On Wednesday the Big3 held its annual draft in Las Vegas. The overall number one pick was Royce White, a former first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. White was very open about his Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at the time and advocated for a more robust mental health policy in the NBA. Ultimately, White only played three games in the NBA. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a good time for us to talk about Black Mental Health.
White was the 2009 Minnesota Mr. Basketball and a two-time Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) championship team member. He was a Class 3A MSHSL champion his freshman year and a Class 4A MSHSL champion as a senior. That year he led his school to a perfect 31-0 record. All the ingredients were there for success, on the court. But ultimately White never felt comfortable with the NBA’s mental health policy or lack thereof. He was concerned that the league didn’t have proper supports in place and therefore, opted to stay away.
The NBA has made strides in the area of mental health since then but as a culture, we have a long way to go. According to Dr. Sarah Vinson, Founder of Ourselves Black Magazine, 70 percent of children in the juvenile justice system have a mental health issue. Disproportionately these children are Black and sadly, most do not receive any treatment until they’re in the system. Pause and let that sink in. For Black people mental health isn’t simply a matter of “feeling good” or positive vibes but indeed, an issue of criminal justice and equity.
Royce White is a positive story. He is an individual that had enough support and talent to make good. Further, because of the Big3 — a league brought about by a Black entrepreneur — White has new life. But how many others are left to navigate the choppy waters of mental illness without support? There are great people like Dr. Sarah Vinson and Ourselves Black doing the work of advocacy, awareness and redirection but we need many others. Health is wealth and it’s not just physical.