It would be incredibly dishonest for me to start an article about mental health and stigma without revealing something about myself.

It’s something that I never thought I would ever come to terms with in my own life and that I thought I would keep locked away forever.

I couldn’t tell anyone. People would use it to undermine my work as a political activist. What if I lost my job? What if everyone saw me in a different way? What if I spoke the words out loud and then I wound up becoming every stereotype that people would have about me once I said them?

These fears are why only quite literally a handful of people in my life have known about it up until now. Five people.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m writing this while as far away from everything I’ve ever known as I’m on holiday in Southeast Asia. Maybe it’s the fact that I just celebrated a birthday and I’m well into my thirties. Maybe it’s because I recently read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run in which he’s open about his own struggles with mental health (if The Boss can do it, so can I). Maybe it’s because one of my biggest heroes in terms of normalizing discussions about coping with mental illness – Carrie Fisher – recently passed away. Maybe it’s the fact that for the first time in my entire life I feel like I’m in front of this thing.

I don’t really care if people judge me anymore. I want to live an honest life and I wouldn’t be hiding in fear if I had any other condition. I don’t hide my vision problems. Why am I hiding this?

Here goes:

I struggle with my mental health.

Now that I’ve gotten that out there. I have a favour to ask of you. Don’t discuss it.

What I mean by that is don’t try to have a conversation about what I’ve just revealed to you over the comments section of this blog post or via whatever social media you’re reading this on, whether it’s Facebook or twitter.

Feel free to private message me. Feel free to e-mail me. Feel free to text me. Feel free to call me. Feel free to have coffee with me, to go for a walk or any other means that we can talk about coping with mental health that are meaningful and productive.

Reducing it to an online peanut gallery would really feel demeaning to me and isn’t really how I want the most personal, raw and real revelation I’ve ever made in my life to be treated. Generally those types of discussions don’t lead to anything productive anyway.

I also have another favour to ask you. Don’t tell me how brave I am. Number one it comes across as completely condescending as I don’t feel that I’m brave for living my daily life. Sure I have a complication that some people don’t deal with but so do a lot of people and we’re all managing as best as we can.

Second, if you tell me that I’m brave and courageous for sharing my sharing my struggles with my mental health with you, you’re completely negating the fact that I enjoy a high degree of privilege being a white, middle class male in Toronto. There is literally no group likely to have better outcomes when seeking treatment for mental illness due to the high degree of social capital they enjoy.

I have a great support system. A partner who is patient, kind, understanding and always there even when I’m being a total piece of shit. Friends who I can count on even if they don’t know how much I am counting on them sometimes. A flexible work environment and other things that most people don’t have access to.

You want to know about people who are brave? My clients at work.

I work with adults that have a dual diagnosis which means they have both a developmental disability and mental illness (insert blind leading the blind joke here). A lot of them are women, most of them are racialized and each and every one of them scrapes by to survive well below the poverty line.

Despite all that, they’re seeking help and trying to pull themselves out of a bad situation.

They’re the heroes. Not me. I have it easy next to them. Don’t forget that.

Bell Canada sure has.

I was going to get this online for Bell Let’s Talk day, but didn’t want it to get lost in the slew of thinkpieces and hot takes about mental illness and stigma that overwhelm the internet every year on that day.

Most importantly, I didn’t want to be a part of the extremely problematic exercise of limiting open and honest discussions about mental health just to one day. These conversations should be happening everyday.

For those of you who don’t live in Canada, Bell Let’s Talk is a day where Bell Canada raises money for mental health initiatives by donating to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) every time someone tweets out (or texts on a Bell phone) something containing #BellLetsTalk.

There is also a series of TV specials on Bell networks featuring borderline Canadian celebrities like Michael Landsberg, Howie Mandel, Mary Walsh, Clara Hughes and Serena Ryder. These people seem very genuine if extremely misguided.

All of these celebrities – it’s important to point out – are privileged white people with very successful entertainment – or in Hughes’ case athletic – careers. They are highly unlikely to be victimized by the stigma of mental health because of the places they occupy in society.

They are also wonderfully inoffensive people (unless you’re CM Punk or Chael Sonnen in Michael Landsberg’s case) who not only never will rock the boat in any fashion that will embarrass Bell but also dutifully and helpfully reinforce CAMH’s strict adherence to the medical model of mental illness.

