Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Before We Criticize, Let's Take Mental Health Seriously

Michael Beasley is a tragic story that could turn into a motivating life lesson because he sought help. The Miami Heat forward, entering his second season, checked himself into a rehabilitation center after some frightening Twitter posts that obviously was a cry for help. Beasley, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebonds per game as a 19-year-old rookie, has always been known as a little "strange" or "crazy" but recently it appeared he was contemplating suicide.

He Tweeted statements such as "Feelin like it's not worth livin!!!!!!! I'm done" and "I feel like the whole world is against me I can't win for losin"

Luckily, he was coerced into seeking help and Beasley should be applauded for that because many of us assume 1) that rich folks don't have anything that should cause mental health issues and 2) admitting mental health issues means you are weak. Beasley is a hulking man, a millionaire and one of the NBA's most promising players. But even young, rich and handsome folks are capable of experiencing mental health issues.

Too many times we put ourselves in the shoes of these rich men and women and then predict how happy we would be; what we would do with all that money and how carefree our lives would be with the wealth. We are the crazy ones to believe that life would be that simple. Not that I am outpouring with sympathy, but just imagine being 20 years old and rich? Do you recall how many silly things you did at 20 when you were broke? Imagine adding a couple of million to that situation? When you can afford to do more expensive stupid things.

The pressure of having to satisfy family members, friends with sob stories and their hands out (and it's always a loan, never a gift until the money is exchanged) and then have to perform professionally can sometimes be too much to bear for our young men and women. Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West was one of those brothers who was considered "issued" or a "little crazy" and eventually sought help for depression.

We assume that money will erase some of the physical and emotional abuse these young athletes have endured. We assume that money will compensate for a lack of a father in a home or a mother who may have worked so hard, she allowed her children to raise themselves. Twitter and Youtube has allowed athletes to seek even more attention but honestly many of these impromptu reality shows (i.e. Stephon Marbury) are cries for help, cries for someone to pay them attention -- positive attention. Not the type of attention that money attracts, not women who would do anything for a night or buddies who will be down when the cash is flowing, but simple friendship.

And we wonder why athletes equip themselves with weapons in public, pursue eccentric interests such as collecting swords and guns or littering their bodies with excessive tattoos. In their own unique and guarded way, they are seeking attention and comfort.

These athletes lack guidance, lack friends, lack role models and lack the mental capacity to realize they have a problem. So they keep going, hoping money, women and allure will cure their mental ills. And it doesn't. So cut Beasley a break when he exits rehab because thankfully he acknowledged his problem and is addressing it. Too many people don't take mental health seriously, and that is crazy.