On Matt Harvey, mental health and ending the cycle
The routine of building athletes up to tear them down needs to end.
Mental health and addiction are difficult things to talk about. While I’ve noticed more of an effort by people to bring these issues into the light over recent years, it’s still painfully obvious to me how long we have to go. Society as a whole views these things through a skewed lens; people are uncomfortable talking about it and don’t seem to be able to grasp how to handle it when it comes up as a news story or in their own personal lives.
There’s been a lot said about Matt Harvey today, a man whose already been a lightning rod for criticism for nearly a decade. He’s been in the public eye since making his MLB debut in 2012, being picked apart by every news outlet, reporter, talk radio host and baseball fan in a cacophony of judgements and opinions. Now, he finds himself having to out his personal demons with drug usage as part of the court case surrounding the death of former Angels teammate Tyler Skaggs, and once again has found himself put into the crosshairs of the masses.
The story of Matt Harvey is a tragic one, but should also serve as a warning sign to all of us that we need to change our culture in a meaningful way.
This vicious cycle of building athletes up to their highest peaks, only to tear them back down feels as if it is inescapable. It is as damaging and toxic just the same as it is now routine. And it has to stop.
Matt Harvey is not the hero that we built him up to be, nor is he the villain that many are trying to recast him as now. He’s just a deeply flawed individual, no different from any of us, whose struggles with mental health and addiction have led him down this path.
Now look — I don’t know Matt personally and I cannot and will not speak as if I know what he has been through. Maybe he has dealt with serious mental health struggles, maybe he just liked to party and it got out of hand; it is not on any of us to speculate. But what is clear to me is that something needs to change with the way we act as members of the media, fans, co-workers, friends and just human beings.
If someone we know is in pain or struggling and there’s something we can do, it is on us to have those uncomfortable conversations and try to be for them and, hopefully, help them. Judging by the revelations in today’s court case and later reporting by the NY Post (one of the affiliates that took more than their own share of unfair personal shots at Harvey for years), it appears as if Matt was not given enough of that support.
In cases where it is not a personal relationship but a situation involving a public figure similar to this one, it is long overdue that we stop setting such unrealistic expectations.
These athletes can do incredible things that “wow” us and make them feel like superheroes, but they are no more or less human than you or I. They feel the things we feel, face inner demons just like us and have to deal with it all on a public stage in a way that can only amplify things. It is time that we stop looking at these individuals with the labels of “good guys” and “bad guys,” but as real people.
These issues deserve nuanced discussions, not knee-jerk reactions and if we can’t do that than it would behoove us all to get educated on each topic prior to making up an opinion about it and spouting it off into the ethos.
Harvey appears to have been failed by many of the people in his life, the organizations that he was a part of, and himself. It is on all of us to change our mindset to help when the “next” Matt Harvey needs it.