Royce White, a former Iowa State Cyclones basketball star, came to Des Moines Thursday to push Iowans for more understanding of people dealing with mental health issues.
White signed a professional contract with the Houston Rockets, but isn't playing during his dispute with the team over how best to handle his anxiety about flying. White complained the team only has to listen to his doctor's advice on treatment options, but doesn't have to actually follow the doctor's direction. He predicted he will one day play in the National Basketball Association, but couldn't say whether he will ever do it with his current team. In describing upcoming talks between himself, the players' union and the Rockets, he said, "We may be headed into another stormy area."
An Iowa lawmaker stood beside White at a statehouse news conference. Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, a Des Moines Democrat, said she secretly battled a fear of flying. She said White's public openness about his own struggles convinced her to share her own battles Thursday for the first time. Gaines said, "Several years ago, I was a finalist for national teacher of the year. But I could not be selected because I had a fear of flying. And the national teacher of the year flies everywhere. I carried that in my heart as a secret until today."
White urged Iowans who suffer from mental health issues to initiate conversations with others about their struggles. He said there's an overall lack of understanding. White said, "I think of why mental health has the stigma it does is because a lot of us who suffer are worried about our neighbors actually giving back that understanding. And that has to improve, as well as neighbors have to become more aware and more understanding, too."