For those who didn’t take intro psychology or disability studies, the medical model views various mental health conditions as illnesses to be treated and cured. We’re all guilty of using the term mental illness but we never ask ourselves why we describe it that way. It originates from a clinical perspective and the belief that only the medical community can properly manage and care for these conditions with medical interventions such as medications.

In the early days of the medical model of mental illness, it meant locking people away in asylums, forcing electroshock therapy, drilling into skulls and other horrors that we like to think we’ve moved past but I’ve seen what some of those meds do to people.

People with mental health issues are seen as sick and needing to be cured. Medication is often seen as the be all and end all. More often than not despite the consequences to the person’s physical well-being with associated weight gain, thyroid problems, heart damage, liver damage that often result from many of these medications.

Mental illness isn’t like cancer. A lot of people make that analogy and it’s really troubling. I mean it can have outcomes if you fall deep enough into a depression or something like that but for the most part you live with it. I don’t want to take meds that have body destroying side effects and numb my brain to the point where I don’t even feel like the same person anymore.

I’m not alone in that regard.

Now I am not one of the those who completely reject the role of medical science in treating mental health issues but I would also never completely rely on doctors and medication to help me manage my life.

I understand that some people feel that they have to make that choice and their lives have improved vastly because they have chosen to take their medication. I think that’s great. Times might arise in my life where I might need it, the future is unwritten, but for now I much prefer approaches that are much more holistic and don’t treat mental illness like it’s a quick fix a la a broken arm.

It’s impossible to come up with universal treatments for any particular condition because all of us are unique in our thoughts, feelings and selves. You can cast my arm if I break it in the same way that you can put a cast on anyone with the same break. Put someone on lithium and they might gain 80 pounds and get more depressed while someone else handles it really well.

In my view, biopsychosocial models of treatment are far superior. We are all more than just a our bodies and the grey matter between our ears. We deep actual individual thoughts and feelings and ways of dealing with the world. None of these thing exist separate from each other. You know that headache when you have a shitty day? The big rush you feel when you get that raise at work? Your mind and body are working as one.

The best way to get in front of mental illness, at least in my experience, is to take care of your complete self. Exercise, eat right and take care of your body. Go to that yoga class. Get on that bike. Make that kale salad.

If your body is doing okay, your mind will probably be too. I know even something simple like going to the gym can really be helpful in my experience. Beyond just the actual exercise, something simple like focusing on the repetitions, breathing right and counting can really take my mind off of things that are getting to me. Your mileage may vary but it’s worth a shot.

Nurture your mind as well. A lot of the worst bouts of depression weren’t necessarily triggered by singular events as much as they were by my inability to stop thinking about troubling and negative things. I do everything I can to get in front of them. I read a lot for pleasure. Books that can take me away from my current situation and help me focus on new and exciting things. I got into mindfulness exercises which involve just focusing on your immediate environment and meditation. Sometimes just sitting down in front of the couch and watching a basketball game and really just focusing on the play is the best medicine in the world for me.

Maintain those social relationships too. Sometimes you will get a text just when you need it to go grab a coffee or see a concert or something. Other times you will get it and not be up to doing it. Be as open and honest as you are comfortable being but don’t shut people out. Even if they don’t know what you’re going through. Not being alone is and being engaged with people who aren’t yourself can be really helpful.

Scheduling helps as well. Knowing what you need to get done every day and giving yourself time to do it is key. Having that visual of things you accomplished can also be a good boost when times are tough. Plus putting things in that day timer that you’re excited about (mine is full of upcoming concerts, wrestling shows and basketball games) can really help you hang in there.

These are just some of the ways you can get in front of the worst times.

I’m not “living with mental illness”, I’m living. We don’t feel the need to label everyone who has to limit their diet and take insulin as a poor soul “living with diabetes”. It’s part of their life and they manage it. Things happened and you do your best to work around it.

I can’t relate to the victim mentality that Bell Let’s Talk perpetuates at all. I can’t relate to stuff like “Sick Not Weak”. I’m not sick or weak. I just experience the world differently. Isn’t that everyone’s experience in some way, shape or form?

I look at the peer support communities that have sprung up around Toronto or the Mad Pride march that help people transcend labels like “mentally ill” and reclaim their lives and identities beyond them. A lot of the stories I’ve heard from members of these groups are people who view themselves as survivors of organizations like CAMH which historically engaged in some of the most damaging practices of the medical model of mental illness. They were pumped full of meds that changed their bodies and robbed them of themselves. Now they’re back and looking out for each other.

