The world is still in shock and mourning under the unexpected death of Kobe Bryant. In addition to his incredible basketball record, many don’t know he also was a mental health advocate as well.
How Kobe Came Forward and Helped
Bryant’s sports record speaks for itself, but many don’t know about how he was a mental health advocate, especially for kids. He had a program called Don’t Retire Kid, which stressed the importance of fighting anxiety with exercise. Bryant also had a podcast called The Punies, which helped kids with issues as they were growing up.
Bryant learned that most kids “retired” from sports at the age of 11, and he was a big advocate in keeping kids active. Hence the name of his program, Don’t Retire Kid.
As Bryant said in an interview, “Today’s kids are the least active in history and are dropping out of sports at alarming rates,” and he fought to change that. He also snuck in a lot of good messages for kids with the Punies that he hoped would resonate as they grew older.
“For younger kids, The Punies is just fun,” he said. “As they get older, we hope they start to understand the meanings and messages, and the show will teach them things like perseverance, commitment, hard work, compassion, and empathy. Those are things that sports naturally teach.”
When Kobe Spoke Out
Bryant also opened up about his own personal anxieties to help other people and encouraged others to speak out about their own personal struggles. He was especially outspoken about the stigma surrounding mental health, how people often look at it as a weakness. “Ignoring it is the worst thing we can do because then it festers, and then it becomes something that has control over us,” he said.
In an interview for Why We Rise, the sports superstar explained, “I think mental health is extremely important. It’s an issue that’s now coming to the forefront, before it was pushed down out of embarrassment, or believing you’re the only one that’s experiencing it. Now it’s coming to the forefront, and now it’s a great time to address some of those issues and challenges and use them as a source of strength.”
Coming from sports, Bryant also believed in putting together a group of people that can inspire each other in time of need with mental health. “Opening up and sharing it with others, you wind up inspiring each other.”
In terms of fighting the stigma, Bryant added, “At first I think it’s getting over this stigma of it being something that is embarrassing or a sign of weakness. It is not a sign of weakness. Mental health is a challenge we need to accept, not ignore. Accept the challenge. Face that challenge individually, but understand we’re facing that challenge collectively.”
Bryant clearly accomplished a hell of a lot in his all too brief life, and here’s hoping his mental health advocacy will continue on and continue to inspire as much as his sports legacy.
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