Something incredible happened last week.
Tuesday morning I went to a local high school to present NAMI’s in-school mental health awareness program, “Ending the Silence.” You can read about that presentation here. When I got home that afternoon, my husband asked if I’d heard the big news about NBA All-Star Kevin Love having panic attacks.
I hadn’t, so I googled his name and was amazed at what I found. Kevin, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, wrote a captivating, raw, and honest personal essay for The Players’ Tribune. It’s titled “Everyone Is Going Through Something.” He talked about something he admittedly doesn’t find easy to talk about — his feelings. And the panic symptoms that terrified him.
Kevin said he had a panic attack during a game on Nov. 5, 2017. His heart raced, he couldn’t catch his breath, and everything was spinning. He went to the locker room and ended up lying on his back, trying to breathe. He thought he might die.
Kevin was afraid people would find out. He didn’t want to talk about it.
He went to a therapist, something he never thought he’d do. Kevin said the biggest lesson for him was confronting the fact that he needed help.
Kevin said one of the reasons he decided to write his story is because he was inspired by another NBA All-Star player, DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors. In February, DeMar talked about his struggles with depression.
In the middle of the night on Feb. 17, 2018 DeMar tweeted: This depression gets the best of me… DeMar, who says he’s a quiet and private person, received an outpouring of support on social media.
DeMar was proud to have opened up so others could do the same. He said that the ripple effect of his interview about his depression has been one of the most incredible things he’s ever witnessed.
It’s a chain reaction. When one person speaks out, thousands of others are touched by it. There’s power in realizing you’re not the only one.
On Wednesday, the day after I found out about DeMar’s and Kevin’s issues with mental health, I watched the Today Show. There was a piece on Kevin and after it ran, the anchors praised him, saying how brave he was to tell his story.
Then something awesome happened.
Carson Daly, a Today Show anchor and host of The Voice, was sitting at that table with the other anchors. He said he could relate to Kevin, as he himself has had anxiety since childhood. He had his first panic attack years ago when he was a host at MTV.
I was surprised to hear this, as I’d never heard about Carson’s anxiety. I wondered if that was the first time he talked about it publicly. It was.
The chain reaction was gaining strength. Each man inspired the next.
These three highly successful men are used to challenges. But this was something new. They aren’t used to talking about something so personal as their mental and emotional well-being. It takes courage and bravery to open up about an issue that can be very difficult to discuss.
That Wednesday afternoon, I presented three more “Ending the Silence” programs at the high school. There’s a part where I discuss celebrities and famous people with mental illness.
This time I added DeMar, Kevin, and Carson to my speech. I noticed the students’ faces light up. When I told the teens about Kevin’s panic attack during a basketball game, something changed with those kids — especially the boys. They leaned forward, wanting to know more. I knew I had captured their complete attention.
Those students sitting in my presentations that day learned that if their role models could have a mental health issue, anyone can. And they shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to talk about it.
Maybe some of those high school kids are going through a difficult time and now have been inspired to tell someone and get help. I’ll never know — but that’s the thing. You don’t know who you’re going to reach. That’s why it’s important to keep the conversation going. We can’t stop.
End the silence.
Thank you DeMar, Kevin, and Carson. Because of your inspiring stories and courageous words, you’re helping countless others. The stigma barriers are beginning to break down. But there’s still a long way to go.
The chain reaction can’t stop here.
Second image courtesy of here
Third image courtesy of here
Fourth image courtesy of here