Former Iowa State basketball star speaks on mental health resiliency

The Community Conversation series covers topics in mental health support and suicide prevention.

Julie Saxton

The Community Conversation series covers topics in mental health support and suicide prevention.

Lyndsey Fennelly spent her college years as a star basketball player for Iowa State. Now, she is an advocate and speaker for mental health.

Fennelly will be featured as the main speaker at Community Conversation on Mental Health Resiliency Thursday. This is part of the Community Conversation series, a series based around mental health.

“Many of the challenges that people face with mental health and mental illness revolve around shame and a stigma attached to an illness that people just don’t really know a lot about,” Fennelly said.

In 2013, Fennelly experienced a mental breakdown that led her to spend 15 days in the hospital. Five years later, she had a similar experience, this time spending 21 days in the hospital. These events are what pushed her to become an advocate for others who may have similar struggles.

“I did not intend to deliver almost 100 talks all over the states; it’s not a badge that I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to be a mental health advocate,’” Fennelly said. “I think I just saw the power of being real and telling people what I was going through, and it just kind of took off from there.”

Fennelly chooses not to disclose the details of her mental struggles or what specifically she has been diagnosed with. She feels she can relate to a larger group this way and not just people who share her same diagnosis.

Becoming an advocate has helped Fennelly in her own mental health journey, keeping her accountable for taking care of herself.

“The more public I’ve had to be and the more transparent I’ve had to live it out, it also forces me to look in the mirror and take my meds,” Fennelly said. “Not skipping because I can’t stand on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and then skip.”

Resiliency is an important topic to Fennelly, as she believes it takes time for someone to find what works best for them and their own mental health. She knows there is no fast solution to feeling better, and it is possible to go through multiple therapists or medications before someone finds what is right for them.

Julie Saxton, a mental health advocate, started these conversations a year and a half ago. She felt it was important to bring these topics to the community, even if they are difficult to talk about.

“For almost eight years, our mental health calls just increase, increase, increase, and of course the last two years, just the influx of mental health calls,” Saxton said. “Also, the calls that we get for folks that are attempting suicide are just off the charts.”

Dr. Warren Phillips, owner of Central Iowa psychological services; Carrie Lair, head of mobile crisis at Eyerly Ball; Nicole Patton, assistant principal at Ames High and officer Jennifer Yetmar will also speak at this event.

“It will be giving some information on what you can do to build resiliency, how to be able to change our thought process, so we can have more successful and positive outcomes,” Saxton said.

All community conversations are free and open to the public. Thursday’s event will take place at the Ames Community School District Board Room, located at 2005 24th St.