suicide prevention – Active Minds Blog http://activemindsblog.org Changing the conversation about mental health Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:00:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 NSCS & Active Minds http://activemindsblog.org/nscs-active-minds/ Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:17:54 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6761 We’re so thrilled to announce our new partnership with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars! Full transcript of the video below.

Alison: Hello, Active Minds. I’m excited to be here with my friend, Steve Loflin, to announce our new partnership with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Steve: NSCS was an organization that I really wanted to start back in 1994 to make a difference for first and second year college students. We’ve come to realize that NSCS is really a great opportunity to provide leadership opportunities, scholarships, and even help people think about their future. But as an organization, one of the things that’s also become more important to us is to really look for ways to support our students and to really help them have the most productive college experience possible.

Alison: And I’m Alison Malmon, I’m the founder and Executive Director of Active Minds. Active Minds is a national nonprofit focused on empowering students to speak openly about mental health. I started Active Minds after I lost my brother Brian to suicide when he was a college student. And I quickly understood and learned that mental health issues are so widespread and impact so many of us, and yet, we talk so little about them. And students like my brother Brian need to know that they’re not alone, need to know that there’s help available, and they need to feel comfortable seeking the help.

Steve: Alison and I are excited to share with you all today that NSCS and Active Minds are joining forces in an unprecedented partnership to raise funds and awareness for mental health. Through this campaign, 80% of the funds raised will support Active Minds’ education and outreach on college campuses. The remaining 20% will fund an NSCS scholarship.

Alison: One of the things that we’re going to be able to do this year is a lot of online / offline programming around stress relief activities and Active Minds’ Stress Less Week, and Integrity Week, and programming that happens around Suicide Prevention Month. So, you can do that even if you don’t have an Active Minds chapter on your campus. If you do, I hope Active Minds and NSCS work together.

Steve: And I know all of those resources are really going to make a difference, and it really is going to help us take our mission in the direction of educating our members around these challenges and around where to find help on campus.

Alison: Our goal through this is to provide the training and education for NSCS members, to learn more for themselves and their friends, and to provide you the tools and resources to help us keep doing the work that we do.

Steve: We look forward to working closely with all our NSCS members across the country to empower students to speak openly about mental health and encourage help seeking. This is just one of the many ways NSCS embodies our pillars of community service and leadership. Join us on our journey to break the stigma.

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Mothers and Mental Health http://activemindsblog.org/mothers-and-mental-health/ Sun, 14 May 2017 12:00:52 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6619

It’s very easy to pass Mother’s Day over as a holiday invented (or at least commandeered) by Hallmark to sell cards. However, celebrations of moms go back hundreds of years, with multiple different days of celebration and specific traditions. This includes both the Ancient Romans, who celebrated the festival of Hilaria on the Ides of March to celebrate the mother goddess Cybele, as well as the residents of the former Yugoslavia, who celebrated Mother’s Day around December by having children tie their mothers to their beds (seriously). These facts demonstrate that, if nothing else, we as humans have been grateful to our mothers for as long as they have existed. Mother’s Day is, despite all our cynicism, a great opportunity to recognize all that our mothers do for us.

I have a pretty awful memory. I very often forget important meetings, important dates, and even what I had for breakfast this morning. But I find that I effortlessly remember most of the times I’ve talked with my mother about mental illness. I remember explaining to her that sometimes I did things that I felt like I had no choice to do. I remember talking with her when I suddenly couldn’t stop laughing. I remember her comforting me when I was at my most depressed. My mother was there for me even when I, myself, was not there for me. She supported me when I could not.

Not everyone has a mother or a motherly figure in their lives, but I’m willing to say most of us have had somebody to take care of them in their life, even if briefly. Talking to a figure like this about mental illness is not always the easiest conversation to have. We all want to please our mothers, make them proud of us. It’s very easy to be ashamed of mental illness, and even easier to assume that it will distance us from the ones we love. Stigma can, unfortunately, seep into the relationships that we hold with our family members. Being able to openly talk with a mother can change a life in this context.

Consequently, Active Minds was not where I learned that mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatized. It was not via the internet, friends, or any other source – it was my mom. My mother never once questioned the legitimacy of the problems I was experiencing. She never hesitated to give me the support that I needed. And above all, she never made me feel ashamed of mental illness. She was willing to hear me out and accompanied me on my journey of health. My mother championed my mental health in ways that I still cannot fully comprehend.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I felt the need to recognize how hard mothers work to fight the stigma of mental health every day. It seems that everyday I hear another story about somebody with a story like mine: whose mother was invaluable on their journey to better mental health. There’s a lot of things that we can take from this, and a lot of ways to celebrate all the contributions your mother has impacted your life. We just advise against tying her to a bed.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day! 

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About Chris Gethard’s HBO Special: Career Suicide http://activemindsblog.org/on-chris-gethards-hbo-special-career-suicide/ Mon, 01 May 2017 11:00:01 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6578  

HBO is airing a new comedy special called Chris Gethard: Career Suicide on Saturday, May 6. Active Minds is proud to serve as a resource for his first HBO comedy special.

