MU alum and NBA player Keyon Dooling stresses importance of mental health

Keyon Dooling is an MU alumnus who played in the NBA for 13 years on seven different teams. But his greatest accomplishment? Raising awareness about the importance of mental health.

The afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 10, a line stretched out of the front door of Jesse Hall on the MU campus. The line was full of current students waiting eagerly to hear Dooling speak about his personal struggles with mental health issues. 

At the event, Dooling told a story about the time he was sexually assaulted while out with a friend one night in 2013. The attack triggered post-traumatic stress disorder, which Dooling says was caused by his experience with sexual assault as a youth. Dealing with these suppressed memories took over his life. 

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone for days,” Dooling said. “I lost my appetite and didn’t want to eat for days; I didn’t want to see those visions so I didn’t sleep for days.  It was all too much.”

The overwhelming emotional stress drove Dooling to retire from playing in the NBA. 

“I called coach and told him I couldn’t do it,” Dooling said. “I just wasn’t able to. It was my dream job, I had a contract that still guaranteed me being able to play for a couple more years and I had to give it up because I couldn’t bring myself to do what I loved.”

Dooling then talked about how he believes that all people suffer from mental and emotional stress, and that only a small percent process and deal with it in a healthy way. He believes that when we’re young we are taught to be strong, not to cry, and to hide our weaknesses. He also believes that these teachings stick with us in our lives and cause us to have very unhealthy ways of dealing with our problems.

Dooling then advocated for the use of mental health resources on the MU campus. The university offers students free counseling sessions through the University of Missouri Counseling Center.  Through this service students may schedule therapy sessions or call a crisis hotline, which is open 24/7. Dooling challenged students to use these services, even if they do not think they need them, because he believes everyone benefits from therapy.

After getting a high school diploma, graduating from college, and 728 games played in the NBA, Keyon Dooling says the most important thing he has done for himself has been getting psychological help. He thinks everyone should take this step to better themselves.

Quentin Carlyle

About the Author Quentin Carlyle

I am Quentin Carlyle from East Prairie, Missouri, a small town in the bootheel with a population barely exceeding three thousand citizens. My freshman year of high school I became a member of the National FFA Association, and it has been a top priority in my life ever since. Throughout high school the FFA gave me a fondness for the agriculture industry and also taught me many useful skills. In the organization I participated in many different activities including Career Development Events such as soils, grasslands, entomology, and farm management, and Leadership Development Events such as extemporaneous public speaking, parliamentary procedure, and fall public speaking. These activities led me to my dream of becoming a Missouri FFA State Officer. This year I accomplished this goal and am currently serving as a 2018-2019 Missouri FFA Association State Vice President.