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DeRozan Hopes Honest Talk on Depression Helps Others 

by Doug Smith 
Sports Reporter

They appear to be invincible, professional athletes do, with so much money, so much fame, so many people to help with everything — a first-class life, everything taken care of.

And then the difficult, lonely moments hit — maybe in the middle of the night, or maybe just out of nowhere — and they struggle as many do to handle them, the tugs of life overwhelming.

DeMar DeRozan, who would seemingly have it all, knows those struggles — those times of depression, anxiety, loneliness — as well as anyone and they are his demons to deal with.

“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” the 28-year-old Raptors all-star said. “We all got feelings . . . all of that. Sometimes . . . it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”

DeRozan is unimaginably wealthy, uncommonly famous and has at his disposal a virtual army of family, friends and support staff arranged in part by the Raptors.

And still . . .

At home among his family, a break from the everyday grind of NBA life upon him, DeRozan found himself in one of those dark moments in the middle of the night a week ago in Los Angeles. And in a moment that belies his very private nature, he made a cryptic comment on his Twitter feed that was a glimpse into a previously hidden solitude.

"This depression gets the best of me." 

That it came out of nowhere in the dark of the night, on an NBA all-star weekend many thought would be a celebration for the Compton kid at home, was jarring. It was out of character and out of place, but not as it happens out of the norm. It set off a maelstrom of support throughout social media, and tossing it off just as a lyric from a song is to not do the whole issue justice.

It was a hard time. DeRozan was letting everyone know.

“I always have various nights,” he said in a wide-ranging and wildly open glimpse into his private life. “I’ve always been like that since I was young, but I think that’s where my demeanor comes from.

“I’m so quiet, if you don’t know me. I stay standoffish in a sense, in my own personal space, to be able to cope with whatever it is you’ve got to cope with.”

DeRozan copes by throwing his life into his family and his basketball, filling every available hour with the search to be a better father and partner and player. He saw enough growing up in Compton — so many lives thrown away by people who succumb to their demons — that he cannot, will not, let it happen to him.

“This is real stuff,” he said. “We’re all human at the end of the day. That’s why I look at every person I encounter the same way. I don’t care who you are. You can be the smallest person off the street or you could be the biggest person in the world, I’m going to treat everybody the same, with respect.

“My mom always told me: Never make fun of anybody because you never know what that person is going through. Ever since I was a kid, I never did. I never did. I don’t care what shape, form, ethnicity, nothing. I treat everybody the same. You never know.

“I had friends that I thought was perfectly fine, next thing you know they’re a drug addict and can’t remember yesterday . . . I never had a drink in my life because I grew up seeing so many people drinking their life away to suppress the (troubles) they were going through, you know what I mean?”

The issue of mental health awareness and attempts to remove the stigma of it have made giant strides recently, even if there is much, much more work to be done. It is not in DeRozan’s nature to become some outspoken advocate, but what he did subtly was important and he knows he reached a lot of people. It wasn’t to elicit a ton of support — although it did. It was to open himself up, even briefly, and let people know it’s okay to.

“Sometimes you hear things from other people, such as doing something like that (the Saturday morning statement). There could have been a better way to take that approach, but I got great words from a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s not nothing I’m against or ashamed of. Now, at my age, I understand how many people go through it. Even if it’s just somebody can look at it like, ‘He goes through it and he’s still out there being successful and doing this,’ I’m OK with that.”






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