Devan Kane, Long Term Care specialist at Unum and true Mainer, has loved hockey since she was 12 years old. And she didn’t just love it … she crushed it on the ice.
When injuries threatened to end her hockey career, though, her thoughts flipped from determined to dark.
Devan was accepted to play hockey for Sacred Heart University in 2014. She was eager to advance her skills and play at the collegiate level.
“It’s what I’d dreamed of for years, and I couldn’t wait to get started,” she said.
So, when it was time to go to her first day of freshman classes that August, she no doubt had visions of pucks and goals floating in her head. On that day, however, she took a fall down the stairs ─ tearing her meniscus.
A setback, to be sure. But Devan was still hopeful. “Injuries are sometimes just a part of higher-level sports,” she explained.
Looking at her career the next few years, it’s easy to see Devan’s determination. She re-tore her meniscus two more times, benching her for games she dreamed of playing. She also tore her labrum in her hip and suffered a head injury that resulted in cranial nerve palsy. Overall, she experienced 5 surgeries that culminated in having her entire left leg reconstructed.
Outsiders might be tempted to look at Devan and marvel at her strength. And they should. But it’s important to also know that while she battled physically, she also battled a more insidious foe: severe depression.
“Hockey was who I was. After a series of injuries, I felt like a broken human, a fraud. I never would’ve imagined the sport I loved would be the cause of my downfall,” Devan said.
For months, Devan suffered in silence, smiling when necessary to cover up the pain and always answering “I’m fine” when someone asked how she was doing.
In reality, she was cutting, and eventually attempted to commit suicide.
She didn’t really want to talk about it, which is true of so many who deal with mental illness. But when her athletic trainer Casey, whom she’d spent countless hours with, asked if something was going on, Devan opened and began to get some help.
“Casey was a huge part of my recovery,” Devan said, “Having someone there who knew me, knew when something was off, made a difference.”
As Devan sought to recover and heal, both physically and mentally, she also considered how often athletes must suffer in silence from similar situations, weighty anxiety and depression. Then … she did something about it.
Enter Heart to Heart, an effort she and Casey started at Sacred Heart to start a conversation and raise awareness about mental illness at the college.
Heart to Heart video created and published by Omar Abdo
A student-run initiative, Devan found herself speaking to other teams at the university … then to other people in the community … and even to the Northeast Conference in the NCAA. Her work, and her willingness to share her story for the sake of others, have earned her numerous awards and, more importantly, resulted in sports teams agreeing to use the Heart to Heart moniker and logo to raise awareness: field hockey teams, tennis teams, softball teams, football teams … you name it.
“It’s okay to not be okay and I want other athletes to know that. Sometimes it takes one or two people to change the conversation, and that’s all I wanted to do with Heart to Heart,” Devan added. “I hope the world is a better place with more stories like mine.”
Now, as an Unum employee, Devan hopes to continue the conversation to bring more awareness to mental health issues and to shatter the stigmas surrounding them. She’s engaged fellow employees in community efforts, and applauds the benefits and culture at Unum that encourage mental wellness.
“Unum equips me to continue practicing healthy habits and offers an open environment where I can share my story. I haven’t been here long, but through my experiences in my department and the enterprise, I know this is a place where we can all work together to practice mental wellbeing.”
Learn about the signs of mental illness, and how to spot them as a colleague or employer in this report by Unum.