Atlanta Hawks: How Kevin Love has jump-started mental wellness for Trae Young

Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young, Kevin Love (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young, Kevin Love (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Kevin Love’s journey has inspired Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young

Kevin Love has become the face of the mental wellness crisis and solution within the NBA and is a part of the global visage of the topic nationwide, too. For the Atlanta Hawks and the league at-large, his efforts in this space have had widespread impacts on raising awareness and providing solutions for an issue that has afflicted many Americans from all walks of life.

Those efforts have only just begun. The NBA — and its fans — will be better for it, more informed, and more mentally healthy.

2020 very well may have been the peak of mental health issues in America. In a fast-paced world with triggers all around us at all times due in part to the rise of technology, mental health has been worsening year after year. In 2017-18, just under 20 percent of adults in the country experienced a mental illness, according to Mental Health America, a data set that may even not include all undiagnosed cases.

The need for mental health services outpaces the resources available in many communities, and in 2020 with a pandemic that caused loss, illness, and resource depletion, the likelihood that many people felt even more helpless than before is high. Unemployment spiked to the highest levels seen since 1946 this year.

The CDC acknowledges that mental health depletion is a collateral impact of the pandemic due to isolation and reasonable anxiety and fear over a new disease with unknown impacts.

It’s part of what prompted Kevin Love to pen yet another hopeful letter, To Anybody Going Through It on The Players’ Tribune this year:

"“That’s been on my mind a lot lately, considering the millions and millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs, or lost their loved ones, or who are just dealing with the unprecedented anxieties of being a human in 2020. I know so many people out there are suffering right now. I’m no different. I’m still going through it. Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal.”"

Love also, in conjunction with TPT, held a paneled discussion with a UCLA Psychology professor and a group of student athletes in early December:

For Kevin Love, anxiety and mental wellness issues have been a part of his life since he was a boy.

Many NBA fans know his story by now. He once suffered a panic attack mid-game and was suddenly faced with the reality that he must do something to face his burden. He publicly has acknowledged his mental wellness struggles and allowed the public to walk through some of his journey with him, drawing awareness to the issue along the way.

Love has had a generational impact that will live on through Atlanta Hawks superstar Trae Young, something we’ll touch on more in just a bit.

The acknowledgment of struggle is unconventional in this profession. As a pro athlete, the facade of being larger than life and able to handle anything comes with the territory. Love himself admitted that one of his fears when he first penned his debut Players’ Tribune article was that a player like LeBron James would look down on him as a teammate and competitor.

According to Jackie MacMullan, James had nothing but respect for Love being brave enough to face the music in such a public way.

"“Months later, on the day the piece appeared, James hung back on the team bus as the rest of the Cavaliers filed off. He shook Love’s hand and told him, ‘You helped a lot of people today.’”"

And Love, in his most recent TPT piece, said it himself:

"“Fake facades are hard to keep up.”"

For a “normal” human, and also for a pro athlete. It’s comforting to hear him say it.

Love did not face this on his own. In fact, he attributes his courage to say something about this publicly to DeMar DeRozan and his own confidence in admitting his struggles with mental health, something he detailed with the Toronto Star in 2018.

There are various stigmas that exist with mental wellness, particularly with certain communities. Doctors have mentioned that men often are less likely to talk about mental health issues due to a “macho man syndrome” instead internalizing everything. That issue is possibly compounded in the pro athlete space, where these men are supposedly the image of the most masculine in the world.

Love’s impacts are well-noted and impossible to quantify. He’s spread his message to his own fans, but also inspired other athletes to carry this same torch of spreading awareness and making it known that it’s OK to seek help and acknowledge mental struggles.

Trae Young is one of those players directly impacted by Love, admitting that until Love spoke up about it, he was scared to face the reality.

Love will eventually retire. With 12 seasons under his belt, it’s likely that we’re closer to the end of his career than the start. But the impacts of him opening the door to a very real struggle will live on in the NBA, in large part through Young.

Young’s courage in speaking on the topic is well noted, and he might carry the torch of the discussion moving forward. He founded the Trae Young Family Foundation, which holds a mission statement of, “continuing education for mental health problems, particularly cyber and social media bullying.”

Within the African American community, access to mental health care is low relative to the need. In 2019, African Americans above 18 years of age had a percentage of their population with a feeling of sadness double that of white Americans, yet only 8.7 percent of the African American population received mental health care compared to 18.6 percent for non-hispanic whites.

As an African American, Young’s reach within this community of need on these topics of mental health could prove to be even more impactful than Love’s.

Young can and will push this message that Love and DeRozan kicked off even further.

It’s not on Young alone. Love’s impact on the league at-large and the mental wellness push has caused the league to put greater resources toward this crisis within its own community. Each team now has a psychologist on staff, as noted in MacMullan’s article.

The greater awareness league-wide is thanks to DeRozan and Love. Now Trae Young and a new generation will help in building even more awareness toward the matter, not only for their fellow playing colleagues but also for the fans that love to watch them on a nightly basis.

Related Story. 3 ways Trae Young can make the All-Star team in 2021. light

It’s remarkable work, and for it to happen in Georgia and Oklahoma, the two states Young frequents? It’s important. 18.93 percent of Oklahoma adults and 17.74 percent of Georgia adults experience a mental health issue, according to Mental Health National’s 2019 report.  In Oklahoma, youth prevalence of mental health issues (Young’s major focus with his family foundation) are 34th-worst in the country. Adult access to mental health care is scarce in Georgia. 59 percent of adults with a mental health issue in Georgia did not receive treatment according to the 2019 report.

These problems are not all up to one person to solve, but Love has inspired Young who can inspire many more. The waves that have been made and will continue to be stirred up just from talking about these things are important.

We have Trae Young to thank for that, who has Kevin Love to thank, who has DeMar DeRozan to thank. The success story of mental health victories in the NBA — and in any circle — is thanks to one person being courageous enough to admit a struggle, inspiring many more.

I’ll leave you with Kevin Love’s words on mental health in his most recent TPT article:

“Talk to somebody.”

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