Mark Potter puts the pressure on Athletes to seek help for mental health


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Mark Potter and his wife Nanette discuss how they handled Mark’s depression. The event took place on Jan 31, 2022.

The pressure that comes with being a student can be overwhelming at times. The constant expectation to improve performance, stay healthy and maintain expectations outside of school can take a toll on anyone. Mark Potter, former basketball coach at Newman University, and his wife Nanette Potter, a former educator, made the decision to leave their respective professions and become motivational speakers on mental health. Their desire to educate the public on this subject brought them to Washburn Jan. 31 to speak to students.
Mark had coached men’s basketball for 30 years. He had suffered a mental breakdown during that time, forcing him to confront his depression head-on instead of ignoring it as he had done in the past. He describes how he didn’t understand what was happening when he began having moments of intense sadness and hopelessness. His lack of knowledge in this area stems from the previous generation’s silence on the subject.
Mark doesn’t hold back emotion as he shares his story with the audience, reinforcing his statement that showing vulnerability takes strength.
“I will not apologize for my emotions. We can no longer have fear about mental health,” Potter said.
He pushed through as long as he could until a week before nationals when he had to be at his best for the team. Potter’s breaking point was when he was scheduled to go scout basketball players at a high school an hour away. He couldn’t bear to be alone with his thoughts that long and asked Nanette to drive him.
Nanette was then given the floor to talk about her perspective of the night and share her experience as a caregiver. She describes how she knew something was wrong when Mark asked her to accompany him.
Nanette acted the next day by scheduling a doctor’s appointment for Mark and forced him to go despite his objections. From there, he was diagnosed with depression and told he would have to take leave from work for six weeks while he adjusted to his medication.
When Potter’s mental health started to improve and he went back to work, he rounded up the team to tell them why he had been absent and was adamant that they keep this knowledge to themselves for fear that he would be judged. It wasn’t until a freshman basketball player convinced Potter that his story could have a positive impact on the public that he agreed to talk to the press.
His story inspired so many people to reach out to Mark, thanking him for opening up. The responses convinced Mark and Nanette that their new mission in life was to spread awareness and create a safe space for people struggling with depression.
Mark and Nanette finished the presentation by giving students information on their website d2up, where people can contact the Potter’s for information on where to get help, talk about their struggles, or schedule a presentation by Mark and Nanette.
Students lingered after the presentation to speak with the Potter’s and take group pictures for social media.
“It was interesting to hear a story from someone who really experienced it (depression) and to also hear his wife’s side of the story,” said Maja Jung, a sophomore majoring in sport management.
The Potter’s took time to meet with several students individually, some were open about their own struggles and how impactful the presentation was.
“Our number one goal is to make sure people don’t just decide to think differently about mental health. We want them to act differently about mental health,” Nanette said. “When people say knowledge is power, we always think knowledge with action is really where the power is.”

Edited by: Kyle Manthe, Simran Shrestha