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Local Column

Heimerman: Let's assist each other in fighting mental illness

Credit Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan with the assists. They’ve already made thousands of them in their NBA careers, but this one is big for me.

A couple of months ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ walking double-double and the Toronto Raptors’ scoring machine spoke out on mental illness. Specifically, they both discussed their battles with anxiety. Two professional athletes who need their teammates and coaches to trust them with the ball in crunch time, and whose financial livelihood could hinge on whether they can handle that pressure, left it all on the proverbial court of public opinion.

If they can do it, why can’t I?

Here’s the better question: Why did they do it? Why would they reveal this presumed weakness?

Well, for one, they’ve empowered me to tell this readership I’m also predisposed to anxiety. Depression, too. It’s how I’m wired. Not my fault. For many years, I thought it was, however, creating a vicious cycle of guilt and self-sabotage.

I’ve been told many times over the years by colleagues, bosses and even close friends to play my cards close to my chest, take the Cro-Magnon approach of not showing weakness, not letting anyone know you have emotions and shortcomings and stuff.

Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve had so many conversations with residents and directors of agencies who help in the fight against mental illness – it’s Mental Illness Awareness Month, after all – that have brought to light how prevalent mental illness is here, too.

No big surprise. I’ve seen it in the court system. The folks at Family Service Agency and other local groups are very thorough in letting us know the breadth of the issue.

So, if the national projection that one in five people battle mental illness is true, maybe 20,000-plus DeKalb County residents could use some camaraderie. Maybe it would help to know the social butterfly who’s editor at the paper, who’s seemingly not shy about putting his goofy mug in the paper with regularity, is fighting the same fight every day.

Isn’t that comforting? Knowing we don’t have to fight alone?

If my gesture of solidarity doesn’t do the trick – spoiler alert: it shouldn’t – please be honest with yourself. One thing that’s been abundantly clear since my family moved here nearly a year ago is that there’s a multitude of excellent resources in this community.

Talk to your family. Your friends. Your clergy. The people who know you best and who might appreciate the opportunity to help. Beyond that, if you think you need professional help, you’re right. In that case, call Family Service Agency at 815-758-8616. Live your best life.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at cheimerman@shawmedia.com.

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