Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.
Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”
Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.
So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.
Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.
Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.
Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.
But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?
Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.
What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.
You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.
And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.
Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.
Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.
I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.
Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.
I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:
“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.
“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”
It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.
It really is okay.