Loose Ball: Hoops Star Handles Mental Illness

Iowa State forward Royce White is thriving with the Cyclones while battling an anxiety disorder.

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Iowa State University Athletics

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, tens of millions of people in the United States are affected by mental disorders, and only a fraction receive treatment. Iowa State forward Royce White is included in the first count, but more important, he's in the second one, too.

White, a 20-year-old who has been on medication since he was a teen, is the latest athlete to come forward and discuss the issue. It's a bold step for folks whose lives play out in the public eye. He leads the Cyclones in points (12.9), rebounds (9.1), assists (4.9), steals (1.0) and blocked shots (1.1), putting them on the verge of their first NCAA tournament berth in seven years.

"Anxiety isn't really something you can measure," he told the Des Moines Register. "That's why it's so hard to diagnose, so hard to pinpoint. If I didn't take my medication, any number of things could happen: It could affect my mind and my body. I could get the sweats.

"What anxiety is, is your mind telling your body that there's a threat, so it produces adrenaline so you can fight off that threat," he said. "That could make you do anything, conceptually, but I'm not a dumb individual. I wouldn't do something off-the-wall like skydive."

White's admission comes just months after Miami Dolphins star Brandon Marshall made his own brave disclosure. Marshall began a crusade for mental-illness treatment last July, opening up in a lengthy profile story and calling a news conference to reveal his diagnosis with borderline personality disorder.

NFL running back Ricky Williams, who announced his retirement earlier this month, also helped shine the spotlight on mental health. A player who once used to keep his helmet on during interviews, Williams was later diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.

Fortunately for Williams, Marshall and White, none of them ever experienced the harrowing ordeal of Barrett Robbins. The former Oakland Raiders center, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, went on a binge on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, leading him to miss the game. He eventually lost his job and his family and wound up in jail, his current location.

With the help of medication, White is winning his battle. The music and fashion industries are among the elements in his 10-year plan for the future, which also includes a blog on mental illness and working with monks in Tibet.

"It's two different worlds for me," he said. "There's who I am off the court, and who I am on the court. Who I am on the court comes secondary to all the other stuff."

And if his story helps bring more attention to mental illness and the need for treatment, he's all for it.