Matt Barnes explains importance of getting proper mental health care – NBC Sports


Matt Barnes knows just how important properly dealing with one’s mental health is. 
During “Kings Pregame Live” before Sacramento faced off against the Miami Heat on Wednesday at FTX Arena, the former Kings forward explained how he has seen the mental health conversation in the NBA change over time. 
“I think it’s so much better now, but I think it took stars coming out and speaking on their mental health,” Barnes told Morgan Ragan. “I credit DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love, Paul George because, as Henry Turner mentioned in that little piece, that it’s asking for help for something that, in the past, was shown as a sign of weakness.”
Back in February 2018, DeRozan — then playing for the Toronto Raptors — spoke out about his experiences dealing with anxiety and depression.
Then in March of the same year, Love explained in “The Players’ Tribune” how he had a panic attack against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 5, 2017, and since has been a mental health advocate. 
What’s more, the late Kobe Bryant spoke in 2018 on the importance of elite athletes addressing their mental health, calling it “awareness,” and was appreciative that DeRozan and Love publicly shared their experiences. 
Bryant continued to say that the most important thing for an athlete to do is to recognize their own mental health and how to properly approach it to avoid feelings from “festering” and manifesting in different forms. 
Additionally, George, the Los Angeles Clippers star, shared in 2021 that he suffered from anxiety and depression while in the NBA Bubble during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
The 32-year-old since has given away $3 million in free therapy to help break the stigma of mental health, especially among Black men. 
Barnes added that as an NBA player, the last thing he wanted to do was to show weakness, as his peers and competitors are the best at what they do and will do anything to find an advantage. 
Nevertheless, Barnes explained that mental health discourse around the NBA has evolved exponentially. 
“I think we’ve come such a long way, not only in the NBA community but just overall, understanding how important mental health is,” Barnes continued. 
He also told Ragan that, at 42, he is going to counseling and recognizes how talking to a mental health professional has improved his quality of life. He also applauded the league for prioritizing the advancement of that conversation.
Barnes said that while the general population perceives NBA players to live happy, comfortable lives because they are getting paid millions to play basketball, sometimes that is not the case. 
“We deal with a lot of stuff and because we are paid so much, they expect us to be superhuman at times,” Barnes said. “Everybody needs an outlet, and I’m glad that there’s a lot of resources now, not just for NBA people, but people in general because mental health is a serious issue in our country.”
For context, 21 percent of U.S. adults experienced mental illness, with anxiety disorders being the most prevalent (19 percent) in 2020, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness
Moreover, only 37.4 percent of men sought help for their mental distress, compared to 51.2 percent of women during that same time span.  
Although the discourse around mental health is becoming more accepted in society, it’s clear that the conversation still has a way to go to be recognized on the same level as physical health. 
Regardless, Barnes and the rest of the NBA are doing their part in showcasing just how integral mental health is to truly living a healthy life. 


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