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Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan to continue mental health conversations in new YouTube series

Chicago Tribune - 2/14/2024

DeMar DeRozan wants to continue a conversation on mental health that he started six years ago when he was in San Antonio playing for the Spurs.

DeRozan unveiled a new video series this week that will feature conversations with other NBA stars to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. The Chicago Bulls forward first opened up about his journey facing depression and anxiety in 2018.

The “Dinners With DeMar” series will be produced by Podium Pictures and released on DeRozan’s YouTube channel. The first episode will be released Tuesday, featuring a conversation with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.

With a format designed to replicate a conversation with friends over dinner, DeRozan said his goal is to create a more relaxed, comfortable environment to discuss mental health.

“We all have those candid private dinner conversations with close friends,” DeRozan said. “Sometimes those are the best conversations. I kind of wanted to duplicate that. It’s a different feel and understanding of how we speak on emotions privately. The best way to do it is over a dinner table. I just wanted to show a different angle and show a different conversation — for not just athletes, but people in general of a story that we all have to tell.”

The first season of “Dinners With DeMar” will include three episodes released bi-weekly. Retired legend Dwyane Wade and Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard will be the other two athletes featured in upcoming episodes for this season. And DeRozan has a growing wish list — both of fellow players and individuals outside basketball — who he hopes will accept invitations.

This project has been a stretch for DeRozan — but a welcome one as he continues to highlight a topic that he values.

“I’ve always been a guy who was kind of quiet, to myself, always gave people space, respected space and never wanted to feel like a burden,” DeRozan said. “Everybody got busy schedules, busy lives. It was kind of stepping outside of my comfort zone reaching out to people, seeing if they want to be involved with it.”

DeRozan has seen conversations about mental health evolve within the Bulls locker room throughout the last year since center Andre Drummond opened up about his struggles with depression and his journey with therapy.

Since then, DeRozan said his teammates have been more open with discussing their own emotions and mental health concerns.

“It’s just the comfort level of it,” DeRozan said. “Just expressing it whenever somebody is going through something family-wise, personal-wise, career-wise. The conversation is not so heavy and it’s more warranted in our locker room more than ever. So that’s a good start.”

With his experience over the last six years and his new series, DeRozan hopes he can help to create this level of comfort in environments throughout — and beyond — the NBA.

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