Caroline Burke / Gavel Media

Victoria Garrick Browne on Mental Health Struggles in College

On Monday night at Robsham theater, former Division 1 athlete turned mental health advocate, Victoria Garrick Browne spoke to Boston College students about her journey. The completely full theater erupted in applause as soon as she walked onto the stage; she then began her slideshow and started her presentation. 

Victoria started her story by describing her transition to the University of Southern California in the fall of her first year. She was a walk-on to the then Pac-12 champion volleyball team and was eager to prove herself. She emphasized how initially she felt as though she was living the dream, even though she was pushing herself physically and mentally harder than ever before. Eventually, as she settled in, the strictness of her team rules, the demands of her classes, and the general freshman social anxiety all began to catch up with her. She emphasized how it was the first time in her life she was questioning herself and felt consumed by her anxiety. All of this culminated in her facing a deep depression for months, in which she described herself as just going through the motions.

How did she get out of this funk? Browne asserted how the key to her recovery was focusing on her own mindfulness as well as her connections with others. She eventually developed a process for dealing with her self-degrading thoughts in which she learned to separate them from her regular thoughts and focus her mind on the positives. What was most important to help her depression, however, was opening up about her struggles. Initially, she was scared to tell anyone what she was going through because of how stigmatized mental health issues are and how she would be seen as a weaker athlete. However, Browne stated the only way to win the battle with this hidden opponent is to allow others to see, emphasizing that "it takes more bravery, more strength, more courage to open up." Once she was able to talk to her coaches and teammates about her mental health issues and feel less alone, she could focus on growing more and improving herself. 

Her presentation was very interactive; she asked questions of the audience about their demographics, revealing that half the audience was, in fact, freshman girls who could directly relate to her story. She ended her presentation by stating how BC must have a good dialogue about mental health for them to ask her to speak. Some Members of the student body, upon questioning, however, stated affirmatively that there is still a lot of work to be done. One student, Cate, who identified herself as a member of the Class of ‘26, said she "loved the part of the presentation where she talked about performance anxiety in school and sports" and "wished it was talked about here more." Will Martino ‘26 stated that although he thinks BC has a lot of good mental health services, "the size of the campus can make it lonely, and accessing these services alone can be hard." Maybe finding the solution to this isolation students feel is partly also the job of the student body. As Browne put it, the best way to heal one's mental health is to develop a support network. Maybe we as students need to be better at listening to and supporting one another moving forward.