Finding a Way to Be Brave with Sianna Cherweniuk

Finding a Way to Be Brave with Sianna Cherweniuk

Story written by ACAC Communications Staff (original article link can be found here)

The ACAC, although large in geographical terms, is small in nature. Many of the athletes know of one another after playing with or against each other through high school, club and into post-secondary.

Therefore, when one athlete experiences loss, we all do.

In March of 2017, Sianna Cherweniuk lost her sister, Emmalee. The two Lethbridge College Kodiaks were inseparable — roommates, teammates, and best friends.

To say that loss is never easy would be an understatement. The volleyball community will forever be thankful that they had the opportunity to be impacted by Emmalee Cherweniuk and her vibrant personality, funky hair and free spirit.

Since that day, Sianna Cherweniuk has had to overcome loss in more ways than one. Mental health being a specific example of this battle.

"I think people with mental health issues are some of the strongest people I've ever met," said Cherweniuk. "They're overcoming daily struggles while still trying to better themselves by going to therapy, taking medication and taking a day off when their brain and body needs to."

As far as personal experiences go, Cherweniuk is extremely vocal in advocating for mental health. Fighting the stigma, bringing awareness, and inspiring others to check in on themselves are what drives her passion for this matter.

The fifth year women's volleyball player admitted that when her mental health started to decline, even the smallest daily activities became a mountain to climb. "I knew that I needed to seek help when some of the things I was thinking in my mind would scare me," said Cherweniuk.

Looking for support — and finding it

When Cherweniuk started to feel her mental health suffering, she instantly started to reach out for support. Speaking to old friends and family members were a huge help, and allowed her to connect and share stories of her sister. Cherweniuk also wasn't afraid to go directly to a doctor.

"They were amazing," said Cherweniuk, when referring to all of the support she was able to find through Lethbridge College. On campus, she attended Shepell Counselling Services. "They provided me with all that I needed to be able to thrive as a student and to help me get back to work," said Cherweniuk. "They also helped give me confidence to play volleyball again."

For students, having financial stability is a challenge, and the worry that mental health resources may not be affordable is real. However, Cherweniuk hopes to inspire more student-athletes to look at what options they have locally, on campus, as all of her sessions were free.

"Awareness of what people have gone through will benefit mental health perception," said Cherweniuk. Along with awareness, Cherweniuk hopes people will be more kind as well. "You never know what others are going through or why they're struggling."

Finding a new love for volleyball

After spending every single moment of her volleyball career with her sister, Cherweniuk knew that getting back on the court wouldn't be easy. However, she had an extremely loving team of supporters to encourage her when she was ready.

"My teammates were the biggest support I've ever had," said Cherweniuk. "I saw glimpses of my sister in all of them, which meant playing felt like I would have her there with me."

Cherweniuk said that braving last season and pushing herself to play made her stronger as a person. "I had to find a way to be brave," she said.

Cherweniuk, now in her last year as a student-athlete, attributes her success as a Kodiak to her coaches, teammates, and the support she received from campus resources.

"I'm very grateful for all of them."

A proud supporter of Make Some Noise

For Cherweniuk, Make Some Noise has been an extremely valuable campaign. "Enabling people with resources, and giving people the opportunity to take a step back to check if they're okay is why Make Some Noise is so important."

Reaching out to professors, being kind to yourself, and understanding what mental health truly is will continue to eliminate the stigma that exists. Cherweniuk understands that students and student-athletes face all types of pressure.

"Even homesickness can lead to depression," said Cherweniuk. "If you're going through something, don't be afraid to reach out."

Cherweniuk shared that her door is always open. "I don't mind getting a message. I don't want a family to feel a loss that I did, especially to mental health," she said.

It's not always easy to reach out to someone you know, which is why it is important to be aware of your options when it comes to mental health. If you are in search of support, visit CMHA to learn more about your local branch, or call these numbers:

Alberta Resources:

Distress Centre

403-266-4357

Canadian Mental Health Association - Alberta Division

780-482-6576

Centre for Suicide Prevention

403-245-3900

Suicide Information and Education Services

403-342-4966

Make Some Noise for Mental Health Information: