There were more than 320 children in Kevin Love’s 2007 Lake Oswego, Oregon High School graduating class. He estimates the school had about one counselor for every 70 students. The five-time NBA All-Star believes his counselor has supervised too many children to truly understand his depression and anxiety, let alone adequately help him through those feelings. So Love, now 34, came to understand this dynamic, of having to go “in the hall” at school to talk about mental illness and vulnerability, as flawed, at best.
“I was someone who learned sex education, physical education, but we never really talked about what goes on between the ears and why we can have these kinds of feelings even at the age kindergarten or beyond,” he says.
On Sept. 14, through the Kevin Love Fund, the Cavaliers stalwart officially announced a national expansion of the free mental health program he’s been piloting with teens in schools and after-school programs for the past two years. Created in collaboration with educators and experts, it is a social-emotional learning program of over a dozen lessons designed to introduce students to the concepts of being vulnerable and asking for help. help, as well as de-stigmatize their own emotions.
To start, the Fund focused on high school students, with nearly 10,000 in 250 curricular and extracurricular programs in 37 states having recently graduated or started the program. Love and his team of educators plan to expand into middle schools and colleges, training teachers to relay lessons, which include student expression in mediums such as photography, creative writing and music. .
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through high school, middle school, or college right now, even during the pandemic or post-pandemic in the age of social media and organized social platforms,” says Love. “Just pressure to get into a big university or advance in any way, academically, through sports, or through the arts.”
Love has been open about his own mental illness since describing his on-court panic attack in a groundbreaking event in 2018 players’ stand writing. Around the same time, Raptors star DeMar DeRozan opened up about his own depression, and together they and others renewed the dialogue about how the NBA and sports in general deal with mental illness.
“My team and I always say that mental illness is one of the biggest robbers of human potential, but it certainly doesn’t have to be,” Love says. “Just all of us coming together and understanding the outpouring of support I’ve received after this public panic attack, we’ve had the chance to do something really special and by figuring out where we can have the biggest impact, we’ve kept going back to those teenage years.
Interspersed with in-person teachings by the students’ teachers, video clips of Love, Suns point guard Chris Paul and some faces outside of basketball, including acclaimed actor Bryan Cranston. Love hopes the skills they impart to students will lead them to practice empathy not only with themselves and their peers, but also outside of the classroom with families, sports teams and communities at large.
Working on mental health, for Love, is an ongoing process, which he continues in 2022-2023. “Always before the start of the season, it’s quite stressful,” he said. “It’s always like preparing for an exam before returning to your respective city and where you play.”
Prior to this season, Cleveland reorganized by trading for three-time All-Star jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. “We actually share a birthday, so another Virgo is always welcome,” Love jokes. “Any time you have a superstar like Donovan, I think it just catapults you in the right direction and puts you on a different level of contention within the NBA. I think we have the makings of a very good team.
As a veteran entering his 15th season, Love says he is his toughest critic. Overall, he tries to simplify his life: he aims to manage his mental illness by going to therapy, sticking to his diet and sleep schedule, and exercising even on his days off.
“I [try to] keeps reminding me why I love the game and why I still have that hunger for youth that I always had,” he says.
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