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A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
PABLO S. TORRE
June 21, 2010
LED BY PLAYERS SUCH AS IAN SNELL, BASEBALL IS TAKING THE LEAD IN PRO SPORTS IN ADDRESSING DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
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June 21, 2010

A Light In The Darkness

LED BY PLAYERS SUCH AS IAN SNELL, BASEBALL IS TAKING THE LEAD IN PRO SPORTS IN ADDRESSING DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

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Snell, who was moved to the Mariners' bullpen over the weekend, openly aspires to that much. He remains uncomfortable with the idea of taking medication and has thus far preferred the help of his pastor, an approach duly acknowledged by a science that most values positive outcomes for patients. He began studying the Bible, attended nondenominational services and went on religious retreats. He says, "My family said something important to me: Life is short. Enjoy it. Do everything possible to make it better for other people. Just try to laugh, have fun and don't let anything negative bother you."

It's yet another sign of a shift that didn't happen in one afternoon. "The equation has forever been changed," Karesky says. "The major league guys stepped up and gave young players and minor leaguers cover to come forward. And they gave men cover in general."

Duchscherer has said that strangers have thanked him for going public with his depression and helping them come to terms with their own issues. The Reds report that they've been deluged by compassionate letters addressed to Votto. And for every anonymous sneer on the Internet, there have been anonymous confessions: Fans praise players for coming clean about their problems when the fans themselves have not. Says Antonia L. Baum, vice president of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry, "These athletes have helped people realize that these things happen to all of us."

And so, in the humidity at Camden Yards, Ian Snell is trying his best in one more tough season. He hugs Orioles coaches, laughs during batting practice and high-fives teammates and the Japanese reporters who perpetually trail Ichiro Suzuki. As he awaits the arrival of Mike Crump, who will cheer his best friend from the stands, Snell offers the journalists a warm "Konichiwa!" and pretends to wipe their camera lenses clean with his sleeve.

Snell, now 28, still hears the boos and jeers, of course. He's still vulnerable to frustration and flashes of negativity. As a pitcher with a 5.89 ERA and an uncertain future on a struggling team, how could he not be? But there has been a tangible improvement in an ostensibly intangible problem. "I can finally breathe," Snell says. "I think people need to push their pride aside, just say what's in their hearts and what's on their minds. Get those issues out." He pauses for a moment. "And if people think you're crazy?" The question hangs in the thick air before he answers, "Well, that's just their opinion." Knowing that is itself a kind of peace.

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