A UPEI athlete is taking her struggle with anxiety and depression public in an effort to help other young people struggling with mental illness.

Kim Brown, who plays for the women's soccer team, is one of the athletes joining this year's Bell Let's Talk initiative, a campaign to end the stigma and break down barriers around mental health.

Brown recently shot a video for the campaign, describing how she started struggling with mental illness as a teenager, when she got her first job.

'I think it's important, especially for people who are in athletics, to realize how high-risk athletes are.' — Kim Brown, UPEI student

"I remember thinking, 'Why can't I have a full conversation without like breaking out in sweat or having to run into the back and calm myself down?' Like, I couldn't even talk to strangers sometimes for more than two minutes without kind of freaking out," she said.

"Soccer was kind of my safe zone. I have always been a very passionate player and I think that I took things that were going on in other areas of my life, and I threw it all into soccer. So for me, that was my outlet. But it got to the point where it was a little bit of an unhealthy outlet. So it got to the point where I wasn't really dealing with things head on, I was just going into soccer 110 per cent."

Brown finally confided in soccer coach Lewis Page, who shares his own struggles with depression in this year's Bell Let's Talk campaign, during her third year at UPEI. She started seeing a counsellor at the school and practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction, which helped get her anxiety under control.

'No one has to suffer'

She said reading the the online blog of another student athlete who was also struggling with mental illness inspired her to come forward.

"One of the main reasons why people don't want to talk about mental illness is they feel alone or they feel like there's no way out, and I felt that way," she said.

"It's hard to say, but there's a high chance that I probably still would feel that way if I hadn't have read that girl's story over and over again. It's incredible what talking about something or listening to other people talk about something can really do for you. And I think that's the first step to healing."

Brown hopes her own story will inspires others.

"I think it's important, especially for people who are in athletics, to realize how high-risk athletes are and that's pretty much the main reason that I really wanted to do this," she said.

"If we can all do this as a community — and P.E.I., it is a community, the whole Island is an amazing community — if we can all come to terms with what mental illness really is and where we can go with it and how we can help people that are suffering from mental illness, no one has to suffer."