Tucked into the back corner of an office in midtown Manhattan, Kevin Love is spending the day talking about depression. It’s something he does a lot these days, ever since he published a now widely read piece in The Players’ Tribune about his own mental health struggles.
It’s a tough topic, but now that the flood gates are open, Love almost can’t help himself. He opens up quickly and candidly about his journey with depression and anxiety, sharing personal details without hesitation. Nothing, it seems, is off limits, especially if it means helping other people. We’ve only been chatting a few minutes, and Love opens up readily, sharing how his depression affected his entire family.
“‘We’d lose you’,” Love recounts his brother saying. “‘You’d go into your room, and Kevin would come out whenever Kevin would come out.’ He was just like, you just weren’t there.”
It can be hard to share these stories, but talking about his issues publicly has not only been healing, Love says, but set him on a new path of mental health advocacy.
“I just saw the massive impact it had,” Love said of the initial article. “We set up a form through the Players Tribune and I got 6,000 emails in three days.”
The response was overwhelming and gratifying, and since then, Love has leaned into the conversation. Too many men keep silent about these issues, something Love is all too aware of.
“With my depression, I would just sit in my room, because I didn’t know how to cope,” Love said. “I would never cry…but now I can finally just let some things go, and that has been very therapeutic for me.”
Love not only wants to talk about mental illness, but wants to chip away at the notions of toxic masculinity that keep many men from acknowledging these issues.
Earlier this month, Love launched the Schick Hydro Locker Room Talk series, which featured candid conversations about mental health with Michael Phelps, Channing Frye and Paul Pierce. It was necessary, Love said, to show that even famous athletes at their peak often struggled.
“As athletes a lot of the times, on both sides, men and women, we are treated like super heroes who are indestructible,” Love said. “But you don’t see the layers to it. Success doesn’t make you immune to depression.”
Depression and anxiety don’t exist in a vacuum and as Love has dug deeper into his own issues, he’s seen how they intertwine with complicated notions of traditional masculinity. Among the things that Love hopes to change is the stigma many men face when it comes to admitting that things might not be going OK.
“I was taught to not show any weakness,” Love said. “My dad said, ‘Don’t cry,’ because he was from an era where they don’t do that. And his father before him never talked about anything. Whereas my mother was very affectionate, always communicated with with my sister, who learned how to express herself. But, as a boy I just had a short fuse, I didn’t know how to cope, and as I got into my young adulthood, that became anxiety.”
Love brings up that story not to throw his dad under the bus, but to illustrate destructive generational patterns. His father pushed him to be stoic and resilient, which had its upside, but it also left him without the tools to cope when things went wrong. It’s a pattern Love sees repeating itself with young men today.
“Kids in middle school…at that age, you have these health classes, physical health, sex ed, but I was never taught about mental health, ever. It was never a discussion,” Love said “The only discussion I had was with my father, and that was, ‘Keep your head up.’ And that message is coming from all sides, especially for boys.”
If talking about his own issues help break down some of the barriers men face, then Love is happy to do it. He’s seen firsthand how life changing it can be.
“It’s allowed me to be a lot more honest not just with myself, but with everyone,” Love said. “Communication has allowed for better relationships with people around me. It’s just not just talking, it’s communication as a whole.”