When Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers famously thanked his psychologist after the team won the 2010 NBA title, Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., reached out to him to help her educate local school children about mental health.
On Friday, World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) joined Napolitano and other members of Congress in a Capitol Hill press conference to promote the Mental Health in Schools Act, a bill that would provide school districts grants to hire onsite mental health professionals.
World Peace said childhood counseling saved him from going down a path of crime of drugs.
“I am a firm believer that the Mental Health in Schools Act will have a positive and lasting impact on our youth. That's why I'm here today,” World Peace said. “I encourage anyone struggling or hurting to not be afraid to seek help, and we all must do better to increase mental health awareness in our cities, communities, and across the nation.”
The basketball player, known for his eccentric off-court and on-court antics, has used his celebrity to help spread awareness of mental illness. World Peace is using his All-Star break to meet with politicians and mental health professionals.
World Peace has visited several schools with Napolitano to talk about mental health, including Eastmont Intermediate School in Montebello and Los Alisos Middle School in Norwalk, and has traveled to Washington, D.C. twice to help Napolitano promote the Mental Health in Schools Act.
Napolitano, who represents cities including Glendora, Baldwin Park and Monrovia in the 32nd District, introduced The Mental Health in Schools Act, which would create a competitive grant program of up to $1 million each for on-site mental health services.
“Metta World Peace continues to be a steadfast champion for mental health and speaks to the issues that others are afraid to talk about,” Napolitano said. “Personally, he knows that mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness and that everyone must work together to eliminate stigma.”