Taking a closer look at Ron Artest’s ongoing fight against stigma

by Cody Dolan on May 13, 2011 · 3 comments

in stigma

NBA star and mental health advocate Ron Artest

When we last left Ron Artest, he was pledging to give “all or some” of his 2010-11 NBA salary to mental health charities. While we won’t know what exactly that means for another six weeks, that doesn’t mean Artest hasn’t been busy raising awareness for mental illness.

CNN.com posted a video interview with Artest all about his efforts to help people, particularly young people, get access to the counseling so many of them need. Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s short interview with Artest shows the NBA star speaking at a school about mental illness and features pointed questions about Artest’s troubled early life and career. Artest speaks candidly about seeking therapy, and says he’s not the same person he was seven years ago when he famously started a brawl in Detroit after a fan threw a drink at him.

The interview is worth your time of course, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down at the end. Artest claims to be an example of how much good therapy can do, but he sidesteps a question about his diagnosis (around the 1:15 mark). I noted a bit of defensiveness in his voice, and in the stammering, rushed way he answers the question.

Artest will only cop to “anger management issues,” and it’s here he lets down many of those looking for him to set a real example. For one, anger is a symptom of a few mental illnesses. I’m not a doctor, but off the top of my head I know borderline personality disorder can cause uncontrollable anger. A rudimentary Google search led me to this article, which lists anger as a symptom of bipolar disorder and depression. Are we really to believe that Artest’s therapist, whom he’s been seeing for at least a year now, hasn’t diagnosed him?

I still admire Artest for what he’s trying to do and for being so open about his experience with counseling, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. If he really wants to be an example for others struggling with mental illness, if he really wants to champion the benefits of therapy, he shouldn’t avoid questions about his own condition. Without that honesty, Artest perpetuates the stigma he’s trying so hard to help others overcome.

Am I being too hard on the man? Let us know what you think.

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