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"Mind/Game" Panel Reflection (Dr. Marc Felizzi)

Millersville University recently had the privilege of hosting Chamique Holdsclaw, the former WNBA and University of Tennessee basketball player, at a residency sponsored by the ArtsMU program at Millersville. In addition, Millersville presented a screening of Chamique’s biographical documentary “Mind/Game” directed by Rick Goldsmith. The documentary details Chamique’s experiences, and fight, with mood disorders before and after her stellar basketball career.

I had the honor of representing both Millersville University and NASWIS during a panel discussion prior to the screening along with community organizers, mental health professionals, and coaches. During the Q and A period at the conclusion of the screening, Chamique spent time with the packed crowd at the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA. She answered all manner of questions from the audience ranging from topics as broad as how she was able to persevere in life despite having her support system compromised by the death of her maternal grandmother, to living with a mood disorder, to discussing with athletes how to advocate for mental health awareness with their coaches and athletic director.

Chamique was gracious, endearing, genuine, and forthcoming about her battle with bipolar disorder as well as the transition from elite athlete to advocate for mental health treatment and a sponsor of youth basketball camps and programs. I was struck by how easily she connected with everyone who met her to her. You cannot walk away from meeting Chamique Holdsclaw without a smile or a feeling of positivity and a sense of inspiration. She is that unique human who fights the pernicious lows and cantankerous, self-harming highs of bipolar disorder with an optimistic attitude, positive bearing, healthy lifestyle and service to all people.

As I reflect on the experience of meeting Chamique and hearing about and seeing her life story, I remember the core values of the social work profession- service, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, competence, and advocacy for social justice. I realized that I witnessed all of those values embodied by one special person. If I could have conferred an honorary social work degree on anyone I’ve ever encountered in 25 years of practice and teaching, it would have been on Chamique Holdsclaw.

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