CAMH isn’t necessarily evil or anything. I have met some great people who work there and have moved past the militant adherence to the medical model that defined CAMH for so long. I also know people who have used CAMH’s services in their own recovery and journey through mental illness and have been very happy with the care they received.

But CAMH also isn’t the first place I would turn to if I wanted to give money to causes related to mental health. I would look into peer support programs and Mad Pride events long before I put it into an institution that exists partially as a monument to the medical model of mental illness.

Beyond the issues with CAMH and the medical model, there is also the issue of Bell itself.

Bell is a communications giant. They benefit tremendously from the free press the Bell Let’s Talk gives them. Literally nobody says a single word about mental health on this day without using their company name in a hashtag. That’s an advertising coup for them. You don’t need to have Noam Chomsky-like critical thinking skills to see what the benefits are to them.

My journey toward mental health is extremely personal and important to me. I don’t need a communications giant being a part of it and I don’t want my story to be part of their public relations campaign. Some folks might be comfortable with that but I am definitely not one of them.

There is also the painful reality that at the same time Bell does it’s Let’s Talk campaign, it is terminating employees who suffer from mental illness and denying them benefits.

I had an acquaintance share his story of Bell letting him go when he hit a low point in his battle with mental illness. He is not alone.

This is nothing more than PR for Bell. It’s why they use people closely associated with or employed by their company in the ads and it’s why they have zero regard for the mental health and well-being of their employees on any other day of the year.

Yesterday the company announced that it’s laying off 6000 employees. No word on what Bell is doing for their mental health.

Bell Let’s Talk has definitely made certain that I will never use Bell for any telecommunications service. Ever. (mea culpa: I still might go to Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Raptors games though. Sorry.)

To say that I, as a person who has confronted and lives with mental illness, don’t get anything out of Bell Let’s Talk is an understatement.

I don’t really for anything for the safe, inoffensive white folks who I see on the same recycled posters every January year after year.

Now I don’t think that looking up to a person who is successfully dealing managing a mental health condition. I don’t think it’s damaging if that person you look up to is famous. If one of the Bell Let’s Talk celebrities does it for you, all the power to you.

I have a mental health hero too. It definitely isn’t Howie Mandel.

Mine is the man known as Metta World Peace.

I like to say that he saved my life. He’ll never know it. But it happened.

It’s strange what we connect with.

I was still living in my hometown of Thunder Bay and a series of crushing life events had driven me into the deepest, darkest hole of depression and utter despair that I have ever been into in my entire life.

I couldn’t sleep and was zoned out in front of the television watching a Lakers-Suns game.

It was a thrilling game that went into triple overtime. Two of the greatest players ever put on an absolute spectacle. Kobe Bryant scored 42 points, 12 boards and finished just one assist short of a triple double. Steve Nash put up a double-double with a whopping 19 points and 20 assists. It was the first time the Lakers won a triple OT game since 1961.

It had everything you could ever want in a basketball game and more.

It was also the first time in almost two months that I cracked a smile and felt genuine emotion.

And then this happened.

Metta World Peace – then still known as Ron Artest – picked Steve Nash’s pocket took it down the court and threw down the fucking best hammer dunk I can ever remember.

Not because it was the best. Because it made stand up and cheer alone in my apartment at what was probably well past 1 AM given that it was a west coast game and was well into the third overtime.

Ron Artest brought me back from the brink. I felt like myself again. After roaring with approval for that jam at the top of my lungs (and I’m sure pissing off my neighbours), I broke down and cried.

Tears of joy. If you ever want to know why I love the game of basketball and the NBA like few things in my life, look no further than this story.

There was no more fitting catalyst for my return from the brink than Ron Artest/Metta World Peace. Not just because he was and continues to be one of my favourite basketball players of all time, but also because he is so open about his own struggles with his mental health and recovery.

Ron Artest was drafted 16th overall by the post-Michael Jordan rebuilding Chicago Bulls.

Almost immediately upon entering the league, he showed two things that made him a favourite of mine right from the start.

The first was a tenacity on the court and an intensity that would allow him to develop into not just one of the best defensive players in the entire league but also – at the peak of his career – one of the best all-around players in the NBA as well.

The second was a quirkiness and a sense of humour that nobody in the NBA – and very few athletes in general – have shared before or since. Seriously. In Artest’s rookie season, he applied for a job at a Chicago area Circuit City for the discount. Tell me that isn’t amazing.

