Jerry West and Major Depressive Disorder

This month’s feature ‘March Madness’ will feature mental illnesses and the athletes who are battling with them.

Jerry West is the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP, when playing for the losing team. He is the NBA logo.

Jerry West wrote his autobiography last year, ‘West by West’, and it in he admitted for the first time his life long battle with depression.

From the review of the book in the LA Times:

He suffers from a clinical depression so acute that even his daily Prozac doesn’t always keep him from feeling suicidal. A woman who ultimately would marry him found West to be “the saddest man she had ever met.” Years later, she wrote a note to his boss, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, to warn him that her husband was “a very tormented individual” on the brink of self-destruction.

A massive misconception is that depression is being sad, or having a cloudy day, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Here is a depressed woman describing her average morning routine, “”I would wake up with an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety. I would lay there for hours, sometimes in a fetal position, crying. I would pull a sheet over my head.” Ya, know, just a normal bad hair day.

Jerry West was the most respected player in the league. He is probably the most respected basketball player in history. After retiring he won Executive of the Year twice. If there was anyone ever that should have been “stronger than that” or able to “just get over it” or “just needed to kick himself in the rear” it was Jerry West.

Jerry West lead the Lakers to 9 NBA Finals Appearances, he made 12 all NBA teams, in 1996 the NBA named him the #1 player of all-time. For someone who “would go to bed feeling like I didn’t even want to live” that’s not too bad.

Here is a depression self-assessment test called the Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

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