Former Niskayuna Lacrosse Player Dan Brownell Helps Others With His Own Mental Health

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, people around the world faced issues they had never dealt with before. The isolation that came with the lockdown, canceled activities and the inability to travel were all new experiences. In the world of athletics, the effects were almost total. At St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, for example, the men’s lacrosse team suddenly took a three-game break in their 2020 campaign.

Dan Brownell, like the rest of his teammates, now had to deal with something he loved so much being ripped from him. Unlike his friends, dealing with the loss of lacrosse in his life created a void in Brownell’s mind that he didn’t know how to fight. The 2019 graduate Niskayuna, who played both soccer and lacrosse for the Silver Warriors, was already facing challenges in his personal life. The cancellation of the lacrosse season triggered something in him that led to a deeper dive into depression.

Brownell didn’t know what to do or where to turn to see how he was feeling.

“There was a day when I was in bed for eight to ten hours,” Brownell said. “I only got up to go to the bathroom and get some food.”


Realizing he needed help over the summer, Brownell decided to take time off from the lacrosse team and enlisted the help of Nicole Adach, an outstanding basketball player in Mohonasen, who has continued her playing career at St. Michael’s and currently serves from that. program mental skills coach.

“If an athlete wants to get stronger, he knows he can go to the gym. He can do a program with a trainer and do squats, bench presses and deadlifts,” Adach said. “When an athlete wants to be more confident or calmer or more focused, there really is no protocol or plan on how to do it.”

Adach helped Brownell better understand the feelings he was dealing with, and he quickly took medication for depression and anxiety. As a result, he was able to understand himself better and cope better with everyday life, but Brownell felt he had even more to do. It all started with her decision to share her story with others.

Most people facing Brownell’s situation would just like to keep such a personal ordeal private and not talk about sanity. Instead, Brownell chose to post a post to his Instagram account on September 30, 2020.

“I wanted to break that (the stigma). I did a public Instagram post where I said, ‘Hey, this is who I am and this is what I’m going through,’ Brownell said. wanted people to know that no matter who you are, it’s okay. “

Here is this post:

As many of you probably know, September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Before the end of the month, I wanted to take the opportunity to share my experiences with mental health and suicide. I was recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I have also recently had suicidal thoughts. I won’t go into details, but I am taking medication and getting the help I need now. I feel like my depression and anxiety existed long before I went to see my doctor about it, and personally I think it’s because of the stigma around men and mental health and the expectation that we (men) are always strong, always “okay”. It took me a long time to admit and come to terms with the fact that I was not doing well, and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to tell a lot of people about it because it’s definitely not an easy thing. to say. My purpose in sharing my story is not for attention or sympathy. I share this because I know that there are people who are like me, who feel they need to be strong and need to take action and feel good. I am here to say that it is quite normal to disagree. I want everyone to know that you matter, and no matter how you feel or what you are going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to my family, friends and peers, I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If anyone needs to talk to someone about anything, I’m 100% all ears whether you think it relates to my story or not. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need and don’t forget to check with those you love because you never know what they may be hiding behind their smile. I love you all❤️

-Dan

Sharing his journey not only proved cathartic for Brownell, but immediately made him realize that he was hardly alone on his journey.

“I think for me personally it was to show how far I had come,” Brownell said. “You don’t stay where you are forever, whether you’re too high or too low. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I did it for other people,” he continued. “I posted and five minutes later my phone exploded. People were like, ‘You are so brave to do this.’ I’ve had people that I’m not really close with say, “I’m going through this too. I think it was really empowering to think that I could help someone, let alone 5, 10. , 15 people that I had no idea were going through something like this. “

“For Dan to speak so candidly about his sanity is so huge,” Adach said.

Adach, who graduated from St. Michael’s in psychology in 2013, received his master’s degree in clinical psychology three years after his college basketball career ended. She interned with a sports psychologist at the University of Vermont during her postgraduate work and found that she wanted to develop an avenue to help athletes like Brownell.

“When I was in college, we really didn’t talk about mental health with athletes,” Adach said. “It was more like ‘be mentally tough, fight him and drop him at the door and be here.’ There was never a conversation about how to be mentally better. As I was pursuing my graduate studies to become a therapist, I explored what I wanted to study and do. I found it a bit boring. I noticed when I had an athlete in my office, I was engaged.

Adach, who works at an addiction rehab center in Massachusetts, is now in her fifth season as a mental skills coach with the St. Michael’s women’s basketball team.

“They demanded to have a strength trainer on staff. Eventually, schools will impose to have a mental skills trainer on staff,” Adach said. “The tide is turning. In five or 10 years, things are going to be different. I think that with the way 2020 has unfolded, the athletes are starting to realize that they are more than just an athlete who can perform on the pitch or on the pitch. These are people to take care of. If they don’t take care of their minds, there’s no way they’ll show up sporting every day. It’s exhausting being an athlete. “

When Adach faced injuries during her college career, she said she had no way of dealing with things from a mental standpoint.

“I ended up turning in on myself and not talking about it,” Adach said. “I know how beneficial it would have been for me at that point to have a mental skills trainer available.

“I actually changed my title from a sports psychology consultant to a mental skills coach.”

One aspect of Adach’s position at St. Michael’s College that she sees as a boon to gaining confidence is that she is a former top athlete at the school.

“I know that’s a big part of what I do,” Adach said. “A big part of what I do for work is building relationships.… I imagine, in my ideal future, that athletes could meet regularly with a mental health professional specially designed for athletes.”

Brownell, who is back with the lacrosse team, discovered when he started talking to Adach that the two shared similar stories about growing up as athletes participating in the Suburban Council and had found many commonalities.

“Look, friends are great for letting off steam or talking about things, but it really helps to have someone who doesn’t know the situation,” Brownell said. “Nicole has helped me so much.”

For Brownell, her biggest obstacle to seeking help was ultimately making the leap to ask for it.

“Most people think, ‘I’m not confident and that’s it,’” said Adach. “We have so much power within to correct ourselves. I think it’s a necessity of life to be able to do that. A lot of people don’t give themselves enough power or awareness of that power to do anything. this is about it. “

“It was tough for sure,” Brownell said. “People had an idea of ​​what I was dealing with. They were like, ‘Are you okay?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m just going through stuff right now.’ I never really went into things with people. I wanted it to change and be more public and more of a voice for people because I know there are more people like me stuffing it and not talking about it. the message is only a speech. It’s OK, and there are a lot of resources out there. “


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