Lakers' Ron Artest tells Congress: 'It's normal to have a mental-health issue'

One man had everyone turning their heads Thursday on Capitol Hill: Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest.

Artest is typically known for his tenacious defense on the basketball court, but he gave an assist to mental-health advocates in Congress on Thursday. 

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The former All-Star was hosted by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), who represents part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. He spoke on a panel of mental-health advocates regarding the Mental Health in Schools Act, which, according to the congresswoman's office, would allocate federal grant funding for mental-health services in schools. The legislation was introduced on Thursday.

"I think it's normal to have a mental-health issue," Artest said during an interview on MSNBC. "People could call you crazy ... but it's totally normal in this day and age.

"I wanted to let the kids out there know it's OK."

Before winning the 2010 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers, Artest was known for something much more ignominious.

When he was a member of the Indiana Pacers in 2004, Artest helped start a vicious fight between players and fans at a game in Detroit by climbing into the stands after a spectator threw an object at him.

Artest was suspended for the rest of the 2004-2005 season and lost nearly $5 million in salary. In the following years, Artest did extensive image rehabilitation to change his rough reputation and started to receive treatment for his mental-health issues, which he said include anxiety.

In his well-known post-game interview following the Lakers' title victory last June, Artest thanked his psychiatrist for helping him concentrate on the court.

"She really helped me relax a lot," he said. "Thank you so much."

"Ron has been absolutely a champion in our area," Napolitano said, standing alongside Artest on MSNBC.

Artest also received a tour of the Capitol with the California lawmaker. He was last in Washington in December when he visited with President Obama at the White House to honor the Lakers' championship season.

Here is the video of Artest's post-championship interview: