Liz Cambage has been one of the stars of the 2019 WNBA season with the Las Vegas Aces. (Reuters: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
Australian basketball star Liz Cambage has revealed she was on suicide watch in 2016, in an impassioned article calling for a better understanding of the realities of depression and anxiety.
- Liz Cambage revealed she withdrew from a recent WNBA game after suffering a panic attack
- She revealed she has suffered from mental illness for many years, and is on medication
- Cambage is a three-time WNBA All Star and holds the record for most points in a WNBA game
The Opals’ record-breaking centre has written an emotional account of her lifetime battle with mental health issues for the Players’ Tribune website, which she describes as a current “dragging you out into the ocean”.
“And now the water is getting deeper and deeper … and your friends have all disappeared … and it doesn’t feel so sunny anymore … and you can’t move … and you can’t breathe … until suddenly it’s just you, alone, under these enormous, dark waves,” Cambage wrote.
A three-time WNBA all-star, Cambage holds the WNBA single-game scoring record with 53 points for her current team, the Las Vegas Aces, and last year led the competition in points-per-game.
In the Players’ Tribune article, Cambage questioned whether, despite the current discussion around mental health, people really understand the condition.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
“Are people really ready to talk about how, starting at around 15 years old, I would just get blackout drunk some nights? Or that I’ve woken up with an IV in my arm after a weekend of partying, not being able to remember a thing? Or that my first attempt at sobriety was at 18?” she wrote.
“Are people ready to talk about how, after I was drafted into the WNBA, I spent almost every night of my rookie season alone, in tears?
“Are people ready to talk about how I was put on suicide watch in 2016?
“How I called up my mum, and — in the hardest conversation of my life — told her I didn’t want to live anymore?
“I don’t think it’s until we’re ready to truly open up about those types of experiences — until we’re ready to get real about how mental health can be this dark and even losing battle — that we’ll be ready to take the next step in this conversation.”
‘I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying’
Cambage said she wanted to write the article after recently taking a DNP-Rest (Did Not Play) following a crippling panic attack.
“But here’s the truth of what it should have said: DNP-Mental Health,” she said.
“I found an empty hallway outside the locker room, still in my uniform, and started to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying. I was having the most uncontrollable anxiety attack — a full-on breakdown.”
Cambage (second from left) won a silver medal with the Opals at the 2018 world championships. (AP: Andres Gutierrez)
Cambage said the catalyst for the breakdown was the hospitalisation of her grandmother and the recent end of her long-term relationship.
She had also stopped taking medication earlier this year after “things had been good for a while”.
“I’m one of the many millions of people in the world right now on medication to help treat depression and anxiety. I’ve been taking those meds for years,” she said.
“They keep my self-doubts from spinning out of control.”
But she said her medication has a downside.
“They can also have a dulling effect. I wake up groggy in the mornings. I move a little slower,” she said.
‘Isn’t mental health care just elemental?’
Since her recent panic attack, she has decided to resume her medication.
“It was really important to me to not just ‘clear the air’ here. I didn’t want to say ‘just enough’ about what happened so that people would stop asking questions. I didn’t want to shout out, ‘HASHTAG MENTAL HEALTH!!!!’ and then have that be the end of it,” Cambage wrote.
“I wanted to tell you the real truth of what’s been going on with me. Because what’s been going on is not some secret, or mystery. It’s not some huge scandal.
“What’s been going on is just … my life.”
Cambage questioned why the NBA had been praised for introducing a new rule which states every team has to have a mental health professional on staff, when that had not been applied to the women’s competition.
“Isn’t mental health care just elemental?” she wrote.
“Isn’t it one of those things where we should just decide that every person needs access to it, and then … find a way? Every school, every workplace, every sporting program, just — everyone.
“Everyone should have a mental health professional. It’s a doctor! Do you know what I mean?
“It’s literally a physio for your brain.”