“The illness sparked some severe depression. … By like the third year post-illness, I was able to manage it pretty well. But then when I hit my head it got really bad. And that’s when things kind of took a turn for me again.”

In 2017, Brooke Hess had her best year of kayaking. In January, she spent a month training in Uganda. And then from Stakeout to Unleashed to Montréal Eau Vive, she stood on the podium beside her friends and idols. But when she returned to Uganda to train for the next Unleashed competition, her kayaking came to a halt.

Behind her Pit Vipers, Brooke hides an ongoing battle that few people know about. Between the still undiagnosed illness she contracted in Uganda and Post-Concussive Syndrome, depression constantly challenges Brooke’s fun-loving spirit. To celebrate Mental Health Awareness month, she’s ready to share her story with the world.

Editor’s Note: Read more about Brooke’s illness in her story, “Don’t Eat the Greens.”