Kevin Love Leads The Charge - Elevating Mental Health Awareness
Photo Courtesy: The New York Times
Kevin Love is leading the conversation in the NBA regarding mental health awareness and emotional wellness. He is fully committed to challenging the very stigmas holding back the voiceless––fans and peers alike.
Recently, Love participated in Get With The Times––the New York Times live event for college students held in Tufts University Cohen Auditorium. It was live-streamed across colleges throughout the country. The event explored Love’s experiences, sports culture, and the state of mental health on college campuses.
The Cavaliers All-Star has been candid in the discussion regarding his battle with depression and anxiety. Love has struggled with panic attacks. He wants to reshape the narrative in sports and eliminate stigma abroad. He's taken note from his experiences and understands he is not alone in this fight. In this case, he brings the muffled subject to light. His goal is empower and uplift those still searching for the strength to commit to change.
He recounted the first time he broke down. The events transpired during a regular season bout against the Atlanta Hawks in November 2017.
Love found himself in a daze as he approached the Cavaliers bench, unable to process the information points he was so accustomed to analyzing. Coaching staffs, teammates, and the NBA arena's ambiance were all a blur. He was breathing irregularly with the paralyzing sensation of a heart attack.
He physically broke down when he reached the trainer's area––pacing in the locker room, losing control of his breathing, his heart racing with the same fury his peers do on the hardwood. The overwhelming sensation of death was looming from within. He found himself laying on flat on his back, sprawled across the locker room floor. He fought to catch his breath waiting for reality to set in just one more time.
“I thought I was fully having a heart attack and I was going to die.” he shared with Juliet Macur––Sports of the Times columnist.
When further tests showed there was nothing physically wrong him, Love knew it was time to address the issues he compressed for so long.
He elaborated on why he felt compelled to withhold these feelings dating back to his adolescence in Portland, Oregan. When Macur asked Love why it took him so long to share, he touched on the images of masculinity including the generational mindset carried on by his father and grandfather.
“I had a dad who was born in ‘49, his father was very strong and tough. They went through a few wars. My dad was 20-years-old in 1969, think of all the things they went through in the 60s.” Love explained.
“My playbook was to just put all that stuff over here––suppress it, not talk about it, keep your chin up, don’t show any emotion, don’t cry.”
Love admitted he was afraid of what his teammates would think––weak and unreliable if he opened up about the challenges he faced for almost two decades.
He described the fear some NBA players face when opening up about such issues, considering their numbered playing days and responsibility of providing for their families.
The rigors of a season can take a serious toll on the psyche, whether a superstar or fringe athlete on the cusp of no longer receiving NBA checks. Dealing with fame, the spirit of competition, a vast fortune, and poor planning for the future––it can all change very quickly. Imagine the vulnerability a person without the comfort of an NBA salary might feel. It's imperative to acknowledge those feelings when recognized and embrace positive coping methods.
San Antonio Spurs All-Star DeMar DeRozan shared his struggles with depression as well. There are moments of blissful happiness, and dark moments where you can't get out of your own way. Your mind and heart have trapped you, sunken into despair and worry. It can get the best of you or worst depending on the perspective.
Love and DeRozan have sparked other athletes to embrace the fight, causing them to open up and share their experiences.
Former Duke standout and NBA journeyman Cherokee Parks shared his inspirational marathon back to the NBA in a touching piece with SLAM magazine. The former HS phenom and Los Angeles Clippers standout Darius Miles recently penned his first-person essay with The Players Tribune.
His candid story detailed the inception of his NBA career to the bowels of depression. Miles fought his way back, finding a life worth living once again. Nate Robinson has opened up with struggles as well, sharing his story with Bleacher Report.
The NBA has already responded, supporting the movement. There was controversy regarding some owners' desire to have access to player's mental health record. In May, the league appointed its first director of mental health.
Kevin Love continues to advocate for the voiceless, and encourages those in need to seek help. The Kevin Love Fund is dedicated to the fight to prioritize mental and physical health, while providing the tools to achieve emotional wellness. You can watch Kevin's entire broadcast with Juliet Macur here.
These conversations are important. This dialogue is important. It is always worth fighting for. Keep fighting, always.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.]
Olivier Auguste is an NBA lifestyle writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on hoops, music, and the culture we love.