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Report: NBA unveils sweeping new health initiatives

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has unveiled a multitude of mental health guidelines to promote the mental wellness of its players.

While it is not the first time the NBA has tackled mental health head on, it surely is by far and large, its most sweeping plan,   According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is implementing more mental health initiatives for its upcoming 2019-2020 season. A memo obtained by The Athletic outlines these initiatives and guidelines. The following is from The Athletic
  • Retain and make available to players on a voluntary basis one to two mental health professionals who are licensed in their field and locality, and with experience in assessing and treating clinical mental health issues.
  • Identify a licensed psychiatrist (M.D. or D.O.) to be available to assist in managing player mental health issues.
  • Enact a written action plan for mental health emergencies.
  • Put in place procedures for communicating to players and team staff the team’s practices with respect to privacy and confidentiality.
  •  Attend a Sept. 12 ‘health and wellness meeting’ in Chicago where these matters will be discussed and analyzed even further.
The new initiatives are the latest progression in the years-long fight to make mental wellness a priority for NBA players. The push started in 2015 when a psychologist was made available to speak to teams and staff. In 2017, a mental health foundation began advising them on issues. Just last year the NBA released its first set of mental health guidelines.  Previously, the NBA has launched its NBA Cares  program to promote the mental health of youth, fans, and communities as a whole.  Within NBA Cares, the Mind Health initiative raises awareness of mental health struggles and provides some strategies, resources, and education in dealing with mental health.  A multitude of NBA players have helped make champion mental health including, but not limited to, Kevin Love, Keyan Dooling, Royce White, and DeMar DeRozen who have spoken very publicly regarding their mental health issues. Their brazen statements about their mental health has helped make these very needed guidelines league-wide so no team has the option to lag behind. Because of them, mental health may finally be treated on par with mental physical health.  Although the NBA needed prodding from some of its most formidable players, its mental health initiatives speaks volumes in how we as a society have progressed in the way we treat mental health. It is estimated that about 25%, or one in four people in the world will be affected by “mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.”  Seeing these seemingly larger-than-life athletes being affected by the same issues as average citizens serves as an inspiration. It makes the issue less stigmatized and often leads, as in this case, to initiatives being passed. The myth of mental health being nonexistent or reserved for a special few has been unraveling and having courageous players willing to come out and speak about it is expediting that process.   If not for the courage of the slate of players highlighted above, mental health would remain not a priority. Kevin Love and Keyan Dooling wrote personal essays on their own mental health in The Player’s Tribune while DeMar DeRozan discussed his battle with depression with Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.   The memo comes after Commissioner Adam Silver iterated his concern for the players at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston in February when he said "[w]hen I meet with [NBA players who have expressed concern for their mental health], what strikes me is that they’re truly unhappy.” Silver continued, “A lot of these young men are generally unhappy. All players on all 30 teams will surely benefit from this latest move. While many of them may not be ready to be as outspoken as some of their colleagues, they could very well be going through the same mental health struggles. For younger men and aspiring athletes, the move shows that however steely-faced you may see your favorite player act, he’s not invincible, and neither are you. Mental health is being addressed more openly and honestly than ever before. The NBA with a severe push from its players, is establishing itself as the forerunner sports league addressing mental health for its players and beyond.