Metta elbow turns into teachable moment for county Mental Health

metta-elbow.jpgWhen the Lakers' Metta World Peace elbowed James Harden of the Oklahama City Thunder on April 22, NBA fans weren't alone in their chagrin. The act of aggression didn't make for the happiest day for officials of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. They have been very public partners with World Peace on billboards, at school assemblies and in public service announcements since he was Ron Artest. He had been an active and well-behaved spokesman for the cause of mental health — until that day.

World Peace was suspended for seven games amid talk that his own emotional demons had returned. The county's specialists see it as more nuanced than that, and in a ZevWeb interview World Peace blames it on getting "over-excited."

“I never thought I could reach that plateau again,” he said, adding: “It was pure excitement.”

World Peace said that, with his much improved game, he’s now working “all the time” with his therapist to keep from getting overtaken by emotion, as he did last month and in his earlier years. “She’s trying to show me how to play with less passion and still be effective.”

And that’s no easy lesson, he said, because this is “no kids’ game. I know people who throw more elbows than me. It doesn’t feel like a game to us. It feels like life or death.”

As he tries to reconcile the disconnect between his public image and his public mission, he can’t help feeling that he’s being judged more harshly than he should be in the situation.

“The only issue I have is people trying to single me out, trying to tarnish what I’m trying to do in the community. They try to destroy everything I’m working for.”

Previously on LA Observed:
Behind the scenes of Artest's PSA for mental health
Inside Ron Artest's head may be a scary place
I've got Wheaties!

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Health stories on LA Observed:
Steve Julian and love in the digital age
Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran is back at LA's morgue
Parrots heal LA veterans, and the other way too
Charlie Sheen confirms he is HIV positive (video)
Obamacare subsidies legal, Supreme Court rules
Writing about cancer and dying: Laurie Becklund and Oliver Sacks
'Yuck! Look what the storm dragged in.'
Meghan Daum on nearly dying and then telling the story