It was also during his time with the Bulls that Artest did something that would establish him as a legend on the basketball court. It didn’t occur in a Bulls game or any NBA game for that matter. It was during a scrimmage in which Michael Jordan was testing his body against a mixture of young NBA talent, college aged players and Jordan’s former peers and friends, that Artest went at the living legend so hard that he broke two of MJ’s ribs.

Ron Artest played for keeps.

It was during the 2001-02 season that Artest was shipped to the Indiana Pacers as part of the blockbuster multiplayer deal.

While in Indiana, Artest formed what many considered an unlikely bond with Pacers president and living legend, Larry Bird. Those who considered that the pair to have an unlikely connection probably failed to understand that the language of basketball is more universal than whatever else might have separated the Queens born Artest and the Hick from French Lick could be and were overcome by the universal language of basketball.

Both were among the most intense competitors the game ever produced and both were tremendously gifted on both sides of the court.

Under Bird’s tutelage, Artest thrived. By the 2003-04 campaign, he was averaging 18.3 points a game, was selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star and claimed his first defensive player of the year award.

Ron Artest had established himself as one of the best players in the NBA. He had also earned a reputation as one of his most volatile.

Artest had accumulated an impressive list of fines and suspensions. He famously went after Pat Riley after flipping off fans in Miami. He flipped off fans in Cleveland. He almost took Paul Pierce’s head off. He punched Rip Hamilton in the face while Hamilton was wearing a protective mask for a broken nose in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals.

There were a whole host of incidents both on and off the court that lead to Artest being one of the NBA’s most divisive figures. A talented player who Larry Bird took under his wing, but also a loose cannon who often had trouble keeping himself on the court between flagrant fouls and also had a few troubling incidents off of it.

Everything came to a head on November 19, 2004.

The 2004 season had already began with a swirl of controversy around Artest, who had already asked Bird and the Pacers for time off to promote his rap album. He was benched for two games in response.

Tensions were riding high coming into the Palace of Auburn Hills for a rematch against the same Detroit Pistons team that the Pacers had clashed with in a rough, violent and intense 2004 Eastern Conference finals that saw the Pistons beat Indiana in six tight, highly defensive contests (seriously game six had a 69-63 final and neither team scored more than 85 points the entire series) en route to the 2004 NBA Finals where they dropped the heavily favoured Los Angeles Lakers in five games to championship.

The Pacers took it to the defending champs and would go on to the win the game 97-82 with Artest leading the way with 24 points.

Nobody would remember that.

What they would remember was the final minute of the game. Ben Wallace went up for a layup and was fouled hard by Artest. Wallace shoved Artest in response and a brawl ensued. Both benches emptied and punches were thrown.

After order was seemingly restored, a fan threw a full cup of beer at Artest. He charged into the stands. Swinging. Teammate Stephen Jackson followed Artest into the stands and the two found themselves into a full out brawl with Detroit Pistons faithful.

Rasheed Wallace, David Harrison, retired NBA player and then-Pistons radio analyst Rick Mahorn and even Pistons coach Larry Brown went into the stands to break up fights and get Artest and Jackson back onto the court.

Once out of the stands. Artest and teammate Jermaine O’Neal were charged by Pistons fans. One of the most enduring images of that night would be Artest punching a fan square in the face and knocking him to the hardwood.

That night would be known as the Malice at the Palace and is generally considered to be the darkest hour in NBA history.

For his part in the incident, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs without pay (a total of 86 games) which cost him approximately $5 million in salary. It is the longest suspension ever handed down in NBA history.

Artest started the 2005-06 season by understandably requesting a trade out of Indiana following the ugly Detroit incident and resulting fall-out with his mentor, Larry Bird. The trade was granted at midseason and he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Peja Stojakovic.

The addition of Artest saw the Kings go on a 14-5 run and salvage a disappointing season to return to the playoffs. Coach Rick Adelman established an immediate bond with the troubled star that helped him ease into Sacramento quickly. Sadly Adelman would be gone at the end of the season after the contract dispute.

Most credited the man Larry Bird once affectionately nicknamed “Ronnie” for the turnaround and Artest was rewarded for his stellar play with a first team All-Defense selection and one of the feel-good stories of the year.

He had found a new home in Sacramento and was back among the NBA’s elite. He would continue to enjoy a career peak in Sac town the following season scoring 18.8 points and adding a career high 6.5 boards per game.

