Her Campus Utah Spotlights The New York Times' "The Mental Game With Kevin Love."

In a recent celebration Mental Health Awareness month, Her Campus Utah had the milestone-worthy privilege of partnering with the New York Times for their “Get With the Times” event: “The Mental Game With Kevin Love.” To effectively honor Kevin Love’s efforts to de-stigmatize issues of mental health, our Utah chapter held a live-viewing party, participated in raffles sponsored by the New York Times, and even engaged in our own conversations about mental health dialogues here at the University of Utah. In light of this opportunity, Her Campus Utah would love to extend a list of thank you’s: one to The New York Times for inviting us to host an exclusive college campus viewing party, a thank you to Kevin Love himself, both for his incredible and path-paving courage to share his story and for the beautiful transparency he’s maintained throughout his journey to de-stigmatizing trials of mental health, and one to those who valiantly combat mental illness in your everyday lives. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for waking up today. Thank you for being here.

Though you may feel alone, sufferers of mental illness/mental health disorders are, unfortunately, not a rare few. In fact, according to mso-fareast-theme-font:major-fareast">Health Day News and their international 2018 study, a staggeringly high 1 in 3 college freshman across the globe face “mental health woes.” Although, this epidemic is not limited to college campuses; as seen in the mso-fareast-theme-font:major-fareast">National Alliance on Mental Illness 2017 study, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S (approximately 43.8 million) “experiences mental illness in a given year.” Yet despite this devastating prevalence of mental illness in our society, certain political arenas and cultural sites are ignored in their fights with mental health disorders: one of them being sports and adjoining athletic departments.

As Kevin Love shares in his personal essay "Everyone is Going Through Something" in The Players’ Tribune, opening up or asking for help was seen as a “form of weakness that could derail [his] success in sports.” And after facing his life-changing panic attack on November 5th, he began to attribute this stigmatization of mental health in sports to toxic values of masculinity, stating that “men and boys are probably the farthest behind,” in the movement towards open discussion of mental health. In his essay, he reveals that “growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act…and learn what it takes to ‘be a man.’” This playbook of masculinity, through Love’s perspective, often reads as such: “Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own.”

Because sports are a famous staple and performative arena of masculinity, standards and values of “manliness,” often hinder progress towards acceptance of athlete’s mental health disorders and struggles. Love describes these values about men and toughness, as “so ordinary that they’re everywhere … and invisible at the same time, surrounding us like air or water. They’re a lot like depression or anxiety in that way.” As he shared in the New York Times interview, “men and women from every sport are dealing with something,” but the problem is these same men and women don’t feel “normal,” so are thereby reluctant to share their experiences.

Kevin Love has, undoubtedly, swung open doors for his fellow athletes to discuss these taboos of mental health. Despite his fears of being perceived “as somehow less reliable as a teammate,” he persisted in his fight against anxiety and depression, sought out treatment, and shut down the voice that told him “I have to focus on basketball. I’ll deal with it later. Be a man.” As a result, he changed the game (no pun intended) forever. mso-fareast-theme-font:major-fareast">As the New York Times article “Kevin Love Calls Speaking Out on Mental Health ‘the Biggest Thing’ in His Career” explains, “Since the publication of his essay, Love has emerged as a high-profile voice on the topic of mental health, and the initial groundbreaking force in a domino effect of colleagues and friends who have also come forward to combat the stigmatization of mental illness. Around the same time as the essay, another player, DeMar DeRozan, who then played for the Toronto Raptors, spoke out about his own depression, with several other players following suit, by discussing their mental health struggles. To honor the bravery of these athletes and their stories, in May, the N.B.A. appointed its first director of mental health” mso-fareast-theme-font:major-fareast">(New York Times).

Kevin Love is beautiful living proof that the most effective way to stir change in this current mental health epidemic is to normalize what has been typically demonized. Whether inquiring about the mental health of our friends or systematically de-stigmatizing therapy/medication, there is always progress to be made. In this whirlwind of shifting mindsets and mental health accommodations, it is also important to realize that most of the work must be directed to typically-masculine sites and performative arenas, as men are often encouraged to adopt the “suffering silently” model Love mentions. Tell the athletes in your life that it is okay to talk about their struggles. Tell your brothers, and fathers, and boyfriends that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. Tell the world to stop associating dependence, community, and human connection to femininity, because it could just change or even save someone’s life.

 

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