Former NBA player Royce White—along with supporters in the mental health and medical field—petition the NBA to reform its mental health policy and better support the players.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week’s Good Men Project Sports interview with former NBA player, Royce White, chronicled his efforts to advance the conversation on mental health, to destigmatize mental health and to ensure that organizations and society work on providing the resources to address mental health as a component of overall health for everyone. In furtherance of Royce and his organization, Anxious Minds, and with the goal of bringing this important conversation on mental health to the fore, last week, Royce—along with Benjamin F. Miller PsyD, Marc Shulman, MD, Bernard J. Vittone, MD, Mary Wilkens, MD—wrote to Commissioner Adam Silver with a call to action, asking that the NBA do more to take steps to address the topic, that they take a stand and usher in a new movement on dealing with mental health. We are honored Royce has elected to share that letter in full with The Good Men Project.
Dear NBA, NBPA, and all affiliates,
Mental health is a part of health.1,2 While irrefutable scientific evidence supports this statement, what remains problematic is achieving this goal in practice.3,4 For decades, mental health has been separated in how we deliver care, pay for care, design benefits, and train our healthcare workforce.5,6 It has been set aside as something that only impacts a few people across the country. We, as a society, could not have been more wrong.
Consider the prevalence of mental health.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental health conditions in a given year7 and that 46 percent of adults will experience a mental health or substance use condition at some point in their lifetime.8 Taking into account the adult U.S. population, approximately 43.8 million people may have some type of mental health need this year.7 Sixty-seven percent of adults with a behavioral health condition do not get behavioral health treatment.9
Our inability to address mental health is costing us and our athletes.
Medical costs for treating athletes with chronic medical and comorbid mental health/ substance use disorder conditions can be 2-3 times higher than for those individuals without comorbid mental health and substance use conditions (please note that in our field, substance abuse has long been seen as symbiotic with the mental health conversation).12,13 One report indicates that the increased healthcare costs associated with individuals who have a mental health or substance use diagnosis are estimated to be $293 billion in 2012 across the commercially and publicly insured.14 And these individuals’ costs are attributed to medical services more so than behavioral, which allows for a robust opportunity for cost savings when care is better integrated.
This letter is a call to action.
If we see the systemic inadequacy, and we are to begin to change how people receive mental health care, shouldn’t we examine our policies, making sure they are in support of better access to quality mental health care for athletes? We all have our own stories. Each of these stories, separate from each other, have power. However, when we combine these stories, we have the benefit of seeing collective impact— the stories highlight the inevitability of an uprising— a movement. That’s what we will be leading…a movement.
This letter is to support that movement.
Years ago, the National Basketball Association helped usher in a new movement. Before, basketball was a game played on almost every street corner; it was a niche sport that received little attention. It was something only known by a few. The League changed this. The League started a movement. This effort is not that dissimilar to mental health. The only difference is that we have not paid attention to mental health in the same way we did to furthering the game. All movements require organization and leadership. We hope that the NBA sees the importance of furthering a movement that impacts the future of the game, and joins in to help us advance the performance of our athletes on and off court through mental health.
Isn’t it time for us all to come together in service to a greater cause? Isn’t it time for transformation? Mental health is truly an everyday facet of life for all Americans whether it impacts us directly or indirectly. Why not embrace this cause and begin to help those athletes who could benefit? Why not address the importance of action and prevention with all athletes, around mental health? Why not lead by example with our players? Many of us in the mental health community, have dedicated our lives to making accurate information and quality support accessible. Any action or inaction that is not a conduit for support is a disappointment and regression of the work that has been done. We insist on aiding the development of a comprehensive care initiative with the National Basketball Association. An initiative that is supportive, efficient, enhances the longevity of performance and even profitable. An initiative that exemplifies the integration of mental health at all levels, within all benefits, and for all athletes.
Now is the time for mental health to be adequately addressed and seen as an essential benefit.
Now is the time for the NBA to take a stand on this topic and help usher in a new movement. Now is the time for action.
Photo credit: Getty Images
- deGruy F. Mental health care in the primary care setting. In: Donaldson MS, Yordy KD, Lohr KN, Vanselow NA, eds. Primary Care: America’s Health in a New Era. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Medicine; 1996.
- Institute of Medicine. Committee on Crossing the Quality Chasm: Adaptation to Mental Health and Addictive Disorders. National Academy of Sciences;2006.
- Miller BF. When Frontline Practice Innovations Are Ahead of the Health Policy Community: The Example of Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2015;28(Supplement 1):S98-S101.
- Stange KC. The Problem of Fragmentation and the Need for Integrative Solutions. The Annals of Family Medicine. 2009;7(2):100-103.
- Blount A, ed Integrated primary care: The future of medical and mental health collaboration. New York: Norton; 1998.
- Blount A. Integrated Primary Care: Organizing the Evidence. Families, Systems, & Health Vol 21(2) Sum 2003, 121-133. 2003.
- National Alliance of Mental Health. Mental Health By The Numbers. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers – sthash.VBr4kIfM.dpuf. Accessed March 17, 2016.
- Kessler RC, Demler O, Frank RG, et al. Prevalence and Treatment of Mental Disorders, 1990 to 2003. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(24):2515-2523.
- Kessler RC, Wang PS. The Descriptive Epidemiology of Commonly Occurring Mental Disorders in the United States. Annual Review of Public Health. 2008;29(1):115-129.
- Loeppke R, Taitel M, Haufle V, Parry T, Kessler RC, Jinnett K. Health and productivity as a business strategy: a multiemployer study. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2009;51(4):411-28.
- Katon WJ, Lin EH, Von Korff M, Ciechanowski P, Ludman EJ, Young B, et al. Collaborative care for patients with depression and chronic illnesses. The New England journal of medicine. 2010;363(27):2611-20.
- Melek S, Norris D. Chronic conditions and comorbid psychological disorders. Milliman 2008.
- Petterson S, Phillips B, Bazemore A, Dodoo M, Zhang X, Green LA. Why there must be room for mental health in the medical home. American Family Physician. 2008;77(6):757.
- Melek SP, Norris DT, Paulus J. Economic Impact of Integrated MedicalBehavioral Healthcare: Implications for Psychiatry 2015; http://www. psychiatry.org/File Library/Psychiatrists/Practice/Professional-Topics/ Integrated-Care/Milliman-Report-Economic-Impact-IntegratedImplications-Psychiatry.pdf Accessed March 1, 2016.