Chamique Holdsclaw visits Millersville

Chamique Holdsclaw visited Millersville to talk about her struggle with mental illness as a professional athlete. Photo courtesy of Millersville University.

Alexander Bershtein
Staff Writer

Chamique Holdsclaw, a basketball superstar turned mental health advocate visited Millersville and Lancaster last Thursday, Nov. 9 to advocate for mental health and social issues at the Student Memorial Center and the Ware Center. In the morning until mid-afternoon Chamique Holdsclaw and the director of the documentary, Rick Goldsmith, were visiting education, African-American studies, social work and film classes.

In the evening, the Ware Center’s Steinman Hall was fully packed with people anticipating the documentary film, “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw.” However, a precursor of discussion was set up before the documentary with a panel of experts from Lancaster, who informed everyone of the intended meaning of the documentary.

Following the film, Holdsclaw and Goldsmith held a question-and-answer session. There were many questions that followed in regard to mental illness for athletes, minorities and lower classes. The discussion went on beyond the expected time of closing for the event, leading part of it to be held in the lobby of Steinman Hall.

Both Holdsclaw and Goldsmith explained that the documentary was originally intended to be about Holdsclaw’s success in overcoming the difficulties of her depression, as well as the trials she faced in her basketball-playing years. However, during the production of the documentary, Holdsclaw had yet to discover the extent of the challenges she faced with her mental health. Six weeks into the production of the documentary, Holdsclaw had an incident caused by her then-unknown diagnosis.

Holdsclaw wanted know what had occurred, so she went to her psychologist and told them information she had never told anyone. Because of how open she was, she discovered that she did not have depression, but a different illness known as bipolar depression.  Holdsclaw came to the conclusion that she was still dealing with her mental health and realized that it will always be an ongoing thing. She and Goldsmith agreed that this would change the message of the documentary — but, unexpectedly, for the better. There was no longer a center focus on her background and the past of overcoming. Her advocacy was previously about overcoming her mental illness. In the process, Holdsclaw’s views on herself changed, and thus her advocacy.

Goldsmith reflected on the situation saying, “It’s one thing to talk about your battle with depression, and how you’ve started to overcome that. It’s another thing to deal with an episode that does not reflect so positively on you.” He continued with confidence as he explained, “The film is a much more useful, and powerful, and real [as a] depiction of somebody with mental illness because of what happened in that incident and everything that followed.” And further concluding, “Mental illness is not something that you done with at any given point.”

Holdsclaw explained that she was doing a lot of advocacy work prior to the documentary. Rick Goldsmith contacted her through her agent, Lon Babby, as they were old friends. Goldsmith was interested in making a documentary on mental health, and as he heard about Holdsclaw, and knowing her agent, he felt it was a great idea for them to meet.

Holdsclaw believes that the visuals presented by the documentary help get the audience to understand and relate better. She felt it opened her up and make her more transparent. “The visual definitely sticks with people more, and you can see a sort of story, a process. And, so I definitely think it opened me up. It me want to be more transparent, because you realize how it can affect people and help others get through their tough times. Something I had to step up and do.”

“We learn from reading and storytelling and people being able to watch this. It helps me guide these discussions,” said Holdsclaw. She sees it as study-guide of sorts. She believes it can be used to help those who do not have access to a psychologist and they can relate to the story at hand to help them.

Holdsclaw feels that the documentary is a decent precursor and preview to her speeches which happen afterward at her advocacy events. She acknowledges that plenty younger people today may not be aware of her previous career in basketball and hopes this gets them to recognize her journey and overall story that led to why and how she does what she does. To get to the core of who she is.

Holdsclaw explains that she feels her documentary does go into the depths of relationship with her father. She feels that her father’s schizophrenia affected her life, and it wasn’t included in the documentary. She wanted to include that sort of parallel.

Goldsmith explained that his documentaries mostly deal with social issues, and in the past did stuff on politics and freedom of the press. He acknowledged that he has mental illness in his family and knew that most of the United States does. He knows that there is so much stigma with mental illness and people do not get treated. Goldsmith said he believes Holdsclaw’s compelling character helps the audience, and feels that she helps people feel as though they can talk about their mental illness because of this.

Going into the film, Goldsmith said he wanted “to allow the audience to experience what it is like to go through mental illness at its different points through the experience of someone going through it. It is not a psychologist telling you about it; it is not an instructor telling you about it. It is as much as possible, going through the experience with Chamique Holdsclaw.”

Goldsmith said he hopes the takeaway from the film is “all the issues that make it difficult to seek treatment. All the pitfalls, the obstacle, you will see in the film.”

There are examples of what happens when a person does not think they need to take the medication or their psychiatrist anymore because they do not want to see themselves as having an illness, as well as others not viewing them with it. What Goldsmith explains as self-stigma, a shameful feeling about it. Chamique Holdsclaw has this several times throughout the film. He explains the film tries to get at the constant work you have to deal with and that your family and friends have to realize as well.

Holdsclaw  gave exponential advice for a shift she wants people to have, “Hopefully my story will help them to overcome a lot, and know they’re not alone. There is a lot of people who suffer in silence, and for a long time I did. And you could see how it tore my life apart, and just you’re not alone. We’re in this together. There’s people that are going to be there to support you. It takes a village, sometimes. Mom and Dad, but sometimes Mom and Dad aren’t there. But, you have coaches, there are teachers. You have friends that can offer support, and it’s us being more empathetic to each other and understanding that and having that responsibility to support each other.”

  • HaroldAMaio

    —-He knows that there is so much stigma with mental illness
    Yes, a great many of us have been taught that.
    We “know” it, only because we have been taught it. We do not have to teach it to others. We can break the chain.