Frank Warren – Active Minds Blog Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:09:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 From the Active Minds Speakers Bureau: Five Reasons to Consider Volunteering for a Crisis Hotline Sat, 24 Sep 2016 12:00:39 +0000 Frank Warren is the creator of PostSecret and a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring Frank to your campus to speak about mental health. 


1. It will help you become more compassionate.
“Before you can volunteer, the centers work with you on a couple of things. They encourage you to be as nonjudgmental as possible. They encourage you to allow the caller to share, to talk about anything at all. They help you develop a voice of compassion and empathy.”

2. You’ll meet some of the best people around.
“You’ll never meet more generous, hopeful, giving people than the other volunteers on a suicide hotline.”

hopeline3. You might find that in helping others, you’re also helping yourself.
“I think the work I did as a suicide prevention volunteer, listening to people’s deepest secrets at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 A.M., helped me just as much as it did them. I was suffering from some of the feelings I see on postcards every week. One way out for me was volunteering for a suicide hotline. It was a lifeline for me in many ways.”

4. It teaches you that your weaknesses can be transformed into strengths.
“I got a postcard two days ago that said something to the effect of “Therapists who’ve been broken are the best people to help and heal others.” It’s like Hemingway said – “We are all broken – that’s how the light gets in.” I’d much rather seek help from someone who could identify my struggles and found their way out than someone who couldn’t relate.”

5. Sharing secrets makes both the teller and the listener stronger.
“People share secrets about things like addiction, an eating disorder, self harm. When they finish, we see that experience doesn’t have to be a negative. It can be a positive, a story of healing that you’re able to share for others and let them know they’re not alone.”


Crisis Text Line is the free, nationwide, 24/7 text line for people in crisis. Volunteer Crisis Counselors are superheroes with laptops instead of capes, and you can apply to volunteer for them here. If you or your friend is in an IMMEDIATE CRISIS call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line. Both are available 24/7.

From the Active Minds Speakers Bureau: Be Who You Needed Wed, 06 Jul 2016 12:34:47 +0000 Frank Warren is the creator of PostSecret and a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring Frank to your campus to speak about mental health. 

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I posted this image on the PostSecret Facebook page last week and it reached nearly 5,000,000 people.

I don’t know the specific reasons why so many people chose to share this simple message. Maybe as an adult, someone still feels the shards from a broken past. Or maybe some find solace in the idea that no matter how meaningless life can feel sometimes, we can always find purpose in reducing suffering. Perhaps a young person read this and clung on to the hope that the pain they are working through today could be the source of a gift that later in life offers help and healing to others.

I have one of my secrets in all six of the PostSecret books. In the second book, My Secret, this one is mine.

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When I was younger I felt like I was going insane.

One of the stories I tell about this at PostSecret Live events is how my parents’ divorce led to a lot of stress and even violence in my home. One night, I ran from my mother, hid in my room and locked the door.  My mother retrieved our floor mop that had a metal rinser attached to the head and used it to break through one of the panels in my door so she could reach in, unlock the knob, and come after me. When she entered my room, I had already left through the window.

I had escaped but the worst part was still to come.

It had been snowing that night and I didn’t have time to get my shoes. So with my mothers’ head through the open window watching, I ran down the street to my friend’s house with my shoeless feet. When I arrived, I was thankful not to see his parents’ car in the driveway. He let me in and asked me why I was shivering out in the cold snowy night without shoes.  I have forgotten what my reply was but I can still feel the shame I felt then when I told a lie to hide my secret.

Every time I share that story I feel like I get a little more ownership of that painful part of my past. That sense of becoming unbound from our secrets is something I have heard from the PostSecret community too. One email I received from a girl who, like me, had a broken bedroom door said:

Hearing other stories about people who had an abusive parent like mine doesn’t depress me because all this time I thought I was the only one.  And just knowing there are other kids out there who share my story, it doesn’t make my secret go away, but it does make my burden feel just a little bit lighter.


Reading over a million secrets and sharing our stories over a decade has been very revealing. Perhaps the three revelations that I have learned about our secrets are these:

It’s an illusion that we are alone with our secrets.

We decide if our secrets will be gifts we can share or ghosts that haunt us.

And lastly,

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The Story of PostSecret: The Show Mon, 01 Feb 2016 16:52:45 +0000 Frank Warren is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau and creator of Post Secret, an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. Learn more about PostSecret: The Show or bring PostSecretU to your campus.


When I started PostSecret, I never knew how truly special the secrets I pulled from my mailbox would be or where the postcards would take me.

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Joyful secrets, hilarious secrets, romantic, painful, transformative secrets, but what I didn’t see coming were the compassionate responses from strangers. It was exciting for me to curate and the PostSecret books, but you turned the project into a conversation, you made a community.  I began seeing the compassion and connection that surrounds us all the time but goes unseen.  These were the stories behind the secrets.


PostSecret: The Show is a five-year labor of love to tell those stories.  TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti, Justin Sudds and myself first sat down at my dinning room table in 2010 selecting some of the never before seen secrets that would be the bones of the play.


