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Ron Artest and Mental Illness November 4, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.

I realize that Ron Artest, the champion-winning basketball player, might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  Known for his violent outbursts on the court, he’s not exactly idolized by many basketball fans. Written off as a lunatic during most of his career, nobody really knew how true that was except him and his eight psychiatrists though the years. But in his latest nationally televised interview right after winning the NBA 2010 Championship, he did two remarkable things.

The firs amazing thing he did was to publicly thank his psychiatrist, Dr. Santhi Periasamy , during his post-game interview on national t.v., crediting her with helping Artest get his head straightened out enough to allow him to focus on the game rather than the symptoms of his illness.  See his interview at http://www.nesn.com/2010/10/ron-artest-to-go-through-with-promise-raffling-off-championship-ring-for-mental-health-charities.html

Although Artest hasn’t been diagnosed with a particular mental illness, I suspect he has Bipolar Disorder based on the type of very public outbursts he has had through the years. Showing up for an interview in his boxers, showing up for practice in his bathrobe, and applying for a job at Circuit City so he could get a discount are only a few of the kookier things that Artest did.  What matters isn’t what disorder he has. What matters is that he went out in public and advertised the fact that he is mentally ill.

Putting his reputation at stake, Artest put his money where his mouth is in giving voice to his fear that a public admission of his illness puts him at risk for severe stigma. His admission makes it okay for others to seek help for their problems.

The second surprising thing he did had to do with his championship ring.  After his team’s championship of the NBA 2010 Finals, he declared that he is putting his ring up for public auction. He said he ordered a smaller ring than the size he wears so that he wasn’t tempted to wear the ring. He said the ring will never be worn by him. Instead, he is raffling the ring off, donating the proceeds to mental health organizations like NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness).

Raffle tickets are $2 each. The terms of purchase are that everyone buying a ticket must purchase at least five tickets each.

Taking place on Christmas day 2010 when the Lakers are scheduled to play the Miami Heat, the raffle will focus nationwide attention on the plight of those with a mental illness. We can come out of our dark closet just a little and be acknowledged as real people with a legitimate illness, rather than freaks.

His bravery is very much appreciated by all of us who are ashamed of our illness. Having him champion our cause means a lot to those of us suffering a similar plight. Having a celebrity of his magnitude riveting the nation’s attention on mental illness will make life easier for the rest of us.  With his bravery, some of us will also step out of the shadows, declaring our mental illness and showing those people around us who don’t know about our illness that people can live with their illness without disrupting society.  They’ll learn that those of us with very severe forms of mental illness can manage our symptoms well enough to go undetected. That we’re really not Hannibal Lecter incarnate. That we’re not going to sneak up on you and try to kill you.   They will learn that their friends, neighbors and co-workers and even professional basketball players all are represented in the group of people suffering from mental illness. Thank you, Ron Artest.