But even with all the accolades, Holdsclaw believes her career could have been better had she confronted her condition instead of spending years trying to hide from it. Her mission now is to help bring the stigma of clinical depression and the mental health issues out into the open.
Holdsclaw has written a book, “Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot After Shot,” was recently honored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for her work as an advocate and speaker. She is also spokesperson for Active Minds, a nonprofit organization which serves as a young adult voice in mental health advocacy.
The healing begins, Holdsclaw says, with not being afraid to admit that you need help.
“It was really hard to come forward,” Holdsclaw said. “But when those words parted my mouth, it gave me so much strength.”
Changing the Conversation
Depression is not a death sentence. That is the message Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, wants people who are struggling with this condition to know; a message Holdsclaw has helped to spread.
“One of the things I have loved about working with Chamique is that one of the thongs she does is provide that symbol of hope,” Malmon said. “You can be on top of the world and be struggling inside. Depression is something you can manage and still live the life that you want to live.”
“The emotion that was most salient for me was fear,” Malmon said. “I realized that my brother and I were pretty similar people. I realized that if I had I experienced some intense emotions and thoughts I wouldn’t have told anybody.”
Malmon turned her grief into positive action. She began researching mental illness after her brother’s death, inspired to do so after learning he had suffered in silence for three years before seeking help.
“He had never told us, his family,” Malmon said. “His friends had noticed some changes in him, but they didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know what it meant, didn’t know it was their place to say anything. Since he was trying to keep it quiet, they wanted to keep it quiet to honor him.”
Malmon’s research uncovered some startling facts. According to the American College Health Association, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. Most students who show symptoms of depression don’t think it’s serious enough to seek help, or are embarrassed to do so. One in ten college students contemplates suicide.
Determined to start a dialogue on the issue, Malmon started Open Minds while still a student. It evolved into Active Minds and has grown to more than 300 student-led chapters on college campuses nationwide. Malmon believes that the more people can share their stories, the more they understand that depression is not a sign of weakness. Like her brother, they’ll realize that they aren’t alone.
“The next generation will change the conversation, they will be the parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers of tomorrow,” Malmon said. “They are going to get rid of the barriers that stop people from seeking help.
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