I’ve never met Chris Holtmann and likely never will, but he has become my new hero.
Holtmann, the Ohio State University men’s basketball coach, recently took on the peanut gallery of online trolls who are unhappy that star player D.J. Carton has taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with his mental health.
Because they generate millions of dollars for their schools and the gambling industry - let’s face it - it can be easy to forget that college athletes are, at their core, kids who still are trying to figure themselves out.
They must do so while enduring a level of scrutiny and pressure that would make most of us tap out.
Carton’s right to be a healthy human being is more important than our demand to be entertained.
As enlightened as we have become, American culture still fosters a toxicity in which boys and men aren’t allowed to be afraid, to fail, to break.
It’s even worse for black boys, who are viewed as older, tougher and, yes, more threatening than other boys. This is one of many reasons why they’re far less likely to be seen as someone who needs mental health treatment.
However, the suicide rates for black boys 15 to 19, is on steroids.
A 2017 study published by the Journal of Community Health shows a doubling of the suicide rates for black girls ages 13 to 19. For black boys in the same category, the rate has jumped 60%.
The study also found that suicide by black boys 5 to 12 is outpacing boys from other racial and ethnic groups.
Imagine the response in Columbus if the teen suicide rate in Bexley, Upper Arlington or New Albany, Ohio, jumped by 60%.
In 2019, American Academy of Pediatrics published excerpts from the “Trends of Suicidal Behaviors among High School Students in the United States: 1991-2017,” which found “increases in suicidal behaviors and thoughts among black teens far outstripping trends among their peers” and that the incidence of injury as a result of attempting suicide is rising for black boys.
In Prince George’s County, Maryland, a police officer was suspended last month - as he should have been - for posting a video of Delonte West, a former Cleveland Cavaliers player who is homeless as a result of his acute mental illness.
Just because someone’s superpower is athletics, it doesn’t mean they can’t also be broken people in desperate need of help.
Now, we know there are old-school jocks and fans who scoff at the notion of a star athlete needing a mental health break. After all, he’s got it made, right?
If something happens to Carton, you already know what’s next: Makeshift memorials materializing outside of the Schottenstein Center, Facebook pages and internet memes, commemorative shirts and his photo on the Jumbotron; all rituals to make ourselves feel better.
Coach Holtmann deserves credit for understanding it shouldn’t have to come to that.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.