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In 2014, university athlete Krista Van Slingerland described her spiral into deep depression and self harm while she played basketball for the Carleton Ravens, a team she eventually left.
“The police interrupted my suicide attempt a few months later.
I’m not sure I had the courage to actually go through with it, but I was desperate to make the hurt go away. The reaction of my friends and family, those who had loved me at my worst, served as a wake up call,” she wrote in a blog post.
She said her understanding of the “mental toughness” required to be a top athlete left her unable to admit she needed help.
Today, Van Slingerland, a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa who has made mental health and sports her academic focus, is co-founder of Canada’s first centre for mental health and sport with Natalie Durand-Bush, professor in the School of Human Kinetics at uOttawa.
The centre is aimed at helping athletes, like Van Slingerland and many others, who struggle with mental illness.
The Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sports offers specialized, integrated mental health services to Canadian competitive and high-performance athletes and coaches with a focus on treatment and research.
It comes at a time when there is a growing movement to end stigma around mental illness, and a recognition that athletes face unique pressures.
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