Mets all-star to discuss mental health challenges with former NBA players
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Mets all-star to discuss mental health challenges with former NBA players

In the aftermath of a terrifying car accident last March, New York Mets all-star first baseman Pete Alonso suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In “One Thing I Wish You Knew,” a panel sponsored by the Friendship Circle of New Jersey’s chapter of UMatter — which helps teens shatter the stigma around mental health and suicide — Alonso and two other sports stars will share their insights on facing critical life challenges. The event will be held on Sunday Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. at LifeTown in Livingston.

Also on the panel will be Mike Sweetney, a former top 10 NBA draft pick for the NY Knicks and a collegiate all-American, and Chris Wright, the first known player in the NBA to have been diagnosed multiple sclerosis.

Sweetney will share his story about starting at the NBA just after the death of his father and the depression that ensued. He eventually found balance in his life and today is a mental health advocate and the assistant coach of the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team and head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team at New York’s Ramaz School.

At 22, while playing basketball in Europe, Chris Wright received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, which affects the central nervous system and can lead to an inability to walk. Wright underwent aggressive treatment and rehabilitation and a year later was signed to the Dallas Mavericks; he now plays for a team in Italy.

The panel will focus on resilience in the face of challenges that so many people face in life.

Alonso’s appearance will be via Zoom; Sweetney and Wright — along with moderator Erik Kussin, founder of #SameHere, a global mental health movement — will appear in person.

“One key to slowing the alarming rise of depression and anxiety among today’s teens is to raise awareness, provide tools, and offer examples of resilience. Hearing from these sports icons is invaluable in that process,” said Friendship Circle of NJ CEO Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum.

Friendship Circle provides support for children and teens with special needs and their families, as well as volunteer opportunities for teens. Its UMatter program was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and its LifeTown facility offers recreational, therapeutic, and educational activities for children, teens, and adults with special needs.

The program is free and open to all teens and adults; RSVP at fcnj.com/OneThing.

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