Many years ago Chris was a speaker at Active Minds’ national conference!

Chris is a (wry, funny, makes-you-laugh-just-looking-at-him) comedian who talks about his own personal struggles with anxiety, major depression, and suicidal ideation and attempts. He uses humor to make these topics more relatable and accessible to his audiences.

The show is great. It does have content that may be triggering to some people (and that does not entirely follow the guidelines that we at Active Minds use in our storytelling initiatives).

We believe the only way to combat stigma is by talking about our real experiences. As a person in long-term recovery, Chris is doing that in a deeply personal way, and we applaud his strength and vulnerability.

Chris and HBO also created a wonderful three-minute video called “A Story That’s Everywhere” where he talks with friends about how difficult it is to be open about their struggles with mental health. The video is authentic, funny, and heartfelt — we hope you’ll watch!

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line.

If you are a friend to a person who is in treatment or recovery from a mental health condition, you can find more resources at www.ActiveMinds.org/BeAFriend.

– The Active Minds Team

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An Open Letter to the Creators of S-Town http://activemindsblog.org/an-open-letter-to-the-creators-of-s-town/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:10:12 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6559 Dear Brian Reed, Julie Snyder, and the production team of S-Town,

First of all, thank you for yet another outstanding podcast series. I found S-Town to be an engaging, emotionally poignant story that challenges stereotypes and evokes critical thought.

At the moment that I was listening, I was traveling the state of California, training hundreds of students in how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and intervene to help save a life. I had no idea how relevant the story of John B. McLemore would be to our organizational mission at Active Minds, a national nonprofit that supports 12,000+ student activists throughout the nation who are changing the conversation about mental health on their campuses, with a specific emphasis on preventing suicide.

I thought a lot about how we may leverage this sudden propulsion of the issue of suicide into the national spotlight towards positive change. I believe that, with effective follow up, the teams at S-Town and This American Life are uniquely positioned to shine a light on the issue of suicide, a dangerously silenced and stigmatized issue.

In my view, S-Town did a phenomenal job of illustrating John B. as a multifaceted person, whose death came on as a result of many composite circumstances. Not only did he seem to have struggled with undiagnosed mental illness, he also lived as a socially progressive, atheist, closeted gay man in rural Alabama. On top of that, he seemed to have experienced more than his fair share of personal tragedy, and significant exposure to toxic chemicals.

S-Town also astutely explored the complex implications that John’s death had on the lives around him, which is an under-discussed repercussion of the epidemic of suicide. From Brian Reed’s own shock and confusion with the news, to the deep feelings of grief, anger, and turmoil experienced by Tyler Goodson, John’s out-of-town cousins, John’s mother and friends, and others. Suicide is complex, and it’s important that we steer away from over-simplifying its causes and those impacted.

Where S-Town missed the mark, in my opinion, is in the language used to describe and discuss John B.’s suicide. Not only were we hit with a graphic description of John’s death in Chapter 2 without warning, we also heard innumerable mentions of John having “committed suicide.” Language is both our most accessible tool for change, and our most powerful. It’s important that we change the way that we talk about suicide, shifting it away from the world of crime, stigma, and shame that is evoked with language like “committed suicide” and “killed himself.” Instead, we use the term “died by suicide” or “lost someone to suicide” which reframes the issue, building a foundation of support and acceptance of people’s very real struggles. Reportingonsuicide.org is a great resource for safely addressing the issue in the media, in order to prevent triggers and suicide contagion or copycats, a very real phenomenon.

In the final moments of the series, Brian reads a few chosen lines from John’s suicide note, including one in which he expresses that his absence will somehow free up resources and room for others. Including these words was a dangerous affirmation of the notion that one’s own death will benefit those around them. To those who heard these words and felt any sense that the world would be better off without you, know that that is not the case. You are not alone.

Lastly, and most importantly, S-Town is faced with a unique opportunity to educate their listeners about the signs of suicide. Throughout the story, we learn that John B. frequently discussed his suicidal thoughts with those around him. He discussed it openly, and made plans accordingly, but few people acknowledged his words as true warning signs of suicidal intent. I bring this up, not in an effort to place blame on any one person involved, but rather to draw attention to the lack of awareness that exists around suicide, as a culture overall. Suicide is an issue that has not yet been fully embraced as a public health concern, and therefore remains widely stigmatized and under-discussed. As the Suicide Prevention Resource Center posits, we all have a role to play in protecting people from suicide. When more of us are able to recognize the signs, and respond, we may be able to get an individual the professional support that they need, and reduce the rate of suicide.

That said, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the unique challenges that a rural area like Bibb County, Alabama faces when it comes to access to local mental health support. For now, we encourage residents of rural areas to utilize national support resources like the Crisis Text Line, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

John B. McLemore was someone who was in tune with, and constantly immersed in, many of the macro ills of the world. Unfortunately, he and many of those who surrounded him were caught completely unaware of one issue that many of us routinely sweep under the rug: the tragedy of suicide. Suicide is a very preventable cause of death, but its prevention relies on widespread knowledge of its risk factors, warning signs, and crisis resources.