Sadly everything would fall apart for Ron Artest in Sacramento. In March 2007, Artest was suspended by the Kings after being arrested for pushing his wife, Kimsha. He would be sentenced to 20 days in jail (serve 10) and a work release program.

Another violent incident in a violent and tumultuous life.

Artest was 12 years old when he witnessed a 19 year old teammate get stabbed to death with a table leg during a YMCA sanctioned game in Niagara Falls, NY. One can’t begin to comprehend the extent of the trauma that a 12 year old boy would endure after witnessing such a horrific act.

The violence and chaos that surrounded Artest for years are not surprising given that context.

Artest would be traded out of Sacramento to Houston in 2008 for a reunion with Rick Adelman. He would join forces with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming – who he would develop a very close bond with throughout the season.

Despite losing McGrady for the season, Artest would help the Rockets clinch the 5th seed in the West and knock off the Portland Trailblazers in six games before meeting up with the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.

Powered largely by the excellent defensive play of Ron Artest on Kobe Bryant, the Rockets took the Lakers to seven games before falling. The Lakers would go on to win the 2009 NBA Championship but that second round series would in many ways change the course of Artest’s life.

Bryant was impressed with Artest’s defensive play and the way he went at him. He also knew that the Lakers were better off with him on their team than playing against them. He approached the Lakers’ management and requested that they pursue Ron Artest in free agency.

Ron Artest soon found himself on the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. It was in many ways the perfect home for him.

He had the opportunity to work under Phil Jackson, the so-called “zen master”, who took pride in helping troubled players find their way and immediately worked with Artest to settle him into LA and help him find a place within the Lakers organization.

Artest firmly established himself as the Lakers defensive specialist and played the role with zeal.

He helped the team finish first in the Western Conference, overcome a young and hungry Oklahoma City Thunder Team with future superstars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in six games, run through the Utah Jazz in four before overcoming the two-time MVP Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns in six games en route to the 2010 NBA Finals.

The 2010 NBA Finals offered fans the newest installment of the NBA’s biggest and more storied rivalry: the Lakers vs. the Celtics. A rematch from the 2008 finals where Boston’s big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce took it the Lakers.

The series was everything fans wanted and more. Going seven games and featuring classic performances by Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen for Boston and Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant for the Lakers.

It all came down to a deciding game seven where the Lakers triumphed due to the offensive performance of……Ron Artest.

Artest bailed out a poor shooting performance by Kobe Bryant to give the Lakers 20 key points, including the last second three pointer to win it for LA.

Phil Jackson christened Artest as game seven’s MVP and, for his part, Artest incredulously declared “Kobe passed me the ball”, hoped for a ride in the Black Mamba’s helicopter and then did something that took many people aback.

He thanked his psychiatrist.

Artest would follow that moment up by revealing that he did, in fact, struggle with mental illness and was in treatment for it.

He would double down by auctioning off his championship ring to raise money for mental health charities and pledging to donate a large portion of his salary going forward to mental health initiatives – a promise he has made good on ever since.

This marked the second phase of Ron Artest’s life – mental health advocate.

Artest would win the NBA’s 2011 J. Walter Kennedy citizenship award. A bad boy made good.

That off-season he would change his name to Metta World Peace.

He would depart the Lakers in 2013 and following stints with the New York Knicks, the Sichuan Blue Whales in Japan (where he would acquire another alias The Panda’s Friend) and the Pallecanestro Cantu in Italy before returning to the Lakers in 2015 where he is winding down his career as a reserve.

Throughout his journey, he was remained a strong and steadfast advocate for mental health issues.

He doesn’t do it backed by a major corporation. He doesn’t do it with an agenda. He doesn’t do it for any other reason other than that he wants to and he does it on his terms.

Metta World Peace doesn’t limit his discussions to one day of the year. He does it every day. In interviews with the press, on social media, on his mobile app, and everywhere else he can.

Even when it isn’t easy, such as when commentator Brent Barry openly called him crazy and mocked him as Metta Weird Peace after he elbowed James Harden in 2012, but he always bounces back and he always gives the same message of perseverance and working hard to manage his condition.

Metta World Peace, to me, is far more of a hero than any of the Bell Let’s Talk individuals. Nobody is paying him to do it. In fact, he’s paying a variety of mental health charities for the privilege of spreading their message.

He is one of the greatest role models there is in popular culture in terms of overcoming mental illness and thriving.

