Honestly, I don’t know if he’s crazy or not I wasn’t there for his diagnosis. But what I do know is that Ron Artest is brave. He is using his celebrity to initiate the conversation about mental illness. Mental illness is a topic most people would prefer be swept under the rug. But, according to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 4 people, or 25% of individuals, develops one or more mental disorders at some stage in life. Society is often quick to label someone as crazy or unstable but rarely do we peel back the layers to discover the root cause nor do we treat it. That’s what Ron Artest is aiming to do.
Ron held a raffle over Christmas weekend that would raise money to fund mental health awareness programs and to get mental health workers in schools. But Ron didn’t just donate some signed photographs and basketballs. He didn’t even give a promise of his time for a photo op. Ron raffled something that was very important to him, the ring he won as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers 2010 championship team.
Ron joined the Lakers for the 2009 – 2010 season and many people wondered if he could handle it. Ron has some well documented issues both on and off the court. Most famously, he was catalyst of the “Malice in the Palace” brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Since then he’s had his ups and downs but he’s always been a pretty good player, which is why the Lakers wanted him in the first place.
After hitting the game winning shot in the championship game, Ron made many references to his therapist in his post-game comments. Ron thanked his therapist for helping him overcome so many of his past issues and allowing him to have that moment of redemption. Many made fun of him for doing so, but when have we ever seen an athlete honestly admit to getting and needing help during his highest moment? Typically, you see it as an act of contrition during a low point when they are trying to garner sympathy or get back into the good graces of the public.
The final tally hasn’t been revealed but reports are the raffle raised more than $500,000. What Ron has done is placed himself front and center of this very important cause. He’s owned up to his faults and recognizes that just ignoring it won’t make it go away. Hopefully, he’s helped at least one person do the same. Now, say Queensbridge.