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

Last week Her Campus Utah had the honor and privilege of partnering with the New York Times for their “Get With the Times” event: “The Mental Game With Kevin Love.” To celebrate Kevin Love’s efforts to de-stigmatize issues of mental health, our 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 here at the University of Utah. In light of this event, Her Campus Utah would love to say a few thank you’s. Firstly, we’d like to like to thank the New York Times for allowing us to host one of many nationwide college campus viewing parties. Secondly, we would love to thank 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. Lastly, we’d like to thank all of you who fight mental illness. 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 Health Day News and their international 2018 study, a staggeringly high 1 in 3 College Freshman across the globe face “mental health woes.” But this epidemic is not limited to college campuses, as seen in the 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 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,” the movement towards open discussion of mental health. In his essay, he shares 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 they don’t share their experiences.

Kevin Love has, undoubtedly, opened a door for his fellow athletes to discuss these taboos of mental health. Despite his fears of being perceive “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. 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. Around the same time as the essay, another player, DeMar DeRozan, who then played for the Toronto Raptors, spoke out about his depression. Several other players have discussed their mental health struggles, and in May, the N.B.A. appointed its first director of mental health” (New York Times).

Kevin Love is a 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 it’s asking our friends and family about their mental health, or de-stigmatizing therapy/medication, there is still work to do. We must also 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 save someone’s life.

Photo Source: 1, 2, 3