Delonte West: Mental Health Matters

Mental Health Matters

Delonte West
(Pic Credit:Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE)

By: Zachary Draves

A highly disturbing video surfaced of former NBA player Delonte West being beaten up and left on the side of the street.

What is just as disturbing is that a police officer shot the video of an angry and desperate Delonte after the beating and posted it online.

The reaction to the video was swift, with much of it being harsh, nasty, and dismissive toward Delonte.

Thankfully, there was a significant outpouring of support and compassion to him from many NBA players and others.

That alone signifies an enormous shift in the larger discussion around mental health.

For too long, mental illness has been stigmatized, criminalized, and those living with it have been marginalized.

The fact that someone had the audacity to film Delonte West during a crisis moment with no regard for his humanity or his safety and decided to interrogate him on film and showcase it to the whole world, is a prime example of a clear degradation of people living with mental illness.

Another point is that on the tape as Delonte was being attacked, nobody stopped to intervene in any way.

What does that say about who we are?

Delonte, who had played with the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, the former Seattle SuperSonics, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008.

His struggles became apparent throughout different times during his playing career.

He also had financial hardships that included working at Home Depot during the 2011 NBA lockout just to pay the bills.

Given this latest incident, what should be talked about at this time is what is to be done going forward so that Delonte and others are given the space to heal and the access to resources.

As well as for that to occur sooner rather than later.

In other words, we shouldn’t have to respond when it is during a crisis moment for us to care about a person’s difficulties.

The NBA has a real opportunity to step up and provide Delonte with help.

After all, the league has been leading the way forward on destigmatizing mental illness more than any other professional sports league.

They have a current policy in place where each team is required to have a mental health professional on staff who is with the players on a consistent basis.

This came about after players such as Royce White, Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan and others spoke openly about their struggles and called on the league to do more.

The same approach has to be applied to Delonte.

The response from fellow players who rallied around him and called out the viciousness on social media is a good indication that the brotherhood in the NBA is very strong.

In a league, that is essentially run by the players, who have taken it upon themselves to have greater say in almost every aspect of their careers, that united front among each other won’t be broken.

This can be an example to talk about the intersections of race, class, and gender as it relates to mental illness.

That is to say, we need to look at mental health in the African American community, who have historically been oppressed and viciously stigmatized by the mental health profession.

That requires an understanding of history, a sustained effort to work with the community on addressing the issue, understanding the link between racism and mental illness, hiring more African American mental health professionals, and implementing culturally competent strategies and responses to mental health-related issues.

In addition, there needs to be a look at the link between financial hardship and mental illness.

For example, many people who are homeless who struggle with a mental health issue are rendered invisible because of public policies that deny them access to affordable housing, health care, employment, and assistance.

Followed up by regressive policies that criminalize their condition and them being homeless which in turn places them in the criminal justice system which adds additional hardship and barriers to their lives.

Also, some who have contemplated, or attempted, or succeeded in dying by suicide, much of it was due to financial reasons.

There needs to be better access to essential services and needs and better policies in place that reflect a broader effort to destigmatize and decriminalize those falling on hard times.

Finally, the ongoing conversation about how rigid definitions of manhood contribute to mental health issues needs to strengthen.

Men deserve to be in a position where they can acknowledge vulnerability as a way to show other males that there is nothing weak about saying I need help or I’m hurting or that I’m sad.

The NBA must intervene in any way it can so that Delonte West can recover and live his life.

It is incumbent on all of us to continue the conversation, to let others know that they are not alone, that it is OK to not be OK, and that there is help.

Our thoughts with Delonte West and we will not forget him and so many others who are in pain.

If you need any help and are in need to talk to someone, here is a list of much-needed resources.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Mental Health America

NBA Cares Mind Health

National Institute of Mental Health

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386

Black Mental Health Alliance

Jed Foundation

National Association of Social Workers

Alliance for Social Workers in Sports

American Psychological Association

American Psychiatric Association

Zachary Draves
About Zachary Draves 45 Articles
Anti-Violence Educator, Activist, MSW Student at Aurora University, Adjunct Professor of Social Justice and Civic Engagement at Dominican University, Aspiring Filmmaker, Alliance for Social Workers in Sports, Volunteer You Can Play Project

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