Former Timberwolf Kevin Love dunks on mental health stigmas

Composing powerful details about an early season panic attack on The Players Tribune, former Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love shared his battle with a recently discovered mental illness. 

Love’s essay quickly circulated across social media Tuesday morning and earned him nods from mental health experts across the country.

The account is one local industry professionals also say breaks down walls of misunderstandings and misconceptions around mental illness.

“It’s so important for people from all walks of life to share that they have a mental illness, so that you can really see it happens to everyone,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of National Alliance of Mental Illness Minnesota.

Love, now a Cleveland Cavaliers power forward, was inspired by Raptors star Demar DeRozan who recently publicly shared his battle with depression. In a show of force against the social pressures all men face Love, too, decided to speak out publicly. 

The hope? To promote mental health awareness and a better social environment for those impacted by the issue.

“I think it will actually really help men realize that you can be strong, athletic, and powerful and still develop a mental illness,” said Abderholden. “That is going to be, that’s going to help a lot of young men in particular."

Love’s expose detailed everything from symptoms, a need for closure after unexpectedly losing his grandmother and the shame he battled after the panic attack. He felt haunted by the incident, even though he swiftly recovered and no one knew exactly why he left the game against Atlanta on November 5.

"This was new territory for me, and it was pretty confusing," Love wrote. "But I was certain about one thing: I couldn’t bury what had happened and try to move forward. As much as part of me wanted to, I couldn’t allow myself to dismiss the panic attack and everything underneath it. I didn’t want to have to deal with everything sometime in the future, when it might be worse. I knew that much. So I did one seemingly little thing that turned out to be a big thing. The Cavs helped me find a therapist, and I set up an appointment."

“This just one more example of the willingness to kind of go above and beyond and say not only am I going to work on my physical engine, I’m going to work on my mental one as well,” said Dr. Erin Ayala, Premier Sport Psychology, PLLC.

Dr. Erin Ayala affirms Love's show of strength was a risk, but one that inspires change in the way we all frame mental illness.

“Athletes in general are taught to step outside of their comfort zone in order to get better and reach their peak performance and this is another act of doing that,” said Ayala.

Love’s allowing himself to be vulnerable is a source of inspiration to many. Not even 24 hours after he shared the essay on his Twitter page, the article had been retweeted more than 33,000 times and liked more than 80,000 times.

“I want to make it clear that I don’t have things figured out about all of this," Love wrote. "I’m just starting to do the hard work of getting to know myself. For 29 years, I avoided that. Now, I’m trying to be truthful with myself. I’m trying to be good to the people in my life. I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly."

Talking openly about mental illness is just the first of nine ways NAMI says we all can fight mental health stigmas. To learn more about how you can do the same click here.