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Ann Cannon: Let mentally ill know they're not alone

Published September 2, 2011 9:58 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's not often an article in Sports Illustrated hits me hard in the gut, but "A Light in the Darkness" by Pablo S. Torre (June 21, 2010) sure did.

The piece opens with a spotlight on Major League pitcher Ian Snell standing in the shower after a tough loss to the Brewers, seriously contemplating suicide. That's right. Suicide.

Torre quotes Snell as he shares the thoughts that raced through his head in that awful moment: "If a player messes up, why does everyone automatically think he's a bad person? Do parents even want me to say hi to their kids and give them high-fives? Why am I always being singled out?

"Is the world better without me?"

It's tempting, of course, to read a passage like that and say hey, dude just needs to get a grip. Come on. It's … a … game.

But that would be missing the real point here, which is this: Snell's thinking was distorted, not because he gave up a game-winning home run, but because he wrestles with mental illness.

Snell is not alone. In recent years a number of MLB players — Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke, most famously — have publicly admitted to suffering from emotional problems. How big is this in a macho world such as professional baseball that prides itself on player toughness? It's huge. Huge like an elephant in the room. Huge like an elephant in the room on steroids.

But here's the best part of the story. In response to a clear and present need, Major League Baseball is now stepping up to the plate by providing struggling players with the resources to deal with their illnesses, including time on the DL list if need be.

Why do I bring all of this up? (Besides the fact that I obviously watch a lot of baseball?)

Here's why: We, as a community, have an opportunity this month to step up to the mental health plate, as well. On Sept. 24, the Utah chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is sponsoring a walk to raise awareness about mental health issues, because (according to NAMI's estimates) one in four of our families is affected by mental illness.

The good news is that treatment can work. Greinke (awesome Brewers pitcher) has become something of an MLB poster child in this regard. Says Torre, "The introverted Greinke, who credits therapy sessions and antidepressants for his recovery, proved that emotional disorders are treatable injuries."

The bad news, however, is that only half the people who need it receive treatment. And NAMI wants to change that.

OK. Let me just say that as a person who has witnessed first-hand the unspeakable anguish caused by mental illness, I am a big, big fan of the work NAMI does in our community with its (free!) education and mentoring programs, as well as its advocacy for the afflicted and their loved ones.

But what I appreciate most is the organization's core message: "Treatment works, recovery is possible, there is hope, you are not alone."

That's why I'll be there walking with my team, the Loose Cannons, which I invite you to join at www.nami.org/namiwalks11/SLC/anncannon. Or feel free to create a team of your own.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/columnistcannon. —

National Alliance on Mental Illness walk

R NAMI will sponsor a walk to raise awareness about mental health issues.

When • Sept. 24. Check-in at 9 a.m.; walk begins at 10 a.m.

Where • Valley Regional Park, 5100 S. 2700 West, Taylorsville

Cost • Free, but donations are welcome.

Information • www.nami.org






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