Royce White, who suffers from an anxiety order, is more of a symbol than NBA player at present. His advocacy for changing how professional sports leagues approach mental health issues contributed to his not playing a single minute in the NBA last season after the Rockets selected him with the 16th pick in the 2012 draft.
There were suspensions, objections and a reported reconciliation between White and the Rockets during his rookie season, but the 22-year-old forward's demands and uninhibited comments made any true accord between the two parties unlikely. Last month, Houston traded White to Philadelphia for essentially nothing -- a heavily protected 2014 second-round pick that is unlikely to be conveyed, thus making White's absence (and salary dump) the Rockets' primary motivation.
But even his relocation can't sever all ties between White and the city of Houston. White has made plans to extend his interest in mental health reform to the creation of a mental health center. From Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle:
On Wednesday morning, White announced a partnership with his non-profit organization Anxious Mind’s Inc. and Bee Busy Wellness Center to create the Royce White Institute of Mental Health on the city’s southwest side.
The Wellness Center, which is a 17,000-square foot facility that will also have dental and primary care, is located at 6640 W. Bellfort and will open in January 2014.
“When I met Royce White a couple of years ago, I knew we would do something special like this,” Bee Busy CEO Normal Mitchell said. “I think it will be a great thing for this community.”
White, who has been open about his own struggles with an anxiety disorder, said that he thinks every city should have a center where free mental healthcare is offered. He started the Anxious Mind’s Inc. group while in college at Iowa State, and this is the organization’s first partnership. He said he hopes to see it grow.
We don't know yet how involved White might be in the institute beyond acting as its namesake, but the endeavor to increase awareness of mental health conditions and make treatment more accessible is noble all the same. Hopefully this pursuit will be more successful than White's individual efforts to broach the subject, which, while well-intended, often grated on those it was meant to educate. The push for greater consideration of mental health in professional sports -- and in the professional sphere in general -- is destined to be an uphill battle, but there are still more thoughtful ways to go about this process than the path White had previously chosen. Perhaps this kind of institutional creation is a means to that end, and a more practical focus of White's intentions.