Speaking Up for Mental Health Awareness: An Interview with Metta World Peace

The Modern Therapist's Survival Guide with Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy

Aug 22 2022 • 58 mins

Speaking Up for Mental Health Awareness: An Interview with Metta World Peace

Curt and Katie interview Metta World Peace about his efforts toward mental health advocacy, awareness, and access. We explore what led him to speak up, the challenges he’s faced as a public figure, his solutions for prevention, and how his businesses and philanthropy support mental health.

Transcripts for this episode will be available at mtsgpodcast.com!

An Interview with Metta World Peace

Metta World Peace played professional basketball for 19 years. He won the NBA World Championship with the LA Lakers in June 2010 and received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award – the NBA’s highest citizenship and community service honor – in April 2011. He was selected to the 2005-06 NBA’s All-Defensive Team, was voted by the media as 2003-04 NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year and was the only man with 271 steals in his first two seasons in the NBA, breaking Michael Jordan’s record. His autobiography, “No Malice: My Life in Basketball” was released in May 2018 with Triumph Publishing and a documentary on his life in basketball, “Ron Artest: The Quiet Storm” was released on Showtime in May 2019. World Peace is currently pursuing entrepreneurial projects including the XvsX Sports project he cofounded in 2017 and an NFT project, Meta Panda Club, to bring decentralized basketball community to the masses.

World Peace is also known as a prominent mental health advocate, pop culture personality, philanthropist, and media favorite. He raffled off his 2010 NBA World Championship Ring with the proceeds going to his nonprofit, Xcel University (now known as Artest University). The online ring raffle raised more than $650,000. Funds were donated to nonprofits in 5 cities that provide mental health therapists and mental health services to their communities, and to provide scholarships to underprivileged youth in the New York City area.

World Peace was part of the 13th season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, a contestant on CBS’s first edition of Celebrity Big Brother, as well as the CBS competition show, Beyond The Edge. He is active in entrepreneurial endeavors, serves as an advisor to several tech start ups, and seeks to help other basketball players who have aspirations for a pro career with his app and league, XvsX Sports. For more information, please visit https://www.xvsxsports.com/, https://metapandaclub.com/, and https://artestuniversity.org/.

In this podcast episode, we interview Metta World Peace about..

Curt and Katie spent an afternoon chatting with Metta World Peace, exploring his work to reduce mental health stigma. We’re excited to share that conversation with you.

Why did Metta World Peace start speaking about his mental health?

“I've experienced so many things – you know you’re playing basketball [as a kid], and you got to duck under the bench, people shooting. Sometimes you got to go to the game with guns in your bag, you know, different things like that, to make sure everything's cool. And that's just that's just not life. Life is tag. Life is freeze tag. Life is… hopscotch when you're a child… life is learning. That's life. Kids should be outside playing in parks.” – Metta World Peace

  • Metta shared his story growing up
  • The Crack Epidemic and the impact on his neighborhood
  • The challenges of incarceration, lack of education, and access to resources
  • Building a shell to protect yourself on the streets
  • What you learn and practice in the neighborhood he grew up in
  • The role of history and the impact of slavery on mental health of generations of Black people
  • The number of friends who are incarcerated
  • The role of “chemical imbalance” in the mental health landscape and the family members who have dealt with more serious mental illness
  • Metta’s desire to give back to the mental health community

How Metta World Peace is working to solve the problems that lead to poor mental health

  • The meaning of his name and why he changed it
  • Coming together with all types of people
  • Pushing back on separation and division or divisive statements
  • No guns or drugs allowed in my neighborhood
  • Challenging what has been defined as “life” in his neighborhood
  • The lack of connecting resources (like parks) in all neighborhoods
  • The importance of play and letting kids be kids

The challenges that Metta World Peace faces in putting forward his message

“I'm a colorful, I love comedy. I like to do silly stuff. It's just fun to me, honestly. But then people want to put me on television to do something silly. But when I want to do something meaningful, they don't want to do that programming... that's why I'm so vulnerable, honestly, because I don't know how else I'm going to get it out to the to the world.” – Metta World Peace

  • Describing self as emotional and colorful
  • Needing to boost his confidence
  • Mental health stigma before his first disclosure (thanking his therapist in 2010)
  • How people perceive Metta versus how he sees himself interacting in the world

Metta World Peace’s vision for the future

  • Everyone has access to mental healthcare
  • Everyone has a chance to have a good life
  • We try to understand each other and what motivates them, what they are going through
  • People coming together to improve society
  • Parenting and partnership training in schools
  • Putting parks in every neighborhood so kids can play, connect, and be kids

What Metta World Peace is doing now

“Sometimes it's too much [speaking about mental health], you know, sometimes I'm too vulnerable, and it hurt me a lot. Because I'm telling people where I'm from, I tell people how I live.” – Metta World Peace

  • After retirement, Metta is focusing on spending time with his children, partner
  • Speaking up to address mental health disparities
  • Sharing his story to shine a light on the challenges he has faced
  • His desire to do something powerful to make a difference
  • Partnering with OOTify to support mental health access
  • Business endeavors to support philanthropy for mental health
  • Supporting other businesses to be successful
  • Artest Management Group: Embedding philanthropy into all of the businesses Metta World Peace supports
  • XvsX Sports helping athletes to get discovered, compete, and coach

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

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Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Therapy as a Political Act: An interview with Dr. Travis Heath

Antiracist Practices in the Room: An interview with Dr. Allen Lipscomb

Being a Therapist on Both Sides of the Couch: An interview with Rwenshaun Miller

Let's Get Political: An interview with Heather Walker Janz

Getting Personal to Advocate for Compassion, Understanding, and Social Justice: An interview with James Guay

Therapy of Tomorrow: An interview with Dr. Paul Puri M.D.

What to Know when Providing Therapy for Elite Athletes (CE podcourse)

What Can Therapists Say About Celebrities? The Ethics of Public Statements (CE podcourse)

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: www.curtwidhalm.com

Katie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: www.katievernoy.com

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/