Last Monday evening in the Olin Concert Hall, Bates’ athletic department organized a documentary viewing and panel discussion on the subject of mental health. The guest of distinction was NCAA and WNBA star, Chamique Holdsclaw. The documentary, Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, co-produced by academy award nominee Rick Goldsmith and Lauren Kawana ‘06, tells her life story. Holdsclaw has battled depression for most of her adult life, and in her retirement has committed herself to raising awareness for mental illness.
“To live a balanced and healthy lifestyle it’s been a lot of work, it’s not easy,” she said in her opening remarks before the film. “I always like to tell people you kind of see me grow throughout the film, and what you see is me finally accepting this journey and now living in recovery.”
Holdsclaw grew up in Queens, New York, and attended Christ the King Regional High school. She was utterly dominant on the basketball court in high school, as evidenced in the film by raw footage from the early 90’s of Holdsclaw scoring at will and with elegance against her opponents. She earned a scholarship to play for Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee, where she won three NCAA championships, including an undefeated 39-0 season in 1997-98 — at the time the most wins in a NCAA women’s basketball undefeated season ever. Holdsclaw’s personal accolades at Tennessee include being a four time All-American, two-time Naismith award winner, and a 3,000 point scorer. That last mark put her in the company of University of Maine standout Cindy Blodgett, whom Holdsclaw mentioned competing against during the event.
During her time at Tennessee, Holdsclaw began to experience bouts of depression and the beginnings of bipolar disorder. The documentary, during the screening of which Holdsclaw removed herself from the auditorium, focuses primarily on Holdsclaw’s struggles with her mental illness, beginning at Tennessee and continuing during her career in the WNBA for the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks.
Following the screening, Holdsclaw was joined on the panel by Greg Marley, the clinical director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Maine, Brittany Longsdorf, Bates’ Multifaith Chaplain, and Luke Douglass, Bates’ interim director of counselling and psychological services.
Questions from the audience, largely made up of members of Bates’ athletics community, were robust. They ranged from the challenges of mental health that come from the collegiate athletic environment to the intersectional challenges of race and a lack of common experiences in therapist-patient relationships, and the stigma of mental health surrounding those who don’t immediately recover from their mental illness.
Holdsclaw mentioned accountability, therapy, and medication as some of the keys to her successfully “living in recovery.” “I think my friends really stuck up and learned how to support me, to really check on me,” she said. “They let me know how much they love me, how much they care.”
“You can’t give it up. It is easy to do. Sometimes everything becomes overbearing these days as I live with this, still those thoughts creep in. Like I just want to give up. And then I am just inspired by the courage that you guys have to share your stories and your journey, to know how much I have grown, and continue to grow.”