Chamique Holdsclaw could do no wrong. Three-time National Champion and two-time National Player of the Year for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols basketball team. Gold medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. WNBA Rookie of the Year and six-time WNBA All-Star.
But off the court and unbeknownst to her teammates, friends, family and fans, she was struggling with depression. She would eventually go public with the news and get help, but she continued to struggle, attempting suicide at one point and then, in a well-publicized 2012 incident in Atlanta that made national headlines, hitting her then-girlfriend’s car with a bat and shooting out her windows.
The entire journey is on display in the documentary “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” from Oscar-nominated director Rick Goldsmith.
The film, which will screen twice at Out On Film, is a case study of how athletes deal—or rather, fail to deal—with mental health issues. It’s all the more timely due to the ongoing concussion issue in the NFL, and how they have been linked to a rash of post-career suicides and other violent incidents.
Holdsclaw, a one-time Atlanta Dream player and current Atlanta resident, says athletes are less likely to seek help because they see it as a sign of weakness, especially if they are African-American.
“The church gave us strength since the days of slavery, we used to congregate and pray to push through it. That’s the way we’re raised, it’s like that’s in our head. But some things you can’t pray away, it’s still there,” she tells Georgia Voice. “It’s like the conflict between being gay in the church and mental health in the church, there’s always that conflict.”
The conflict with her then-girlfriend (and fellow WNBA player) Jennifer Lacy in 2012 led not only to probation, community service and a fine, but also to a new diagnosis—bipolar disorder.
But these are happier days for Holdsclaw. She’s on good terms with Lacy, has become a mental health advocate and a regular on speaking tours, and she even started her own foundation to help people through mental health and wellness-focused programs.
“Everything’s great, but I try to tell people I have bad days just like anybody else. Some days it’s hard for me to get out of bed but I know I am resilient,” she says. “Everybody has different issues. Some people like to point the finger, but we’re all struggling with something.”
“Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw” Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. (with an appearance by director Rick Goldsmith) Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 8:45 p.m. (with appearances by Goldsmith and Holdsclaw) Landmark Midtown Art Cinema www.outonfilm.org