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Virginia’s Isaiah Wilkins overcomes anxiety, depression to lead Cavaliers’ success

Tremendous ESPN article highlights Wilkins’ perseverance

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Any Virginia Cavaliers fan can probably share with you their favorite Isaiah Wilkins moments.

Maybe it was an enthusiastic roar for a big bucket in the midst of a Cavalanche. Perhaps it was his equally enthusiastic coaching-up of his teammates on the defensive end of the floor. Or it could even be the hard lessons learned by his absence that taught you his value to the program.

But thanks to Andrea Adelson and ESPN, lots of us have gained a new reason to admire and respect the senior power forward.

Wilkins has clinical depression, which includes feelings of worthlessness or guilt, restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration and a depressed mood most of the day. He began seeing a therapist at Virginia, and when he is going through a bad day, he knows he can discuss his feelings with family, teammates and coaches.

”Sometimes, every day is an uphill battle,” Wilkins said. “It’s tough, because as an athlete, you have a lot of different responsibilities, and you’re not really allowed to say, ‘I’m struggling, I don’t really want to get out of bed,’ because you have these things that are keeping you in school. If I could give a message I would say, even if you’re doing well, seek out therapy. It helps. I think guys around the team can help, too.”

Wilkins does not have bad days every day. They come and go. But when he does have a bad day, he has asked to be treated normally.

”Basketball serves as a safe haven for me,” he said. “Everything feels OK when I am on the court. I don’t think it’s a secret inside our family here that I struggle. Everybody does an amazing job reaching out to me and checking on me, and I really appreciate it.”

The entire article is very much worth your time to read. It chronicles Wilkins’ community involvement in Charlottesville, as well as how his teammates have supported him. (Jack Salt’s stock got a boost in my book, too.)

Props to Isaiah for using his platform to shed light on mental health issues. Many young people—especially ambitious, high-achieving ones like UVA students—struggle in silence without knowing others are struggling, too. The University’s Department of Student Health offers free counseling and therapy, as well as referrals to private providers.

Outside the University community, you can find resources through the Commonwealth, or through non-profits like NAMI.