For those living with mental illness, sometimes even the simplest daily tasks can be challenging. Last week in Chicago, America’s biopharmaceutical companies hosted New Cures, New Innovation for a New Era in Mental Health, a conversation aimed at increasing awareness around mental health disorders and the development of treatment options.

Mental health advocate, athlete and author Chamique Holdsclaw joined experts in technology, biopharmaceutical innovation and other advocates to talk about her struggle with mental illness. Chamique spoke candidly about her experience growing up with a mental illness and her struggles to overcome the challenges it presented while performing as a top-tier athlete. “I felt like I couldn’t open up and talk to anyone around me, but at the end of the day, I had to go out there and perform,” she said.

In addition to sharing her personal struggle, Holdsclaw discussed how she was able to utilize her platform as an athlete to become an advocate for mental health. “I realized I had an opportunity to use my journey and story as a platform to affect young people,” she said. “I knew there were a lot of people just like me, and I just wanted to give them hope.”

Reflecting on her experience, Holdsclaw said, “I had to take the same philosophy of hard work that I used as an athlete and put it into my own life – towards my mental health and wellness.”