In an era where people openly mock black men like Kanye West for dealing with mental illness, Metta fearlessly brings it to the forefront and is open and honest about his struggles and how he is managing them. In ways, that unlike the same faces Bell trots out every year, don’t feel forced, scripted or involve him giving a staged pensive look while holding a cellphone on a subway ad.

I think we can all strive to be more like Metta World Peace in our mental health advocacy.

We should follow his lead, not Bell’s. We should be having these discussions all the time and not limiting by how a communications giant wants to frame them.

Bell is seeking to limit our discussions on mental health to one day a year and to co-opt a very personal, vulnerable and individual journey with its corporate branding.

That is the worst kind of cynical, unacceptable corporate bullshit. The fucking worst.

I see people make some of the personal revelations they ever have and that day and you know what? It all gets lost to the ether of social media and an overused hashtag. It’s hard to give your personal revelation of severe depression or bipolar disorder or your crippling addiction or whatever else you are dealing with when literally 30 other people on my newsfeed are doing the same thing.

I care a lot about people. I wouldn’t be doing the type of work that I am if I didn’t but even I can’t keep with all of it. The last thing I need to do is experience compassion fatigue when trying to check my social media.

Bell has really violated us in that sense in pretty profound ways.

It’s shaped a conversation at best, hijacked it for corporate greed at worst,all too build its brand by exploiting each and every one of our survival stories. The worst is that we’re letting them.

I mean if you get something out of this day and it works for you, that’s one thing, but for it is the absolute worst day on social media. The worst. I try to stay off as much as possible and the reason I shelved this piece for a week is that I’m actually hoping it will inspire deep and meaningful dialogue on mental illness and recovery and not get lost in a sea of content that is impossible to fully digest in one day.

Honestly, that isn’t even the worst of it. I know people who end up extremely triggered or worse because of the stories and difficult messages shared on that day. Someone I know just this past week ended up in the hospital as a direct response to the trauma they relived as a result of the Bell Let’s Talk barrage.

There has to be a better way to do it. In fact there is.

There are a ton of peer support groups out there as I mentioned earlier. Check out the local options in your area and I think you’ll be very surprised by how good it feels to realize you aren’t alone.

I also mentioned Mad Pride earlier and I cannot stress enough how this event is the antithesis of Bell Let’s Talk. Where Bell’s social media onslaught exists to build its brand and literally have people shout into the abyss of social media without any mechanism for the aftermath that could follow after an individual is impacted by having to go to some pretty dark and traumatic places, Mad Pride is a supportive community of survivors. Of people still coping. A lot of strong people who are there for each other and will be there for you if you need it as well.

Where Bell Let’s Talk enforces that oppressive medical model and encourages the uninitiated and those unfamiliar with mental health issues will continue to view mental health issues as problems to be treated and individuals with mental illness as hapless victims of their conditions, Mad Pride is empowering. Nobody will tell you a victim. Everyone is a survivor and everyone is living their life as best they can. Not addicted to some victim narrative. Not needing to be told how brave and special they are. They are both those things though. Don’t get it twisted.

The aim is for the world to accommodate and there are no apologies and no meaningless slogans. There is honest discussion and empowerment.

And nobody is seeking to limit it to just one day.

I really think that Metta World Peace would appreciate those events, because he lives his life and is open about his own struggle with mental illness is much the same way.

He is open, fearless, strong and never a victim. An advocate for acceptance and understanding, not an apologist for who he is. He isn’t addicted to his story of suffering or determined to depict himself as a victim or someone to be pitied, instead his story is one of survival, of overcoming the odds and of not just managing but thriving.

Metta World Peace is a hero me. If I could manage my struggle half as well as he does his own, I will accomplish all of my goals, in the same way he continues to attain all of his. That’s an empowering role model in the struggle.

The most important lesson that Metta has taught me is to keep these conversations going with each other and to keep opening up about our struggles and how we manage them so we can learn from each other and come back stronger and more prepared everyday.

He is thankfully not alone. Former NBA star Delonte West has also been an outspoken advocate. As has Royce White, whose career stalled due to a failure of the NBA to accommodate his anxiety disorder.

In the NFL, Brandon Marshall and now retired Arian Foster were amongst the most outspoken advocates for mental health initiatives. Zack Greinke and Joey Votto are among those who got the conversation going to MLB by being open about their own struggles.

The conversation largely started by Metta World Peace’s bravery, openness and honestly is continuing.

He’s really taught us all to never stop talking.

And if you want to talk, I’m here to listen. Not just one day a year. Every day.

.