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Brittney Griner opens up about mental struggles during Russian imprisonment

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner said.
 Robin Roberts during an interview with Brittney Griner
Posted at 3:57 PM, May 02, 2024

Basketball star Brittney Griner spoke out for the first time about the mental toll her time behind bars in Russia had on her.

In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Griner shared that she grasped the full weight of her detention in Russia when she received a video call from her wife back home in the U.S.

“I was holding it together until I saw her face, and when I saw her face I just broke,” Griner said.

In February 2022, Griner was detained in Moscow after officials found two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her backpack. The Russian court gave her a nine-year sentence in a prison where she claims she received spoiled food and had few opportunities to see sunlight. She regained her freedom in December 2022, following a U.S. agreement to exchange her for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

And now, Griner, whose memoir "Coming Home" is set to release next week, is speaking out about her emotional journey through the 10-month detention and her challenging return to her previous life as a star center with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

Griner told Roberts that during her first weeks in the Russian jail, she contemplated suicide and felt like "I was never coming home.”

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner told Roberts. “I felt like leaving here so badly."

She said she decided against taking her own life, mostly out of fear that the Russian government wouldn't release her body to her family.

Griner also said that she was forced to write a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him for forgiveness and thanking him for being a “so-called great leader.”

Since her release, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has actively advocated for other Americans wrongfully detained overseas, despite the trauma she endured.

If you need to talk to someone, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.