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National Basketball Players Association launches new mental health and wellness program

The National Basketball Players Association launched a new mental health and wellness program on Friday, taking another step to help players in the league with their mental health. (Getty Images)

Just a month after the league launched a mental health public service announcement, it seems the NBA is taking an even bigger step to help players with their mental health.

The National Basketball Players Association launched its Mental Health and Wellness Program on Friday, the group announced. The program, according to the release, will serve as a resource for all players in the league to assist them “with a wide range of mental health challenges and issues,” and be led by former NBA guard Keyon Dooling.

“In recent months, several of our players have spoke candidly about their internal struggles,” said Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s executive director. “Their stories have reminded us all that mental health challenges may be faced by everyone, including professional athletes. This is an area that can no longer be neglected. As a Players Association, it is our responsibility to provide our members the resources to succeed both mentally and physically. Accordingly, we have decided to make mental health a priority now.”

Who is Keyon Dooling?

Dooling played in the NBA for 12 seasons — most notably with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Orlando Magic — before retiring in 2012, and has long been open about his mental health.

In 2012, shortly after he announced his retirement, Dooling opened up about his history of sexual abuse, something that brought on hallucinations, related issues and forced him to spend a significant amount of time in a psychiatric hospital.

He also published an article in the Players’ Tribune on May 1, where he discussed his post-traumatic stress disorder and revealed that he was sexually abused as a child.

Keyon Dooling will lead the NBPA’s new mental health and wellness program. (Getty Images)

Dooling has served as the NBPA’s Player Wellness Counselor since January 2018.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this new program within the NBPA,” Dooling said in the release. “I look forward to serving the needs of our players and to continue normalizing the conversation around mental health in the NBA.”

Mental health and the NBA

For a long time, mental health was a taboo subject in the NBA. It wasn’t often discussed, and was something teams simply didn’t want to deal with.

Royce White, who won Big 12 Player of the Year honors at Iowa State, was drafted by the Houston Rockets, though his widely publicized general anxiety disorder was a battleground during his 13 months in the NBA. White reported clashes with the Rockets over the management of his anxiety disorder, and told Yahoo Sports that in 2012 Rockets personnel said that establishing a plan for managing his anxiety was “impossible.”

White has been playing with the London Lightning in Canada’s National Basketball League ever since.

Earlier this year, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love both opened up about their mental health issues.

Love, in a Players’ Tribune article, opened up about his anxiety and panic attacks — one of which he had in the middle of a game last fall. DeRozan spoke out about his battles with depression in an article by Doug Smith of the Toronto Star about a week before Love’s article was published, too, detailing similar issues.

The pair teamed up for a mental health PSA that the NBA has run throughout May — which is mental health month.

“Mental health affects everybody,” Love said in April. “It really doesn’t discriminate. I meant what I said in my piece that everybody’s going through something you can’t see. I thought it was very important for us to speak up and use the platform the NBA has. It’s such a global game and reaches so many people in all demographics.”

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