an NBA team. Those professionals are separate from the NBA and the players association. Other resources the player association provides include a players-only website with a focus on mental health that features up to 90 links about issues including depression and all kinds of phobias.
NBA vice president of player development Jamila Wideman says that the public discussion of mental health problems is “a sign of success that we’re normalizing the issue.”
The National Football League has also recently taken steps to help players, establishing a mental health and wellness committee last May.