August 8, 2018 -- The WNBA’s NY Liberty, which calls the Westchester County Center in White Plains their home, joined with the County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) and the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Westchester, to “Box Out Stigma” at their season game on August 8.

In an effort to promote wellness and bring community awareness to the challenges of living with mental health needs, a pre-game community conversation focused on the obstacles facing young adults and athletes. The discussion also addressed ways to change the culture of reaching out for help, so youth become more willing to do so when they need it.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “I’m a big sports fan, and having the New York Liberty in Westchester makes me a proud County Executive. These women serve as positive role models to all young people living in our County, and their willingness to partner with the DCMH and MHA Westchester on this community event brings much needed attention to youth mental health issues.”

Called “Hoops for Health,” the event included a panel presentation in the hour prior to the basketball game, where the Liberty went up against the Los Angeles Sparks. The panel included remarks by Director of Training for MHA Westchester Stephen M. Smith, PhD; Westchester County DCMH Commissioner Michael Orth; DCMH-Children’s Health Patricia D. White and former Liberty player, college coach and LGBT rights pioneer Sue Wicks.

Director of Training for MHA Westchester Dr. Stephen Smith said: “Too often, we struggle to get communities to pay attention to the needs of young adults and athletes facing mental health challenges. In particular, young athletes are taught to play through pain, and ‘suck it up.’ When it comes to protecting their mental health, it is the exact opposite that is needed. We appreciate the WNBA helping break through those barriers and advancing this discussion.”

DCMH Commissioner Michael Orth said: “Sports and mental health have historically not often associated with each other.  Yet, one in every four people will be affected by some mental illness at one point in their lives.  Student-athletes may be at an increased risk for mental health problems due to academic deadlines combined with excessive practice and game commitment, fatigue, injury and additional stressors - cut from the team or locker room conflict. Athletes don’t need to be silenced when it comes to mental health just because it could make them look weaker. As Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, I applaud the partnership between NY Liberty and MHA of Westchester in recognizing that our athlete’s emotional health is just as important as their physical health.”