Ryan Weiss: Arizona Diamondbacks Draftee on Men’s Mental Health

This November, The Hidden Opponent is partnering with Our Minds Matter to celebrate “Movember” and change the face of men’s health. Join us for a month of celebrating male athletes, coaches, sports fans, advocates, and more. Our first feature comes from Ryan Weiss, a fourth round draft pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks. You can hear more about Ryan’s story at a panel presentation on November 19th. Register today to reserve your spot!

My name is Ryan Weiss and I was a baseball player at Wright State University before getting drafted in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. My first experience with mental health occurred when I was 14 after my dad made the decision to take his own life.

Although I felt distraught and broken, it didn’t really feel real. I remember going to school the next day after it happened because I thought that’s what my dad would’ve wanted. While my mom and sister chose to go to therapy, I opted not to attend, because I thought I could handle the immense burden on my own. I felt like I had to be strong for my family, not realizing that nobody expected a 14 year old boy to be able to uphold everyone around him. I never told anyone what I was going through because I was determined not to feel sorry for myself.

Once I got recruited by Wright State, I found father figures in the strong men that were part of the baseball program. For that, I am forever grateful. While at WSU, I gave my life to Christ, and I started seeing a therapist about the anxiety I was experiencing. Thankfully, sessions were free and I could get the help I needed without adding any financial burden to my mom. It felt good to open up to someone and the therapist taught me great breathing exercises that I still use today. 

During winter break of my junior year at WSU, my sister and I woke up to find my mom unresponsive on the floor. I knew that over the summer she had been in and out of the hospital (nobody told me at the time, because I was in the Cape Cod Summer League and they didn’t want me to worry), but I didn’t know what would have caused her to collapse. We called 911 and I gave her CPR hoping to sustain her until the ambulance arrived. 

My mom had experienced organ failure due to loss of oxygen and likely complications of Lupus. She was in the hospital for a day before she passed away. Later that year, I got drafted by Diamondbacks the day after her birthday. Although it’s been two years since I lost my mom, it still doesn’t feel real. 

Many of my teammates with the Diamondbacks still don’t know my situation, as I have not felt comfortable opening up about it until recently. I realized that I should talk about my story more, because not many men seek the help they need in these situations. I realized that I have been through more than the average 23 year old and that ignoring my own feelings cannot be a long term solution to dealing with grief and anxiety. 

I want to encourage other people that mental health and wellness is not a matter of willpower. You are not weak for seeking help. It took a lot more strength for me to get help than to continue to “handle” my feelings on my own.