March 9, 2018

This past week, NBA Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love shared something profoundly personal with the world in his post called, Everyone Is Going Through Something. (Click here to read his post.) Love’s post was a brilliant display of candor in two remarkable ways.

First, he shares that he suffered from a debilitating panic attack during a game in November. This, his first and only panic attack, left him terrified and confused. He had no idea what was happening or why, and he avoided talking about it, fearful that someone would find out.

Second, Love opens a dialogue about the overwhelming challenges for people who struggle to acknowledge or talk about mental health issues. He addresses the unique challenges men have when struggling with mental health – the secrecy and stigma of it, and how men (and especially pro athletes) are expected to show no weakness and never ask for help. He writes in The Players Tribune:

So for 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.

I was fascinated by why Love choose to speak out about his scare, his treatment and his encouragement for others to talk about. In part, he was motivated by DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), who has recently opened up about his struggle with depression. Candor fosters more candor. Love had also come to the startling realization that he was more concerned about people discovering his panic attack than he was about what caused it. In his post, he says:

Why was I so concerned with people finding out? It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it… What I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them.

The Cavaliers organization helped Love find a therapist and talking through his struggles with someone changed his entire outlook on what had happened to him, how it could possibly have been prevented, and how talking about it could help others:

Looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. 

Our famous athletes serve a leadership role in how they live their lives on the public stage. Love has seized the opportunity to show others there is hope and help. He is turning his personal experience into a self-help guide, both by talking openly about it, and by leading the way into a deeper conversation about men and their struggles with mental health. Love ends his story with this wisdom:

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.