"You need to know there are people around you who can help you live life."
Chamique Holdsclaw, former Lady Vol basketball and WNBA star, spoke to students at the University Center Wednesday, telling her life story and encouraging them to stay strong and seek assistance regardless of their circumstances. She spoke of her personal battle with clinical depression and how she survived suicide.
Dee Odom, junior in communication studies, said Holdsclaw's story had affected her for many years. Being able to hear it in person was huge for her.
"Chamique was the reason I started playing basketball," Odom said. "I loved her and looked up to her as a child. So knowing everything she has gone through has given me hope. When I lost basketball (due to an injury), the depression I already had from losing my father worsened. I thought I had to keep it a secret because I was suppose to be 'basketball strong', but seeing that she has even more to lose by coming out with her depression inspired me. I believe I listened to her more than I would some other person because she is someone I greatly admire."
Even more, Odom said Holdsclaw's story applied directly to her.
"Her story in general inspired me because I have been there," Odom said. "I have struggled with depression for a good part of my life, so her story is inspirational to me because it gives me hope that there are other people who have felt that nobody is there. I am not alone. The fact (is) she has been through the feelings of depression and is still standing is inspirational."
Odom said the biggest thing that stood out to her was Holdsclaw's joy.
"The joy and passion she has not only for life, but for helping others," Odom said. "She is geniune in her passion to help others overcome the mental disability of depression."
Holdsclaw said speaking at UT was her way of giving back as an athlete.
"I want to use my platform and help any way I can," Holdsclaw said. "It's my passion and I know it's my purpose. I know how it's affecting me and...my friends."
Alicia Johnson, first year Ph.D. student in Sport Psychology and Motor Behavior, said she had heard Holdsclaw's story through friends. Johnson is training to be a sport psychology consultant and hoped Holdsclaw's speech would assist her as she seeks to help others.
"Even though working with clinical issues, such as depression, is outside of my competency, I still need to be able to recognize these issues in order to help athletes get the appropriate help," Johnson said. "Although each athlete is individual and unique, hearing stories like Chamique's helps me better understand the many complexities that athletes face. After all, athletes are more than just athletes, they are people, too."
Johnson said even more important was Holdsclaw's heart for the students.
"The thing that stood out to me the most was not a detail in the story, but rather the honesty and raw emotion that Chamique so courageously showed us," Johnson said. "This story is obviously very personal for Chamique and it speaks to the strength of her character to be able to stand in front of an auditorium of mostly strangers and share such intimate details. Her story spoke to me not only because of my own personal experiences, but also because I have been by the side of several friends who have experienced those dark and lonely feelings Chamique described."