DeMar DeRozan’s Transparency About Depression Destroys Stigma Around Athletes [Opinion]

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Toronto Raptors’ shooting guard DeMar DeRozan recently opened up about a subject that is not easy to express. When it comes to sports, though, it is perhaps at another level as far as it not being in the crockpot of discussion. On Sunday, DeRozan revealed that he grapples with depression.

DeRozan talked about his off the court struggles with the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith. Even supposing his All-Star pedigree, he does not always feel like he sits at the top of the world.

“I always have various nights,” he said in a wide-ranging and wildly open glimpse into his private life. “I’ve always been like that since I was young, but I think that’s where my demeanour comes from.

“I’m so quiet, if you don’t know me. I stay standoffish in a sense, in my own personal space, to be able to cope with whatever it is you’ve got to cope with.”

At the bare minimum, DeRozan’s transparency shows that athletes are just as prone to the blues as everyday people are. Additionally, it proves that pain can extend far beyond what is physical in nature. Not every ounce of pain is always tangible in scope.

In a recent piece written on NBA.com, it was admitted that it is easier to focus on extrinsic discomfort. In fact, it is exemplified that physical injuries are an area society is more “comfortable” with.

This is partly why DeRozan’s brutal honesty is so crucial to mull over. Oftentimes, stepping outside of a certain degree of comfort seems impossible. In cases like this, however, it requires far more than just being uncomfortable for a brief moment. Rather, it demands extreme courage.

During NBA All-Star weekend, the Raptors’ cornerstone player took that leap of faith. DeRozan, 28, let it be known on his Twitter account that his battles with depression are real.

The social media message exhibits that depression can be consuming. Moreover, it destroys the negative onus that tends to encircle athletes.

Doug Smith brought this up in the same piece he wrote on Sunday.

“They appear to be invincible, professional athletes do, with so much money, so much fame, so many people to help with everything — a first-class life, everything taken care of.”

The key word here is “appear.” Sure, the California native is famous and has a lot of Benjamins in his wallet. Be that as it may, that is an extremely narrow perception of DeMar.

He has a mind like the rest of us, and, suffice to say, his mind is not always unclouded.

Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report is another writer who took note of DeRozan’s story. Conway reproduced more of the athlete’s thoughts on the sensitive issue, which suggest that everyone is not bulletproof.

“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” DeRozan told Smith. “We all got feelings…all of that. Sometimes…it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”

DeRozan’s candidness about his depression and anxiety counteracts society’s blindness. Anyone is susceptible to mental insecurities regardless of his or her status. Labels like “NBA player” are not the most important thing when all is said and done.

DeMar DeRozan Looks Disappointed
Featured image credit: Vaughn Ridley Getty Images

Dave Zarum of Sportsnet recently shed light on why DeRozan may not be in the best spirits. Despite the shooting guard’s on the court success, things are not the best otherwise.

“While DeRozan is experiencing his best and most successful NBA season, it’s been a trying year off the court. He and long-time fiancee Kiara, the mother of his children whom he had been with since his lone season at USC in 2008, split up. Throughout this season he’s been flying back and forth from L.A. to Toronto (or wherever the Raptors are playing) while visiting his father, Frank, who is battling, among other health issues, a kidney condition.”

Factors along these lines reveal, indeed, that DeMar is human like the rest of us. Albeit pro athletes are generally put into a category of their own, they still possess emotions and endure scars.

In the wake of his original tweet, DeRozan did not probably know what to expect. Yet what followed was nothing short of spectacular. The prolific scorer received a ton of love from fans. Certainly, it would have been easy to question DeRozan’s remark, but the support demonstrates that DeRozan is not by himself.

The athlete understands this truth very much so. Stanley Kay of SI recently transcribed the Toronto player’s realization that this could happen to anyone.

“This is real stuff,” DeRozan told the Star.

“We’re all human at the end of the day. That’s why I look at every person I encounter the same way. I don’t care who you are. You can be the smallest person off the street or you could be the biggest person in the world, I’m going to treat everybody the same, with respect.”

The Raptor possesses this attitude on account of his upbringing. Not everything was peachy for him as a youngster. Growing up in Compton, temptation was constantly around the young man.

He explains that, alas, many people he knew gave into those temptations. Tom Schad of USA Today elaborates on this in further detail. In Schad’s article, he brings up that a lot of DeRozan’s friends turned to drinking to get rid of the doldrums. In the process, these decisions often led to them basically throwing away their potential.

Thankfully, in DeRozan’s case, his coping mechanism is the game of basketball. While it is always tempting to take the easy route, the fact he is maximizing his athletic talents makes him admirable in an era that favors the former.

Granted he is using his time wisely, it does not obviously take away his off the court issues. Stretching back to his childhood, he has experienced some incredibly hairy moments.

At the same time, the 28-year-old recognizes that many go through rough patches. His grasp on this truth adds to the significance of his transparency. In his interview with Smith, he shares that reasons like this make it easier to not feel embarrassed due to the stigma that gets attached to depression.

“It’s not nothing I’m against or ashamed of. Now, at my age, I understand how many people go through it. Even if it’s just somebody can look at it like, ‘He goes through it and he’s still out there being successful and doing this,’ I’m OK with that.”

These comments validate an earlier point made by the All-Star ballplayer. Because of our humanity, any single individual is prone to go through battles. It is inevitable. Therefore, respecting others is of the utmost importance.

That being said, DeRozan’s valiance in acknowledging his depression serves as a two-fold challenge to us all. First off, it conveys the significance of bearing in mind the golden rule. In conjunction with this, DeRozan’s vulnerability implies that if we, too, are struggling, it never hurts to tell. Never.