NBA, NBPA Announce Mental Wellness Program for Players

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2018

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The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have worked together to develop a mental wellness program for the league's players.

David Aldridge of NBA.com shared news of the program Monday, noting it is "the product of almost a year of discussions between the league and union" and "will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams, if they want."

According to Aldridge, the NBA and the Players Association are on the verge of naming a Director of Mental Health and Wellness, who will run the program. He called the new development "the most comprehensive program dealing with mental wellness created to date."

This new program comes during a time when the league is also reviewing its mental health policies for the WNBA and G League while expanding mental health outreach in youth basketball through Jr. NBA and NBA Fit.

Aldridge listed a number of players who have discussed mental health issues in the past, including Metta World Peace, Delonte West, Larry Sanders, Jerry West and former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw.

He also detailed an incident with Royce White, who the Houston Rockets selected with a first-round pick in 2012.

White wanted his own doctors to help determine whether his generalized anxiety disorder should keep him off the court. He said the Rockets agreed to a treatment plan, but the team never formalized it and ultimately traded him before he played a regular-season game in Houston. He has played just three regular-season games in his NBA career, all for the Sacramento Kings.

Along those lines, Aldridge wrote, "It is not clear if the director will have the ability to unilaterally decide if a player dealing with a mental wellness issue should not play in a given game or games to deal with those issues, regardless of what the player's team medical staff may think."

The topic of mental health in the NBA has made headlines this season, as a number of players have openly discussed it.

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love detailed a panic attack he had during a Nov. 5 game against the Atlanta Hawks in an essay for The Players' Tribune and thanked those who offered support:

Kevin Love @kevinlove

Wow...I can't even describe how grateful I am for the love and support. More than anything, it's been amazing to see YOU tell your own stories about Mental Health. Let's keep it going. If want to share your story you can email me at kevin@playerstribune.com (yes I'll read it).

Toronto Raptors All-Star swingman DeMar DeRozan hinted at depression in a Feb. 17 tweet that read, "This depression get the best of me." He later discussed mental health with Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

"It's one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we're all human at the end of the day," DeRozan told Smith. "We all got feelings...all of that. Sometimes...it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world's on top of you."

Washington Wizards swingman Kelly Oubre likewise discussed mental health issues on NBC Sports Washington's Wizards Tipoff podcast.

"That s--t is serious," Oubre told NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes and Chris Miller. "I just go into a quiet place and breath, man. Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression or anything like that." 


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