Alliance Profile – Royce White
2009 Mr. Basketball in the State of Minnesota, 2x State Champion, Went on to Play at Iowa State for Fred Hoiberg, Drafted to the NBA in 2012 with the 16th Overall Pick by the Houston Rockets, Reigning League Champion and MVP of NBL Canada for the London Lightning, One of the World’s Most Outspoken Advocates For Mental Health Policy Reform in Pro Sports and All of Society
What past life experiences, physical traumas or genetics do you believe have had an effect on your mental health?
I believe every individual is the sum total of all their past experiences. I think we are still in the primitive stages of truly understanding the prevalence that genetics plays in mental health. I do know that the strongest figures who raised me – my mother and grandmother, both suffered from admitted anxiety as well, so it seems logical that I would have inherited a similar (but unique) condition myself. There was some history of alcoholism in my family (not Mom or grandmother). I think the drinking, like in most peoples lives, was being used to cope. I also had some experiences when I was younger – that looking back at now, likely made a traumatic impression – like watching my friend when we were only 10 years old, collapse from a heart condition in basketball practice. I rode with him to the hospital and thankfully he survived, but that definitely left a left a mark. It made me think about my own physical health often and at times I would worry about if my own heart or lungs, etc., were healthy. Though it would be unwise to point to that experience and say that my mental health struggles started there, it definitely is an identifiable contributor.
How did the effects on your mental health appear in terms of symptoms?
I didn’t really understand mental health at 16 when I had my first severe panic attack. My first panic attack felt like what I had conceptualized it would feel like when you’re dying.
Looking back there are many different experiences I had that now, knowing more about mental health and myself, I’d classify as panic or anxiety. Going to tournaments away from home, the uncomfortable feelings and nervous stomach arose, sometimes getting as bad as throwing up or tossing and turning all night. I was diagnosed at 16 with generalized anxiety disorder… but certainly OCD was a factor too, or maybe a symptom.
When and why did you decide to ask for help to get relief?
Initially, I asked for help because I had become emotionally fatigued from constantly using inefficient coping mechanisms. I was so physically tired from fighting the anxiety with so little understanding, I decided it was time to search for the right information and tools for my battles. Anxiety coupled with ignorance is a tough combo to handle and I needed the help to get started to regain my health.
What methods helped you individually get/feel better?
The method that helped me the most was speaking with a doctor and getting a basic understanding of what mental health is and how common struggles like anxiety, depression, ptsd, etc… are. I like to understand the “why” behind why we feel certain things and once I gained a better understanding of the science behind it and knew that others suffered in a similar (but unique way), that helped tremendously.
Why did you decide to go public with your story? Who were/are you hoping to help and how?
For me going public to the media was a complete accident. I had already deployed the tool of being honest with myself and others about my condition in my daily life. That had helped me tremendously because I was able to effectively get rid of most of my insecurity about what others thought of my anxiety. I had no room to handle shame on top of the anxiety itself. It actually ended up enhancing my self esteem, because I started to realize everybody has a story and it includes some sort of suffering. That’s why this #SameHere🤙 campaign resonates so well. If we were all more open, we’d see that everyone goes through something.
How did people react when you went public with your story?
It was a mixture of discussing mental health in the context of sports and the general public. Many in the media made the point that mental health may hinder my career. The more common reaction from people was – them sharing their story with me and feeling empowered that this conversation was happening. I hope to help the professional sports world realize how we should be handling this epidemic. Beyond that, it’s even more important to transform how all companies and groups in society approach the topic, as we continue to search for the betterment of humanity.