NOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Former Lady Vol standout Chamique Holdsclaw returned to her alma mater Wednesday to talk with Tennessee students about the importance of mental health advocacy.
A six-time WNBA all-star, Holdsclaw shared her story of struggling with depression, which included a suicide attempt. In 2006 while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks, Holdsclaw overdosed on the medication she was taking for depression.
“It’s one of those things in life that I went through it and I’m just glad to be able to have some positives come out of it and to help people,” Holdsclaw said. “UT really wants to get this message out to the students and just let them know that they have support and a support system here. It’s an issue where a lot of kids come through that counseling center that are struggling and can’t find balance so I just wanted to use my platform and help in any way that I could.”
“I made a pact with God,” Holdsclaw said. “It’s my passion. I know it’s my purpose. I know how it’s affected me. It’s affected my friends. It’s giving back basically as an athlete. Since I was young, it’s trying to affect change and make people’s lives better. I’ve done so much community service. But this has so much stigma. It’s a challenge for me to travel, to share my story and try to help people better cope with this and not be suffering in silence.”
Holdsclaw travels around the nation, raising awareness and helping others with similar issues.
“One thing is you are not in it alone. A lot of times when we go through life’s challenges, we think we’re the only one at that moment going through it and it just closes us off. When we start speaking about things that we’re going through, not just depression, it can be relationships, anything, we realize there are a whole lot of other people going through the same thing. It gives us strength. It brings us together and that’s what I encourage people to do.”
In a crowd of more than 300 people that came to hear Holdsclaw’s story, one person she was grateful for attending was UT Women's Basketball Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt, who reminded her former pupil that "tough times don't last; tough people do."
“It’s great just knowing that she’s here. She’s lived through it with me. She’s been there when everybody else thought I was the word ‘crazy’ and such a problem, she never turned her back on me. And for that, I just have a lot of respect for her.”
Holdsclaw led the Lady Vols to three consecutive national championships from 1996-98 and is the leading women’s scorer in SEC history. She also earned a gold medal with Team USA in the 2000 Olympic Games.
You can read Holdsclaw’s full story in her book “Breaking Through: Beating The Odds Shot After Shot.”