I don’t know about you, but I usually think of July as a pretty sleepy, quiet month (except for July 4, of course, which is pretty loud and sparkly). This July is different, though, because I have the pleasure of announcing two new speakers to the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, and that is BIG, EXCITING and NOISY news!
Kai Roberts and Pablo Campos come to us from two very different backgrounds but with a common thread that runs deeply through all the Active Minds speakers—a personal story
of mental health struggle, diagnosis and journey to wellness. These two young guys bring their unique chronicles of mental health disorder and the roads they traveled along the way to realization, activism and recovery.
Pablo, a first generation American of Guatemalan parents, recalls a lonely childhood punctuated by frustration and acting out. As he grew up, his anger rose to the surface, and he turned to negative behaviors to cope—physical violence and bullying, petty crime and drug use, which fueled his impulsiveness. As he entered high school, he learned ways to disguise his inner turmoil; he was popular, sang in a band and played team soccer. But as his depression grew, he spiraled out of control, attempting suicide and landing in a series of treatment facilities.
Finally diagnosed with ADHD and depression, Pablo had a clear adversary to fight, and engaged in a committed effort to find the proper treatment and support network he needed to fill his life with positives and lift himself out of the darkness he had lived in for so long. Today, he is a successful college student, new husband and determined advocate. He’s working toward a degree in social work so he can pay forward some of what he feels he owes to those who have helped him get to where he is today. I am deeply honored to count him among the group of young adult speakers I work with on the bureau.
Kai is undoubtedly the first hip-hop artist I’ve ever met, and he brings a whole new meaning to “singing the blues” with his story of finding himself facing anxiety and panic disorder while attending Carnegie Mellon University. Most compelling is the way he translated his original idea of open dialogue, Carnegie Conversations, into an album of hip-hop lyrics that addressed his symptoms, his emotions and his use of poetry as a coping and healing force. Carnegie Cafe became a resource for Kai’s fellow students to relate their own struggles with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders to, in a familiar medium, and he blends his music with his narrative in a way that invites listeners to join in.
Kai feels a responsibility, like Pablo, to share his experience with others to remind them that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are sources of support and treatment available, and that they can also tap into their inner selves to shine a light on their feelings, making them seem a little less scary. He amazes me.
I hope you will all join me in welcoming Kai and Pablo to the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, and that you have the opportunity to hear each of them speak someday soon, whether at your own campus, or at Conference. We feel especially privileged to introduce them during Minority Mental Health Month #MMHM when we turn our focus on creating awareness and discussion about mental wellness in minority communities.