College Athlete Attempts Suicide - Then Creates Clothing to Advocate for Mental Health

College Athlete Attempts Suicide - Then Creates Clothing to Advocate for Mental Health

Welcome to Unbroken!

I am Emily, creater and founder of Unbroken Athletica. We were founded in the fall of 2020, and are currently based out of Madison, WI with the goal of helping raise awareness for mental health in athletes. We want to acknowledge that it is completely normal and okay to struggle, and encourage those who are struggling to seek help and know that they are not alone, they are loved, and they are unbroken.

I am a current PT student at UW-Madison and a former D2 college softball athlete. I have historically struggled with managing my anxiety and severe depression, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 16. I specifically struggled being an athlete, as I let my mind take control over my sport, my education, and my social life. I was pushed to the edge in the fall of 2019, when I attempted suicide in my college dorm room.

I was air lifted to a larger hospital and spent several weeks in the ER and a behavioral health unit, where I was kept until I was deemed safe enough to return back to school. I wanted to leave this world after living in it for only 19 years.

I privately struggled with my mental health for many years prior to this, but never wanted anyone to know I was hurting. I was also a college athlete, and it had been engrained in us to be tough. I always thought I had no right to feel the way I did, because after all, I was privileged and getting my education paid for. I should not show any weakness because my opponent would attack that. I should stop being sensitive and tough it out, because it was all in my head. Therefore, nothing could truly be wrong with me. I tried to cover up my anxiety and depression with humor, isolation, and self-denial, but in the end I always felt alone, irritated, and hopeless. I was antisocial, couldn't sleep, and couldn't eat. I missed out on a lot of opportunities with friends and teammates, because all I wanted to do was be alone in my room. When I did go out, I abused it and made poor decisions that affected my health even more. I truly felt broken. But wow, am I glad I lived that night.

Since that incredibly terrifying experience, I have made it my mission to encourage and educate other athletes who struggle with their mental health. I strive to start conversations about athletes and their mental health, including how we manage it. Mental health has been so misunderstood & avoided for too long. Athletes in particular are subject to an incredible stigma that doesn’t allow them to voice their struggles. Together, we can change that. My goal is to shift the attitude surrounding athletes and their mental health. I'm here to encourage those who struggle, and educate those who want to learn. 

In November 2020, on the anniversary of my suicide attempt, I launched Unbroken. The idea of using clothing as our tool to spread the message was to help athletes identify other athletes who may be, or may have, experienced mental health issues and therefore may also be open to discussing mental health in an understanding and empathic way. If you were to see someone in public wearing an Unbroken t-shirt, an instant connection could be made - this is something we have been given evidence of through customers nation wide. We found this was the perfect way to start the conversation, without necessarily using words (something athletes struggle with).

My first batch of t-shirts were designed and I began shipping orders right out of my college apartment. As Unbroken began to gain awareness and support, I branched out into other designs, types of clothing, and accessories. Immediately, the brand was a hit and became a favorite among athletes in my area.

Although Unbroken is still fairly new, I have big plans for expanding! I'm still cranking out quality clothing repping Unbroken, educating people about mental health, and encouraging athletes who struggle. Unbroken can now be found throughout the country, and our family of advocates continues to grow every day. I'd love for you to become a part of our family, so let’s educate and encourage other athletes, all while repping Unbroken!

On behalf of the entire Unbroken team, I'd like to thank you for all your incredible support we've received for our mission.

❤️ All love,

Emily Benbenek

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1 comment

Hi Emily,
THANK YOU for doing something. I am sorry your story had to go this way and yet I believe you are helping so many others through sharing your story!

KaSandra Justman

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