DeMar DeRozan is Inspiring Players to Speak out on Mental Health

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18: DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan took a brave step when deciding to speak about his mental health. Now his story is inspiring others to do the same.

When DeMar DeRozan tweeted during All-Star weekend that his depression was getting the better of him, the world was shocked.

This depression get the best of me...

— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) February 17, 2018

Just as people were grasping the thought of how a multi-million dollar athlete could be depressed, Kevin Love spoke out, as well. Recently, Kelly Oubre Jr. also opened up on a podcast about his struggles with depression.

Opening the Door for Athletes Mental Health

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: DeMar DeRozan

Seeing the fans' reactions, as well as other athletes opening up, made DeMar feel like he was doing something good.

“Man, the last week has been probably one of the most incredible things that, me personally, I've witnessed, period,”  DeMar said. “The response and everything I've got back from it was so positive … and it made me feel, you know, pretty damn good, honestly. So it's cool to be able to help somebody.”

Kevin had suffered a panic attack during a game after the pressure from his team, dealing with family issues was just too much. Love actually credited DeMar on his Players Tribune Mental Health essay as his inspiration.

"One of the reasons I wanted to write this comes from reading DeMar’s comments last week about depression." wrote Love "I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them"

Kelly Oubre Jr has been struggling to handle the pressure of living up to his team's expectations. Oubre never wanted to speak out on his mental health until DeRozan and Love opened up. After their stories hit close to home, Kelly started to open up.

"That s--- is serious," Oubre Jr. said. "I just go into a quiet place and breathe, man. Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression or anything like that."

The issue most athletes have with discussing mental health is, the fear they won't be taken seriously and the damage it will do to their image.  Somebody who doesn't have much may not understand how a wealthy athlete could be depressed. To some people, money can fix everything, but to others, it cannot.

Oubre Jr's father had told him to "never let anybody see you weak". Speaking out about mental health regardless of gender is hard enough. Sometimes this can be compounded by fear of hurting ones' masculinity. It's not manly to get hurt and cry to our society, and at times this makes it harder for male athletes to speak up.

“Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act,” Love wrote. “You learn what it takes to ‘be a man.’ It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own."

DeMar, Kelly, and Kevin all described themselves as quiet, not willing to open up or share their struggles. How many others could be struggling and are still holding on to the idea that dealing with it alone makes them stronger?

At the end of the day, regardless of their job title, gender and wealth, everyone is still human.

"I feel like people who are on the outside looking in don't really understand because they see us as superheroes, but we're normal people, man." said Kelly. "We go through the issues that normal people go through times 10."

Thank you, DeMar.

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TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 7: DeMar DeRozan

By using his platform to talk about his depression, to open up and send a message that athletes aren't invincible DeMar has started a wave. The Toronto star is inspiring athletes to speak out on their mental health, starting with Love and Oubre Jr.

DeRozan is starting to become an icon for athlete's Mental Health. Just by opening up, DeMar has helped more people than he'll ever know.

"Just by sharing what he shared, DeMar probably helped some people," Kevin wrote "Maybe a lot more people than we know — feel like they aren’t crazy or weird to be struggling with depression. His comments helped take some power away from that stigma, and I think that’s where the hope is."

When it comes to basketball, the city of Toronto has his back. When it comes to Mental Health, the whole world seems to have DeRozan's back. It may take time for the people who don't understand to grasp the idea that athletes are still human, but DeMar's happy with what he's started.

“That was my whole intent of me speaking out." said DeRozan "I understand it's hard to step up and do a thing like that, so if I had to be the sacrificial lamb to open up that gate to make everybody else feel comfortable, and share their story, and help the next person, that's what it's all about.”

Man, love and respect for opening that door for me. You’ve helped more people than you know!! https://t.co/cFjTsUHbIx

— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) March 7, 2018

The Toronto Raptors are in good hands having a leader who isn't afraid of speaking up like DeMar DeRozan.