(Reuters) - Kevin Love is one of the toughest players in the NBA but the embodiment of that type of masculinity is ‘outdated’ and ‘dangerous’ and stops men from seeking help for depression and anxiety, according to the Cleveland Cavaliers forward.
The five-time All Star knows only too well how debilitating burying emotions can be after he suffered a panic attack during a game last November.
He realized he needed help and started seeing a therapist.
Now he is hoping to spread the message that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, with a web series called “Locker Room Talk,” where he interviews athletes like Michael Phelps, Channing Frye and Paul Pierce about their own mental health struggles.
“I know from experience that this is not easy,” he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. “So opening up about it and allowing myself to be vulnerable can affect a lot of people in a positive way and hopefully create some change.”
He said athletes were perfectly positioned to break down stigmas associated with men and mental health.
“Athletes ... are looked at as (being) super human so having them open up can have a big impact,” he added.
“Michael Phelps being able to speak out about mental health in the way that he does is very powerful.”
However, it was the admission of San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan that he was suffering from depression that inspired Love to speak out about his own battles, in the hopes of reaching people suffering from similar issues.
“Without DeMar DeRozan I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be sitting here as soon as I am today,” Love said.
“He opened that door for me.”
Love said a lot of the aversion to talking about mental health stems from the perception that boys and men should bury their emotions and he wants to replace that idea with what he calls “positive masculinity”.
“Positive masculinity can mean a lot of things but it’s just accountability,” he said.
“Making sure you’re sticking to your morals and character and making the right decisions to be a good man.
“Having a line of communication is going to help you live a better life and be better for the people in your life.”
Love said the reaction from fans and other players to his advocacy has been positive, while he said the league was also taking the issue seriously.
“They have done a great job of being at the forefront of any major sport in supporting mental health,” he said.
“If you look at the league fraternity of the NBA, it’s close to 500 players and the statistics say a lot of players in the NBA are dealing with this in one way or another.”
While Love’s activism is taking off, his Cavaliers are stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference, posting a 2-12 record since LeBron James left the team for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The loss of James had been a factor, but injuries and the coaching change made after the team started 0-6 have also contributed, he said.
“Obviously we lost the best player in the world and everything he meant to our team,” Love said. “He bailed us out of so many tough situations on both ends of the floor.
“Not only was he so great for 47 minutes out of a game, it was that one minute where he totally changed everything and that happened more often than not.
“It was obviously so tough losing him but we felt like we could build something in a positive direction this year and I still feel like that is the case.
“There’s a silver lining in all of this, so I think we just need to continue to keep fighting and not lay down because that’s not in any of us.”
Love will face James, who he won a championship with in 2016, next Wednesday when the Lakers visit the Cavaliers for the first time since the perennial All-Star left his home town team.
“It’ll be interesting,” Love said.
“I think he’ll get a super warm reception, as he should.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury