Dr. William Parham is being drafted as the NBA Players Association’s inaugural director of mental health, bringing the legendary union of athletes a leap further towards fighting mental health stigma in sports.
The announcement to bring on Parham came from Michelle Roberts, executive chairman of the NBPA, who took note of the ever-increasing need to address mental health issues among basketball players in the NBA, arguably the most prestigious and competitive basketball league in the world.
“We have heard our players’ stories and are making mental health a priority now by bringing in Dr. Parham. His many years of expertise and knowledge of the game allow him to make an impact in this new role right away,” Roberts said, according to the NBPA website.
Parham, a psychologist at Loyola Marymount University, is an experienced counselor who has worked with athletes over the decades. One of his first duties with the NBPA is to establish a headquarters in Los Angeles with the union’s resident wellness counselor, Keyon Dooling.
“I am humbled and feel honored to assume the helm as the inaugural Director of the NBPA Mental Health and Wellness Program. Developing and sustaining the preeminent mental health and wellness program in professional sports is an absolute top priority. I look forward to collaborating with relevant stakeholders as we create safe spaces for players to learn best practices for achieving and maintaining optimal mental health and wellness,” Parham says of his appointment.
The NBPA hiring a director of mental health is a step in the right direction as more and more athletes within the sport are beginning to come out with their struggles with mental health issues. DeMar DeRozan, in February this year, opened up about his personal struggles with depression.
“My mom always told me: Never make fun of anybody because you never know what that person is going through. Ever since I was a kid, I never did. I never did. I don’t care what shape, form, ethnicity, nothing. I treat everybody the same. You never know,” the Toronto Raptors player told the Toronto Star, reflecting on the the hidden nature of mental illness.
Another prominent player, Kevin Love, revealed his own struggles with depression in March, according to an essay he wrote for the Players’ Tribune.
“Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up,” wrote Love, recalling his difficulties coping with his depression as a professional athlete.
Echoing DeRozan’s sentiments, Love further wrote, “I want to end with something I’m trying to remind myself about these days: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.”