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Retired WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw, left, accompanied by award-winning documentarian Rick Goldsmith, shared her very personal struggle with mental illness with FRC students. Photos submitted

Film and WNBA all-star’s deeply personal struggle inspires FRC students

She achieved an enviable stardom on the court and accomplished what many athletes only dream of. In fact, Chamique Holdsclaw used to be called the female Michael Jordan.

It wasn’t easy for the gifted player and she worked incredibly hard, leading the University of Tennessee to win three National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball championships in a row.

By 1999, Holdsclaw was named Rookie of the Year and a Women’s National Basketball Association number-one pick. She was also selected for the U.S. Olympic team in 2000 and is still considered one of the greatest female basketball players of all time.

But the all-star suffered from a painful, hidden struggle with mental illness that led her to personal setbacks — including a suicide attempt and run-ins with the law — and she found herself retiring for the first time in 2007.

By 2010, Holdsclaw retired for the second and final time. It was then that she embarked on a second career as a mental health advocate.

“Her story is so powerful and resonates on many levels,” said Dr. Kelsie Foster, psychologist at the Feather River College Mental Health and Wellness Center.

Foster invited Holdsclaw to speak to FRC students recently in recognition of “Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.” The presentation was held for a packed audience and sponsored by the college’s wellness center.

Holdsclaw’s fascinating first-person experience was shared in conjunction with a special screening of the 2015 documentary, “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw.”

Two-time Academy-Award nominated director Rick Goldsmith, who produced and directed the film, also spoke at the FRC event.

According to Foster, the film has received critical acclaim, including the “Voice Award” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. It tells the story of Holdsclaw’s background, including her family’s history of mental illness, her rise to fame in the WNBA and her battle with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

“To have a professional athlete openly discuss mental illness is so rare and so compelling,” Foster said, explaining her excitement about being able to bring Holdsclaw to FRC. “Our students were very intrigued with her story.”

The event featured a question-and-answer session that made the player’s story accessible for students in a personal way. The presentation was also made possible with assistance from the FRC Student Success and Support Program.

For more information about any of FRC’s counseling and support services for students, contact the Wellness Center at 283-0202, ext. 205.

A captivated FRC audience heard from Chamique Holdsclaw, one of the greatest female basketball players of all time as part of a special presentation to honor suicide prevention and awareness.

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