Advocate Profiles

DBSA celebrates peer support champions during Mental Health Month 2017!

Chamique

With the NCAA National Championship Playoffs set to start next week, it seems quite fitting to be sharing the amazing story of three-time NCAA women’s basketball champion, Chamique Holdsclaw. Often referred to as “the female Michael Jordan,” she is the only athlete to win a national college championship plus an Olympic gold medal and, in addition, be named a Kodak All-American (four times) and a WNBA All Star (six times). But all the success Chamique had on the court never prepared her for the toughest opponent she would face: her own mental health condition.

As Chamique shares in the documentary about her life, Mind Game, basketball was her coping tool. Yet, early in her college career, basketball was not enough to help her cope with her father’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. Her coach, the legendary Pat Summit, encouraged her to go talk with someone. She saw the team psychologist once, but continued to use basketball as her main coping tool.

Drafted by the Washington Mystics as the top WNBA pick, she quickly faced challenges. For the first time, she was losing games. In college, she’d only lost 17 games in four years. Losing was not a part of her vocabulary. Life in Washington, D.C., became unbearable and she was eventually traded to the LA Sparks. Despite the move, she found herself feeling more depressed. She confided in LA team officials and began a treatment program which included taking medication.

After a period of feeling better Chamique stopped taking medication; shortly after, she experienced a suicide attempt. Fortunately, she rebounded and led the LA Sparks to the WNBA playoffs that year. After playing overseas during the off season, Chamique decided it was time to leave the LA Sparks and basketball—she was retiring. As she shares in her video: “My life was more important than basketball. I didn’t want to get to that point again.”

Chamique turned her attention to running basketball camps and helping young girls learn to express their emotions and develop life skills outside of basketball. In 2007, she shared her story on-camera for the first time.  As she spoke out more, she found she could have an even greater impact by raising awareness around mental health and providing hope and inspiration to others. By sharing her story and becoming a name and face people could connect to, she hopes to break down barriers that keep people from accessing care.

Her advocacy life had started! She put herself in the spotlight and was willing to share how she wished she had been able to reach out for help sooner and encourages others to do the same.

Chamique is a true advocate for those living with a mental health condition: committed to raising awareness and inspiring others to live in wellness. Or as she likes to say, “Getting people comfortable talking about mental health.”

Levi

Levi's passion for running was inspired by two factors: the need to maintain his own health and a desire to explore the off-the-beaten-path places he and his wife Christy traveled to. As a chain smoker from the ages of 18 to 28, Levi came to realize that smoking was a financially expensive habit, and started on a path of "harm reduction." He channeled this desire for wellness into a campaign, completing an amazing 11 marathons in the past six years.

Levi has run in marathons in cities and countries that include: Cebu in the Philippines; Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Dublin, and Toronto. In addition, Levi has participated in three marathons in Chicago and one in Los Angeles.

But Levi is doing more than just improving his health: he is raising awareness of positive mental health. He has raised $10,000 for mental health, arts education, immigrant issues, and breast cancer, with some of the funds going to Thresholds (one of the oldest and largest Illinois providers of recovery services for persons living with mental health and substance use disorders) and Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare (the Chicago organization where Levi works as a Community Integration Specialist).

Hailing from the island of Samar in the Philippines, Levi migrated to Chicago in 1990, and went through a period of culture shock, isolation, and depression as a new immigrant. He found a community with CIRCA Pintig, a blending of two nonprofit arts organizations: The Center for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts (CIRCA) and Pintig, which means pulse in Pilipino (the official language of the Philippines).

Levi beautifully melds marathon running and the arts by running in the indigenous garment, the bahag, worn by original natives of the Philippines. Levi discovered and fell in love with this native clothing during a CIRCA Pintig production entitled "Alamat," and has since worn it with pride to spotlight a vanishing people and culture in the Philippines. By wearing the bahag, Levi has made connections with Filipino and indigenous non-Filipino runners around the world.

Levi is currently in training to run marathons this October in Minneapolis-St. Paul and in Chicago.