Basketball player Jared Casey is going public with his struggles with mental illness in hopes others will hear his story and speak out on their own.
Casey will be back on the court this week at the All-Native Basketball tournament, where he'll be playing for the reigning champions, the Skidegate Saints.
He said getting his head into the game can be more of a challenge for him — seven years ago he was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder — and he wants the silence around his struggles to end.
"Dealing with a mental disorder or mental illness doesn't make you weaker or lesser than the next person. It just makes you, if anything, stronger," he told The Early Edition.
Worries turned into fears on and off the court
After graduating high school in Maple Ridge, Casey was awarded a full basketball scholarship at the University of San Francisco.
He felt like he had a harder time dealing with pressure than his fellow teammates, but it wasn't until 2007, in his second year of school, when his struggle with anxiety came to a head.
"It was amazing how quickly on a daily basis I could have a small worry over something going well with basketball, and that worry could turn into a fear and right away that fear could turn into something that seems inevitable — something I almost can't see how it won't happen," he said.
"The worst part was often everyone else could see how that outcome was actually quite not logical … something that is so far-fetched and yet I didn't have the ability to look at it and logically evaluate it and move on from it."
On New Year's Day, 2008, Casey took a medical leave and started to seek out his treatment options, both through therapy and medication.
He went back to school at Seattle University that fall — also on a basketball scholarship — and finished his degree in 2010.
He spent a few years working and was recruited to play basketball at the University of British Columbia. He graduated UBC with an MBA last month.
Silence is not an option
Casey said he hid his mental illness for too long — and he's now realized he has nothing to be ashamed of.
"It continued to wear on me how much energy I was putting towards hiding the fact that I ever dealt with any sort of a mental health problem," he said.
"I would try and hide it on my resume, I would try to hide it with friends, with colleagues, with everyone. I felt so embarrassed by it."
Casey said it has helped him to tell others what he has gone through, and he hopes speaking publicly helps other people as well.
In the past, he said he drew strength in knowing other people he respects have also dealt with mental illness.
"It usually gave me quite a bit of energy. It kind of refuelled me and gave me quite a bit of strength."