It was one of the lasting images from the UB women’s run to the MAC Championship — an emotional embrace between head coach Felisha Legette-Jack and sophomore guard Hanna Hall.
“It changes every time I see it,” Hall said of her reaction when watching that moment unfold again. “The way that coach Jack helped me throughout the whole year and that hug and that emotion behind that was what really made it all worth while.”
On the outside, Hall appeared to be at the top of her game — confident and leading the Bulls. But, for the past two years she’s been waging a silent battle.
“I’m Hanna Hall. A 5’3″ Division I point guard from the University at Buffalo and I struggle with mentall illness every day.”
“Separting mental illness and mental weakness is really hard. Mental illness is something that’s out of our control and I think that people, especially athletes, I think that’s it’s really, really hard for us to accept that. You aren’t weak because you have a mental illness.”
“I was sitting in coach Jack’s office, probably beginning, midway through theseason and we were talking about my sturggles and where I was,” Hall explained. “I was low. I wasn’t in a great place that week. We looked at each other and I said ‘I’m goint to be able to tell my story one day.'”
Since opening up about her struggles, Hanna’s story has been viewed more than 1 million times on social media with messages of support coming from athletes throughout the world.
“I’m Hanna Hall, a 5’3″ Division 1 point guard from the University at Buffalo and I struggle with mental illness every day.” This is my story.#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth | #ThisIsMyStory | #GetLoud@hannahall10 @UBuffalo @MACSports pic.twitter.com/ZzNOUbZ2IW — UB Athletics (@UBAthletics) May 6, 2019
“The amount of male, female athletes that have reached out, said they’re going to get help or be able to realize that they have problems has been very reassuring in just letting me know that this was the right thing to do.”
“She has the biggest heart and the most strength I’ve ever seen.”
– Felisha Legette Jack, UB Head Coach
And, one of the people Hall has been able to lean on most over the last two years? Noneother than her head coach, who first noticed something wasn’t right with her young guard.
“She’s the tallest person I’ve ever met. She has the biggest heart and the most strength I’ve ever seen,” said Legette-Jack. “I’ve never been through this before. And, witnessing her go through it with the engagement and openess and the nakedness, if you will, has transformed me into hopefully looking deeper into all my players.”
“My parents trust her with my life,” added Hall. “They sent me back here after the struggles I went through last year. She recognized the problem really early. If she hadn’t stepped in when she did I think it could have gotten a lot worse than it did.”
“My journey isn’t over. It’s just getting started.”
-Hanna Hall, UB Guard
Back to that embrace, after winning a conference title.
“That young, tall, 5’3″ kid found me and we hugged. We locked eyes and we knew what we went through,” added Legette-Jack.
“This game has taught me so much. It has brought me to the lowest point in my life, and it’s also brought me to most of the high points in my life,” said Hall.
“I think that my journey isn’t over. It’s just getting started. I think that through this I can help a lot of people which was my goal of the whole video and releasing that story to the world.”
Video and photos courtesy: UB Athletics