Slam dunk for mental health

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Krista Van Slingerland in action on a basketball court

By Linda Scales

When University of Ottawa student-athlete Krista Van Slingerland talks about the national mental health initiative for student-athletes that she co-founded in March 2014, you know you’ve met a hero, someone intent on improving the world for the many varsity athletes walking in her shoes.

Van Slingerland is a master’s student in human kinetics at the University and a guard for the Gee-Gees women’s basketball team. She suffered from clinical depression and anxiety as an undergraduate student-athlete at another university, and while her story is personal and difficult to discuss, she tells it often to peers, sports-related organizations and universities across Canada.

“Mental illness in sports is treated almost like (physical) injuries,” says Van Slingerland. “Are you hurt or are you injured? If I can push through this and I can still play then that’s what I’m going to do. It’s not really healthy, but it’s the culture of sports.”

Van Slingerland, along with alumna (and former Gee-Gees women’s hockey player) Samantha DeLenardo, set up the volunteer-based Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) to bring awareness about the mental health difficulties experienced by many university students active in varsity sports and to provide information about available resources.

Read the full story and watch the video.

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