UB’s Hanna Hall shares her battle with mental illness on a national platform

Sports

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – About a year ago at this time, UB point guard Hanna Hall came out with a very powerful and very personal message.

She shared her battle with anorexia and struggle with mental illness. And even one year later, she continues to talk about it to help others and this week she got a national platform. Hanna told her story on ESPN as part of its mental health awareness series.

“It was amazing, it was such a blessing to be able to be able to continue to share my story with a lot of people and to reach a larger audience. I think a year ago when I did this I had no idea where it was going to take me and the impact it was going to have. I definitely didn’t think it would still have the impact it initially did today and still be able to continue to reach people so it was really important to me and I was really humbled to be a part of that experience for sure,” Hanna said.

May is mental health awareness month and with everyone fighting their own battles, Hanna wants people to know they’re not alone.

“That’s the most important thing to me is just knowing what I was doing and the choice that I made at the time was the right choice to go public with my story wasn’t something that was very easy and it was just kind of alright I’m gonna do this but for it to reach the people it has is really, really important to me because that was the whole point of me doing this in the first place,” Hanna explained.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and being in quarantine, people are dealing with all kinds of mental challenges.

“It’s really important right now to recognize that it’s okay to struggle and this is a hard time. It’s unseen times for all of us. There’s no one in our life time who’s experienced this before so just recognize that and be able to step back and kind of reflect more on yourself,” Hanna said.

While these are tough times, Hanna is trying to see the bright side in all of it.

“Being able to use some down time for other things, spend some time with our families, connect with our teammates on different levels. It’s been hard but I think it’s been a really big growing opportunity for me and for a lot of the people around me,” Hanna explained.

And this past year since going public with her story has allowed her to find new kinds of strengths.

“Just kind of being vulnerable has actually allowed me to be a lot stronger in a lot of other places in my life.”

Hanna has been with the Bulls since her freshman year and is now going into her senior season. And that support system at UB is something she has leaned during her battle with mental illness. Not only have her coaches and teammates been there for her, but also make sure not to treat her any different.

“If someone were to walk into the gym during one of our practices you wouldn’t be able to pick out and say “wow that’s the kid that went public with her mental illness” because I asked my coaches at when I went public with all of this to understand that I’m still a basketball player and I still have the dreams from when I came here,” Hanna explained.

“When I am going through stuff or when I am struggling a little bit more, when I go on that court I always ask my coach to continue to challenge me like she would any other player and she’s [head coach Felisha Legette-Jack] done that.”

As a society, it seems like we’ve taken steps in the right direction to end the mental health stigma, and Hanna agrees. But she also points out there is still work to be done especially in for athletes.

“I think that there are a lot of steps that still need to be taken. Something I strongly believe in is our mental is just as important as our physical and if we all have athletic therapists on our staff we should be having sports psychiatrists or some type of therapist that’s available for us when we need them. I think that’s something that the NCAA and all sports can continue to work towards,” Hanna said.

“I know the NBA and the WNBA is making those movements which is really important but hopefully we continue to move forward in those footsteps but I think the first step is making the conversation easier which is what I’m trying to do in my own community and hopefully start to get more action out of it.”

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