Houston Rockets rookie Royce White is a star in more ways than one. White says he is like everyone else. He enjoys going to the movies and listening to music. He was the No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, and that is extraordinary. He also suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and some phobias (fear of heights and fear of flying).
A few months ago, he was under scrutiny for standing up to the Rockets’ lawyers and officials. He requested that his anxiety issues be treated the way other players’ physical illnesses and injuries are treated. For instance, NBA players are expected to fly frequently to cities where their games are played. White’s anxiety disorders makes it so that sometimes he is unable to do so. He requested to be able to travel by bus, and if he is delayed he doesn’t want to be fined the same amount as players who miss practice because they overslept.
Both parties struggled to reach a resolution, but after many discussions and meetings, the Rockets and White were able to reach a compromise in some areas. He was reassigned to the Houston Rockets’ D-league team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
White’s story is of interest to many who are afflicted by mental illness. He is not in denial of his challenges, but he is not being quiet about it either. He has taken on the cause to help decrease the stigma society continues to place on mental health issues.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that there are “40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety disorders and only one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment.” Anxiety itself has found its way into everyday language by many who experience stress. Yet, there are still many people who have no idea that anxiety disorders can be paralyzing and should not be trivialized.
Many individuals are embarrassed about their illness because they fear discrimination or that it’ll be a stumbling block in their careers or jobs. White has taken the risk and has decided that his basketball career is important, but becoming a “poster child” to decrease the stigma is more significant.
If you personally are struggling with mental illness or have a loved one who is, how are you handling it?
- Acknowledge it.
Mental illness does not discriminate against race, gender, age, religion, or economic status. However, many sufferers may be in denial because they believe that asking for help, taking medication, or seeking therapy is a sign of weakness and irresponsibility. They don’t want to admit they have a problem and will only accept help when their normal functioning has deteriorated significantly, and they can no longer afford to suffer alone.People in prominent positions may be embarrassed to admit they have a mental illness. I’m not necessarily talking about movie stars or other celebrities. I am referring to individuals who have been able to succeed in life despite their mental adversities. They need to speak up to help normalize the disrespect many still receive due to their mental ailments.
- Speak up.
When people share their struggles, others will become aware and even be surprised that their friend, boss, best friend’s daughter or spouse also is experiencing emotional and mental pain. Successful men and women with a mental illness can be an example to society and can contribute to the idea that a mental disorder does not define the person. The media seem to highlight the negative situations and many sufferers feel embarrassed and despondent. Thus, they choose to continue their silence.
- Connect with others.
A dear friend has found that when he shares the challenge of having a son with mental health struggles, others connect emotionally with him. They trust him and are able to share their own journey with him. Your story of having been there may make a difference to someone who is feeling hopeless.
Society needs to understand that a person can be “normal” and still have mental health challenges.
Royce White is a hero. We need more heroes to stand up and speak up for mental health. Depression and ADHD are becoming more accepted as those in the limelight continue to talk about their experiences. Even people not in the public eye can tell our stories and help someone.
Will you be a hero for someone else? Take a stand. It will be worth it!