Spreading message on mental health may become Kevin Love's 'life's work'

Love moved by support after opening up about mental health (2:07)

Kevin Love is overwhelmed by support from fans after coming forward about his mental health. (2:07)

DENVER -- Kevin Love says the response to his first-person essay in which he shared his panic attack episode from earlier in the Cleveland Cavaliers' season and opened up about how he looks after his mental health has been "overwhelming" and has him considering continuing to spread the message as his "life's work."

"It's been amazing," Love said at Cavs shootaround Wednesday morning before their game against the Denver Nuggets. "After that November game against the Hawks, I felt I needed to address something and look inward for myself, but also I thought yesterday was a great chance to be able to help people, and that's why I set out to do it. I didn't realize that the response would be like it was or like it is. It's amazing what we're able to do with this platform, but like I mentioned, everybody is going through something. Everybody has things that you can't see, that you can't touch that they're walking around with every day."

Love opened his piece for The Players' Tribune, published Tuesday, by describing the panic attack he suffered at halftime of the Cavs' game against the Hawks on Nov. 5.

A series of events have since pushed Love to make his story public: a much-talked-about team meeting on Jan. 22 when Cavs coach Tyronn Lue mentioned Love's panic attack to the Cavs; the school shooting in Parkland, Florida; ESPN's Jackie MacMullan asking him about mental health support in the NBA after former teammate Channing Frye opened up about his depression; and ultimately Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan's openness with his own struggles.

"Without a guy like DeMar DeRozan coming out and speaking about mental health, I probably wouldn't have pressed 'send' yesterday," Love said. "He opened the door for me, so I respect him and love him for that."

Love followed up the 2,300-word story by inviting readers to share their stories with him by emailing his Players' Tribune account. As of Wednesday morning, Love said he received more than 4,000 emails and had assembled "a team" to read them all in a timely manner.

Not surprisingly, it has also opened up lines of communication with his Cavs teammates.

"Everybody is going through something," Love said. "So I think whether it was talking to Kyle [Korver] about parenting his kids and how he has two young boys, or just talking to LeBron [James]. He shook my hand and said, 'You helped a lot of people today.' That's what's big. Just them even acknowledging that and retweeting that and just breathing more life into it is just huge.

"I mentioned it doesn't discriminate, but in a lot of ways young men and young boys are pretty far behind. That was pretty apparent yesterday in talking to guys and talking to someone like Jose [Calderon], who sits next to me on the plane. There's a lot of follow-ups to this. Overwhelming is a good word to use, and also I mean that in a positive way, a positive connotation. I'm just trying to read through all the emails, all the texts and respond to everybody in the right way. There's a lot of work to be done, but I'm really glad this is out there and I'm really glad I can help."

James offered further support when asked about Love's essay at shootaround.

"I think Kevin's always been accepted in our locker room from day one," James said. "I don't think it changes how we've always kind of seen Kev. I think people dealing with the same situation, that's in the same situation as Kev, I think it helps them out more than anybody to not feel like they're alone because they're not. As athletes we're put up on this pedestal, but we go through some of the same problems. ... We're all human beings, all of us. I think it's very enlightening for him to know that and to see that in himself and know that he can help others by doing that."

Washington Wizards guard Kelly Oubre told NBC Sports Washington that Love and DeRozan sharing their stories has made him think more about his own mental health issues. He said dealing with the issues "can get overwhelming."

"A lot of people are coming out with things about mental health," Oubre said. "I feel as if, yeah, man, I've suffered through a lot of things in my life. I've been through a lot of things.

"I can definitely relate to it all. ... I'm really good at keeping a poker face, because when I was growing up my dad always told me, 'Don't let anybody see you weak.' Nobody sees that I'm weak, but deep down inside I am going through a lot. Hell is turning over."

James was asked why athletes seem more comfortable discussing physical ailments than mental ones.

"Because we live in a sport or in a world where our whole lives we were always taught, 'Figure it out on your own. Be as strong as you can. Don't show anybody any weakness,'" James said. "That's how we've been built. We've been built like that our whole lives, ever since we picked up a basketball or picked up a football, whatever the case may be. It's like, 'Be as strong as you can and deal with any issues that you can on your own.' That sometimes can become a problem. Obviously when you're able to see that, sometimes that's not the way to deal with it, it actually makes you even [stronger] in the respective sport that you are in."

Love clarified that he did not suffer a second panic attack in January during a 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he also left the arena early as was the case in the Hawks game. That game, however, did prompt Lue to divulge Love's previous panic attack during a team meeting in the days that followed.

"I think it's good when you're letting people know what you're going through, what you're dealing with," Lue said. "Hate to see anybody with any kind of illness, you know, but we're here for Kevin. We're going to support him 100 percent with whatever he needs, and I'm just glad he was able to open up. Some of us already knew, and you know, he's doing all the things he can to better himself and get help. And we're just going to be there to support him with whatever he needs. We're going to be here for him."

And Love intends to be there for others, embracing his position as a forward-facing ambassador for the cause.

"I remember talking to my agent [Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management], I showed him kind of what I wrote and he said, 'I understand what you're doing and we both agree that even if we're able to help one person and one person not live with the stigma thinking it's weird or different to have certain issues every single day that this is going to be an amazing thing,'" Love said.

"I want to continue to push this message. ... Just open the door for other athletes and people of power, influential people, just to speak out about this topic because it is so prevalent and really looks like it was needed. We need to beat down that stigma about mental health and need to be able to come out and talk things out.

"It wasn't just the singular panic attack I had in November. It was some deep-seated stuff that needed to come out, that I needed to address and I'm better for it. I'm better for seeing someone and being more open and better to the people in my life. So, I think the fact that it does ring home to me and is so near and dear to my heart and the people around me, I'm more than willing to help people. Like Kyle and I mentioned, this could be life's work, not only for myself but a number of guys that are going to step up in the process."