The NBA has done more than any of the three other major sports leagues to address the mental health issues of its athletes, and now they may be poised to do even more.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is reportedly bulking up its mental health guidelines for the upcoming season. The Athletic obtained a memo that details a number of initiatives and changes that all teams will have to follow for the 2019-2020 season. 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.
These are the latest steps in what has been a years-long progression for the NBA. They started in 2015 by making a clinical psychologist available to speak to teams and staff. They retained the help of a mental health foundation to advise them on mental health issues in 2017. And the NBA released its first set of mental health guidelines for teams just last year.
But none of this would have been possible without players like Kevin Love, Royce White, and DeMar DeRozan breaking the taboo and speaking publicly about their mental health issues. Their bravery is a major reason why the NBA is continuing to make the mental health of its athletes a priority. Making these directives league-wide means that no team will have the option to lag behind — every player on every team will have access to these services, so they can get the support and help that they need.