Women’s basketball legend, Chamique Holdsclaw—decorated with three consecutive NCAA championship titles and an Olympic gold medal—visited campus on February 1 to share with students her decades-long struggle and journey with mental illness in Kresge Auditorium. 

Part of the Bowdoin Athletics’ Leadership and Empowerment through Athletics Principles (LEAP) Initiative, the event screened her documentary “Mind | Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw” and was followed by a panel discussion that included the Director of Counseling Services and Wellness Programs Bernie Hershberger, Director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Kate Stern and the Executive Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine Jenna Mehnert. 

The event attempted to inform students who suffer from mental illnesses about the support-systems on campus and encourage students with friends suffering from mental illnesses to continue to speak up about the available resources. Holdsclaw stressed in her film and panel that it is easy to forget that suffering is universal and accepting yourself for your flaws, beauty and your struggles takes an incredible level of courage, but it will feel like a world of burden is taken off you.

“People ask about my experience winning championships and Olympics but I can’t probably remember because I was chasing the next thing,” Holdsclaw said. “Honestly life after basketball has been pretty darn amazing. I guess I’m not using basketball to hide it now. I’ve accepted it. I’m finally living in my truth. I’m not changing or anything. I know life is not perfect but I’m finally living. Now I’m appreciating the people, appreciating the situation.” 

Holdsclaw discussed how depression can take many insidious forms—obvious as well as subtle—which emphasizes how important it is for people to be more aware and conscious of what others may experience.

“Imagine it this way: to go to bed every night and wake up in cold sweats. The guilt was killing me. It was on my mind 24/7,” Holdsclaw said. “When I went to see therapists I was on the edge of my seat with my mind racing 100 miles per hour.”

The panel traced one of the causes of depression to the unrealistic expectations that society constantly feeds people through various forms, such as social media, and the fact that we tend to unconsciously accept societal norms. 

“It was really great to have one of the best female athletes in history come and tell her story that I’m sure most people didn’t even know,” Moctar Niang ’19, a member of the men’s soccer team, said. “It just goes to show that often people are not educated on the matter and my personal takeaway from this is the question of what more things can be done to raise awareness on the severity of mental illness.”

The panel also discussed treating depression and other forms of mental illness, which are tricky to treat, according to Hershberger.

“When you look at depression you also have to look at a whole lot of practices like therapy, prescriptions, acupuncture, yoga, massage, nutrition and exercise,” he said. “Really you have to look at the whole person and see how we can recover from this. You don’t know which one is going to actually make the difference so you have to keep trying.”

The panel agreed that having solid and dependable friends and family who are willing to listen and really care is the single most important factor in counteracting and relieving this pain. 

“There are girls on my team who have similar experiences and looking at it from a little bit of distant perspective I feel like I should’ve done something, which is the important part,” said Paula Petit-Molina ’20, a member of the field hockey team. 

“You are never alone. I used to think I’m the only one who is going through this but you are never alone,” said Holdsclaw. “Even at your weakest moments there will be someone who will return your call.”