Now that the stage play has gone through dozens of refinements and years of workshops we are just kicked off its 23–city tour, this is how we describe the production for the media:

PostSecret: The Show is an immersive, poignant journey through the humor and humanity of the PostSecret project.  Projected images, videos, three actors and a guitarist guide the audience through crowd-sourced narratives revealing the true stories behind the secrets.  See the hopeful, shocking and revealing secrets that brought hundreds of millions of people to, became six best-selling books and are currently in a Smithsonian Art exhibition.

With the bravery of Rent and the surprising honesty of The Vagina Monologues, PostSecret: The Show is a breakthrough in audience-sourced storytelling that reaches beyond the confines of the stage, reminding audiences that secrets can be both walls and bridges.

Personally, I like to say that PostSecret: The Show is a love-letter to the PostSecret community.


At the beginning of the show, each actor tells one of their own secrets.  Then the transformative stories behind the secrets are brought to life on stage.

There is a scene about my most unforgettable call when I was a suicide hotline volunteer. There’s a chance for audience members to write their own secrets on postcards anonymously and have them shared back by the actors and many other surprises.

We share some of the secret (lies) that parents tell their children like; “My dad used to tell me that there were toys under the front yard, and if I picked enough weeds eventually a toy would pop out for me”, or “My dad told me that the same way that Santa Claus comes down the chimney for Christmas, the Easter Bunny comes up out of the toilet for Easter.”


We share the story of Tina who courageously shared her secret about an eating disorder in the most heroic way.  And we tell how tens of thousands of people were inspired by a single postcard to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for suicide prevention and spearhead, “Please Don’t Jump Day” in San Francisco.

PostSecret: The Show is truly a celebration of secrets and at the end audience members get a chance to share back their thoughts and feelings to those who found the strength and vulnerability to tell their story.

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This PostSecret Submission Shocked Frank Warren Thu, 29 Oct 2015 08:46:18 +0000 Want to bring Frank to your campus to talk about PostSecret and mental health? Learn more here.


This PostSecret submission arrived at my home yesterday and shocked me.

It shocks me because it reveals how this generation is courageously changing how we understand our mental wellness.

When I was younger, I struggled with depression and anxiety, like many of us, but I kept it a secret and in the darkness it got worse.  I suffered longer, needlessly, because I was afraid that if others knew my struggles they would judge me. The old stigmas handed down from earlier generations kept me from asking for the help that was waiting for me.

I am so hopeful that this generation will continue to take ownership of mental wellness issues so that never again will we be ashamed to tell our stories and get the help we deserve.

Submit your own secret to PostSecret today.

It’s No Secret Why I Joined the Active Minds Speakers Bureau Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:08:37 +0000 Frank Warren, creator of the worldwide phenomenon PostSecret, recently joined the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring Frank to your campus today!

Frank Warren--Secrets can be walls or bridges headshotWhen I started PostSecret, it felt like a creative prank — but asking strangers to share their deepest secrets with me on postcards would illuminate a hidden world we all share and create a community of courage and compassion.

I hate working as a janitor for arrogant rich people so I clean their computer keyboards with the toilet brush.

I know my neighbor is a peeping tom… So I occasionally give him a free show.

everytime I work up the nerve to swallow the pills someone does something to make me want to live and i’ve never said thank you for saving my life. people have no idea how far kindness can go. i’m LIVING proof.

These secrets mailed to me on artful postcards show how the project quickly became something more than the lark it started as. I began to draw upon my past volunteer work on the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and started sharing the secrets and inspiring stories in books and at speaking events to audiences across the US and around the world.

Because most of the secrets are mailed from young people, I feel a special connection to those audiences. The secrets also reminded me of my own feelings of loneliness and lack of direction that I felt when I was in high school and college.

One of the highlights of my speaking career was being invited to deliver the keynote address at the Active Minds National Mental Health on Campus Conference this past November. It was so gratifying to see so many enthusiastic students taking ownership of the issues that my generation kept secret in destructive ways. It made me wish that Active Minds had been around when I was younger.

I believe it could have not only helped me through some of my own struggles as a young person, but also created an opportunity for me to help some of my classmates and make a real difference in how mental illness is understood culturally and how national policy addresses it.

When an Active Minds chapter puts in the work to bring a PostSecret Live! Event to their campus, it is exciting for me because often they create awareness for the event in advance with a campus-wide PostSecret U program.

At PostSecret Live! Events, I look forward to meeting all the club members and usually a club officer will introduce me and is able to tell the audience about upcoming Active Minds activities.

After that, I start the multimedia celebration of secrets that may end with audience members sharing their own. Those courageous confessions from classmates can be emotional, cathartic and generate campus discussions afterward.

These student secrets shared live for the first time are always unpredictable but uncover at least two truths:

No one is alone with their secret and…

Trust Your Story.

Contact Active Minds to book Frank Warren for your event!