Raptors’ DeRozan opens up on battles with depression

Toronto-Raptors'-DeMar-DeRozan

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan stands for national anthems before playing against the Miami Heat in Toronto, Tuesday February 13, 2018. (Mark Blinch/CP)

In the middle of the night on the Friday of all-star weekend in Los Angeles, hometown kid and Toronto Raptors superstar DeMar DeRozan tweeted:

In the process, the 28-year-old offered a rare glimpse —- save for countless courtside appearances from his two daughters —- into an aspect of DeRozan’s life away from the basketball court.

The tweet was met with an outpouring of support from his online followers. On Sunday, DeRozan spoke to the Toronto Star about his mental health struggles and how he hopes to help influence others by speaking on the topic publicly.

“I’m so quiet, if you don’t know me,” DeRozan told the Star’s Doug Smith. “I stay standoff-ish in a sense, in my own personal space, to be able to cope with whatever it is you’ve got to cope with.”

While DeRozan is experiencing his best and most successful NBA season, it’s been a trying year off the court. He and long-time fiancee Kiara, the mother of his children whom he had been with since his lone season at USC in 2008, split up. Throughout this season he’s been flying back and forth from L.A. to Toronto (or wherever the Raptors are playing) while visiting his father, Frank, who is battling, among other health issues, a kidney condition.

In a wide-ranging interview, DeRozan discussed opening up about his struggles.

“My mom always told me: Never make fun of anybody because you never know what that person is going through. Ever since I was a kid, I never did. I never did. I don’t care what shape, form, ethnicity, nothing. I treat everybody the same. You never know.

“I had friends that I thought was perfectly fine, next thing you know they’re a drug addict and can’t remember yesterday . . . I never had a drink in my life because I grew up seeing so many people drinking their life away to suppress the (troubles) they were going through, you know what I mean?”

The issue of mental health awareness and attempts to remove the stigma of it have made giant strides recently, even if there is much, much more work to be done. It is not in DeRozan’s nature to become an outspoken advocate, but what he did subtly was important and he knows he reached a lot of people. Even though he elicited a ton of support through his tweet, it wasn’t necessarily the goal. It was to open himself up, even briefly, and let people know it’s okay to.

“It’s not nothing I’m against or ashamed of. Now, at my age, I understand how many people go through it. Even if it’s just somebody can look at it like, ‘He goes through it and he’s still out there being successful and doing this,’ I’m OK with that.”

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