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Invisible injury: NCAA basketball player reveals mental health battle

University of New Mexico basketball player Braden Appelhans got candid about his battle with ADHD and depression.
Invisible injury: NCAA basketball player reveals mental health battle
Posted at 3:17 PM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 16:17:56-05

From the stands, fans would have never known University of New Mexico basketball player Braden Appelhans was struggling on the inside. 

While he wasn't a starter for the Lobos this season, he would contribute minutes in crucial games this season as the team battled in a stacked Mountain West Conference. 

All the while, Appelhans says he was dealing with an internal struggle. In a post on X Wednesday night, the basketball player said he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, in fourth grade and put on medication to help him with school. 

"I was told my medication had a slight antidepressant in it," Appelhans said. "Since my depression wasn’t constant and would come and go my parents just helped me through it, thinking my medication would help."

The 6-foot-7 forward noted that his depression came back in a "big, bad, scary" way in the spring as he was recovering from surgery and navigating college life. 

"I went home after school got out, got into my doctor, and started on an antidepressant," he said.

After returning to school, Appelhans said he was flourishing, having excellent practices and earning playing time. But in September, he began to "spiral."

"I couldn’t make it through a practice without breaking down in tears," he said. "I couldn’t function, stopped doing homework, lost interest in basketball, and was going down a dark path to the point where I was questioning if I should even be here."

Appelhans said his coaches at UNM called his mother, who flew to Albuquerque to be by his side. During that time, he saw a team doctor and learned his ADHD medication and depression medication were canceling each other out. He got on new medication and started seeing a sports therapist. 

"Slowly but surely I started to feel like myself again," he said. 

While he thought the worst was behind him, a new problem showed up: sudden anxiety attacks. 

 "So back to the doctor I went and decided it was time to stop the ADHD meds — too much stimulation," Appelhans said. "Now I am about 2 months ADHD meds free. Grades are still good and I feel like myself again. I still take an antidepressant every day but I am in such a better place!"

Coach Richard Pitino praised Appelhans for coming forward with his story, noting how many positive responses he's received. 

"Braden’s courage to tell his story is making a difference in others' lives," he said.

Appelhans said that's what he wanted when he shared his story.

"Most don’t dare to reach out and ask for help. I hope someone reading this will see that it can happen to anyone, even kids who are living out their dreams," he said. "Everyone needs help at some point."

Appelhans added, "I have accepted that I have an invisible injury that I am fixing and is well on the mend! I will be back in a Lobo jersey next year!"

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