Kevin Love wants you to talk about your feelings. He means it, too: The basketball star became a mental health advocate overnight when he published a piece about having an anxiety attack for The Player’s Tribune in March. That wasn’t a one-off for Love; he’s making mental health part of his career now.
Love partnered with Schick Hydro to launch a short video series called “Locker Room Talk,” where Love interviews other athletes (Michael Phelps, Channing Frye, and Paul Pierce) about the mental health and wellness-related issues they faced during their careers. The series was part of the brand’s “Man I Am” campaign, an endeavor to start addressing masculinity and men’s physical and mental health. It’s all in the name of raising awareness: through Thursday, the brands are accepting donations for the Movember Foundation and the mental health-focused Kevin Love Fund.
We caught up with Love on mental health advocacy, redefining masculinity, and how he manages his own anxiety.
He’s taking the mental health conversation into his own hands.
“Locker Room Talk” is really an open forum to talk about all of these mental health and wellness things, and everyone had a different story to tell. It was really interesting to see guys from different walks of life—Channing Frye, Michael Phelps. Mental health and mental wellness affects each and every one of us. I think masculinity is a word that’s ever-evolving and I think that young men [will continue] to evolve it as we talk about it more. I think it’s really about knowing you who are and staying true to your morals and values and character. Being the kind of guy who always picking the harder right in any situation.
Starting with high-profile athletes drives the message home.
Athletes are sometimes looked at as superhuman. Like “Oh, look they can get hurt but they come back and they’re stronger than ever,” like the X-Men or something. I think it’s super positive, especially for young men, to look at these guys and instead say: “Oh, these guys have all gone through something that’s like what I’m feeling. Maybe it’s OK then for me to share what I’m going through.” Or, “If I see my friend struggling and he won’t share anything or he doesn’t see how he’s directly impacting other people—now I can look at him and say ‘OK, wow my friend, he’s going through something.'” I think whether it’s being able to help yourself at a younger age to better yourself for the future, or reach out and be able to help someone else is so important.
He believes mental health education should start in school.
When you’re growing up, especially in a school setting, I think it’s essential to have something at your disposal. We’re taught sex ed and physical education and we have health classes, but we’re never taught anything about mental health. I didn’t understand depression and what I was feeling from a young age. I didn’t understand the anxiety, and I was always wondering why I felt this way. I’m supposed to be a man and tuck away my feelings and not ever cry or expose myself to being vulnerable around my friends or anybody because of how they’re going to look at me. I think if I would’ve figured it out sooner, I may have had a better handle on it. That’s what the Kevin Love Foundation is trying to find out: How can we impact the younger generation in a positive way? There are so many ways that things of this nature can be implemented for the next generation so that they can just be better people in every walk of life and in every way of life.
Gun violence is highlighting the conversation.
It seems like it’s every other month or every other week that something is happening related to guns or school shootings. That conversation is transcending every demographic. That’s a massive indicator of me wanting to and thinking timing is everything. I shared the story right around Parkland. That connection is very much on my mind. Maybe if that person had had help, they might have—and I’m not saying they wouldn’t have done it—but maybe if they had someone to go to and hear what they were going through, you just never know. They were suffering silently, and maybe they didn’t have any other way to deal with it. I know there are some exceptions to the rule and some people do just want to watch the world burn. But I think there’s also some people that can be helped. I truly believe that.
He’s always working on managing his own anxiety.
Luckily, I’ve always had basketball at my disposal to shift that energy, whether it was negative or stressful energy. So I used it in a positive way. But when I was away from the court, the anxiety manifested in rage fits. I didn’t understand what I was dealing with, and it just got to be too much. Now, things like taking care of my body, like getting a massage, or meditation [help me cope]. If my body feels good, I feel good. If I want to confront the anxiety, sitting and talking to my therapist makes me deal with it. If I want to take my mind off of it, I like listening to podcasts—Crime Town, S-Town, Serial. Or, I like watching Game of Thrones or Parts Unknown. Working on myself and staying creative has served as a form of escapism for me. For anxiety, you can never stop working on it.
He wants this to be a major part of his work now.
This can be phased into everything I do from here on out. I think the reach and the social platform we have as athletes now can be used in such a great way. Even thinking about LeBron, who created the I Promise School in Akron; he’s essentially the first athlete to do that sort of thing. It set the train in motion for so many different guys around the NBA and different sports to create these academies and schools and potential classes at different universities and high schools and maybe even before that. That’s a beautiful thing.
He’s still figuring it out himself.
I think what’s important is to be fearless in how you live your life, without any prejudice. That’s a pretty heavy statement, but that’s really how I’ve tried to live my life. Just relentlessly pursuing fearlessness. I pride myself on being a very accepting and inclusive person. I don’t like anything where people are trying to separate others. One thing I’ve learned in the past year especially is that I don’t know anything. I don’t know the answers. I’m just trying to find the best way to be who I am and maybe help others figure it out for them, too.