BOSTON – When I first started getting into Australian rules football, one of the things that struck me the most was how the sport treated mental health and mental illnesses among its players. Many athletes were encouraged to take leaves of absence or even retire in the instances that they experienced problems with their own mental well-being. When this would occur, the entire league, let alone their teammates and coaches, would stand behind them and it really felt like the sport was doing a lot to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health down under.
Now, these attitudes will hopefully begin to take a stronger footing in the United States, as well. If it does, it will be thanks in large part to the actions of the most progressive of the four main professional sports leagues in the U.S.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is moving forward with the new establishment of expanded rules, policies, and procedures for mental health in the league ahead of the 2019-20 season.
The league has had very limited and minimal assistance available for players, coaches, and more who were struggling with mental health throughout the NBA in the past, but they seemed to take a "well, at least we have something" approach to the issue. During the 2018-19 season, however, the issue rose to prominence thanks to players like Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, and Keyon Dooling coming forward and speaking and writing openly about their own struggles with mental health. Six months ago, Adam Silver iterated his commitment to pursuing mental health assistance further to reporters.
As for the league's changes going forward, which will affect all teams, including the Boston Celtics, they are mandating the hiring of a psychiatrist and a mental health professional for each team. Additionally, each team has to come up with a plan for dealing with mental health emergencies, as well as attending a mental health seminar in September.
This is an excellent step forward and, hopefully, more leagues follow in the footsteps of the NBA.