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updated: 9/12/2012 10:10 PM

Holdsclaw shares her story of depression

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  • Chamique Holdsclaw was the top pick in the WNBA draft in 1999.

    Chamique Holdsclaw was the top pick in the WNBA draft in 1999.
    Associated Press file photo

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Former Tennessee and WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw wants people suffering from depression to realize they're not alone.

Holdsclaw returned to her alma mater Wednesday to discuss her fight with clinical depression, which included a suicide attempt during her pro career.

"You need to know that sometimes life seems hopeless, but that is a temporary condition," Holdsclaw said. "You've got to tell yourself that just because you might feel blue or lost or alone, you don't need to feel ashamed on top of that, because then you won't get help. There's life after your darkest moment. I know. I'm standing here telling you I know because I've been there and back."

Holdsclaw recounted how she attempted suicide in 2006 as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks by overdosing on the medication she was taking for clinical depression. She also wouldn't leave her Washington home for a few days in 2004, two years after the death of the grandmother who raised her.

She discussed these situations in a book, "Breaking Through: Beating The Odds Shot After Shot," that came out earlier this year. Holdsclaw is traveling the country and speaking out as an advocate for people dealing with the same issues she has faced.

"There's so much (of a) stigma," Holdsclaw said. "It's a challenge for me to travel and share my story and try to help people better cope with this and not be suffering in silence."

Holdsclaw spoke to a group of about 350 people as part of the university's VolAware initiative, which focuses on preventing violence, suicide and substance abuse. Sitting in the first two rows were the current Tennessee women's basketball team and Lady Vols head coach emeritus Pat Summitt. Holdsclaw noted that when she wouldn't leave her home eight years ago, Summitt flew to Washington and knocked on her door in an attempt to help.

"It makes it great just knowing she's here," Holdsclaw said. "She's lived through it with me. She's been there. When everybody else thought I was just crazy and such a problem, she never turned her back on me. For that, I have a lot of respect for her."

Holdsclaw led Tennessee to three consecutive national championships from 1996-98 before beginning a pro career that included six WNBA All-Star selections. She also played on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in the 2000 Games. Holdsclaw compiled 3,025 career points at Tennessee and remains the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading scorer.

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