Former Basketball Star Enlightens Students on Mental Illness

By Andrea Nieves

Chamique Holdsclaw basketball player and mental health activist. Photo by Rick Goldsmith.

Lehman hosted the 10th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival on March 12. The festival, which strives to bring Lehman students together to give a better understanding of disabilities, showcased the award-winning documentary “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” directed by Rick Goldsmith. The film follows the journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, a basketball superstar who struggles with clinical depression and bipolar II disorder. 

While Holdsclaw herself wasn’t in attendance, the film gave Lehman students and staff insight into her journey in life. In the film, Holdsclaw says as a high school, college and WNBA basketball player, she has flourished in her many amazing achievements but suffers depression from the loss of her grandmother. Holdsclaw said she has emerged as an advocate for mental health to help others who face the same hardships.

The film gives an important insight into the lives of public figures and shows that they are not perfect. As sports figures, Holdsclaw says, players are expected to show no weakness whether they’re on or off the court. It prevents them from seeking help for their mental health issues because they fear judgment or criticism from their peers. “If you saw a psychiatrist, people would think you’re crazy,” Holdsclaw says on the discussion of mental health in sports. She chose to suffer in silence and says it hindered her personal growth. 

According to a June 2013 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Holdsclaw was arrested for smashing the windows and firing a gun into her ex-girlfriend’s car. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, ordered to pay a $3,000 fine, and complete 120 hours of community service in 2012. She realized she could hurt those around her and received therapy for a year and a half. 

Holdsclaw proves despite being successful in life, she could still fall victim to depression. In the film, she says “Many people would ask me, ‘How can you be depressed when you have so many blessings?’” Depression is an illness that can affect anyone whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. She became the face of mental health awareness and used her status to teach young students to get help for their suffering, and to identify signs of depression in others. 

In the film, Holdsclaw stresses the importance of keeping close friends and family around her when she needed it the most. Merrill Parra, Director of Student Disability Services at Lehman says, “Life is a journey that presents a lot of different challenges. Holdsclaw came to a realization that even though she was an athlete that was completely dependent on herself, she needed the assistance of others to have healthy physical and mental health.” This film aims to help others who feel as if they are alone and to show that people can suffer from depression, overcome it and still be successful.