I can’t help but think about how John B. himself might have delved into this issue, having had a glimpse into his proclivity towards diligent research, and seeking diverse worldviews. I imagine that he would insist that those around him understood the consequences of their action (and inaction) on the matter. A way that we may mindfully honor John B. McLemore is to let others know that they’re not alone, that help is available, and that there are ways that we may all be working towards the betterment of our overall approach to acknowledging and preventing suicide.

I urge S-Town and This American Life to consider harnessing the opportunity they have to steer the conversation of John B. towards one of raising awareness of suicide, reducing stigma, and helping to avert further tragedy. Thousands of Active Minds students are doing so every day. We invite you to join us.

Thank you for your consideration,
Becky Fein
Active Minds

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13 Ways to Continue the Conversation about 13 Reasons Why http://activemindsblog.org/13-ways-to-continue-the-conversation-about-13-reasons-why/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 13:39:27 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6550 By Markie Pasternak

Markie Pasternak is a 2016 alumnus from Marquette University, where she served as Chapter President of her Active Minds chapter and President of the Active Minds National Student Advisory Committee. She is currently a graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington.

A note from Active Minds: Many people have found 13 Reasons Why triggering. In making your own decision to watch or not watch, we encourage you to review this resource from the Jed Foundation and SAVE. Markie’s perspective below is one of the many nuanced ways that mental health advocates and organizations have responded to 13 Reasons Why and we present her thoughts as a way to continue the conversation. Additional note that several spoilers are mentioned below.

In the spring of 2008, I was bullied. Even though these girls were in 8th grade, they had the ability to make me feel the size of an ant. They left me out, spread rumors behind my back and used me anytime they could. One of my other friends was also living with severe depression and attempted suicide.

This was a lot for a 14-year-old girl. So, on a rainy evening in April, at my local bookstore, I found a book that I thought might tell me why one of my best friends didn’t want to live anymore, why these girls at school didn’t see me as an equal. Most importantly, why when I was shouting out to the whole world for help, no one was answering. That book was 13 Reasons Why. Not only did this book help me to get some of these questions answered, but it created more questions— the questions I needed to be asking.

I am now a 23-year-old graduate student, but the new series based on the book did the same thing to me — it answered some of my questions, and is making me ask more. As advocates, it is our job to help facilitate these conversations. Recognizing that these are hard to do, here are 13 ways to continue the conversation about 13 Reasons Why.

  1. Say “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide.”

Hannah Baker did not “commit” suicide, she “died by suicide.” Why? Because suicide is not a crime, it is an unfortunate ending, often to a long battle with mental illness. When we use language like “committed,” we perpetuate a culture of blame on the victims, which makes people afraid to admit they are having thoughts about suicide. It also shames those who attempt suicide, adding to the stigma rather than providing support.

  1. Help others recognize their privilege.

I don’t speak for all women, but I know that I cannot be the only one who has been objectified by someone. This issue is dismissed in many of the reviews of the series. It isn’t just a women’s issue — anyone can experience sexual harassment or assault. If you have had the privilege of never having someone think that they had the right to treat you as less than human, take time to hear from those of us who have had these experiences. If you hear people dismiss issues that don’t affect them, call them out on it.

  1. Watch 13 Reasons Why with your parents.

If I were a parent and I saw my kid running around with cassette tapes for a week, noticed their bike was missing, and saw scars on their face, I would be concerned, too. But, setting aside that aside, the parents in the series were clueless about their children’s lives.

Parents need context for what is going on and to learn how to help. I know. “Do I want to watch some of those scenes with my parents?” I watched Gossip Girl with my mom in high school. Remember some of the things that went down in that? There were six seasons. You can do this.

  1. Bring social class into the conversation.

As we saw Justin admire Bryce’s family and get pushed around by his mom’s boyfriend, his character pulled in the theme of social class into the series.

Justin felt so inferior to Bryce that he was afraid to stop or report the rape he knew Bryce committed. Bryce supported Justin. That made Justin feel indebted to him.

Digging deeper, Justin feared power and didn’t trust authority. He didn’t have the social/cultural capital to make connections with school professionals like Marcus and Courtney had. This left him feeling alone. We need to be aware of social class differences and how they affect people’s experiences.

  1. Educate yourself and others on sexual assault.

We can probably agree that Bryce’s comments about the rape were disturbing. The fact that this 18-year-old boy could not define what rape is, is terrible and a statement about how we are educating young adults about sexual assault and harassment. If you cannot define sexual assault and know the difference between assault and harassment, put this article on pause and look these things up. Then work on educating those who may not understand.

  1. Hold your school accountable. Be a part of movements for change.

Liberty High was reactive — hanging posters about drunk driving after a student had been killed drunk driving and posters about suicide after a student had died by suicide. The students did not respond well. Schools need to have these conversations before a tragedy.

We play a role in seeking justice and raising awareness. Host a suicide awareness week, apply for the Send Silence Packing® tour or an Active Minds Speaker to come to your campus. The best thing you can do is help prevent tragedies by letting people know they are cared for and help is available.

  1. Think critically about pornography.

Clay realized the picture of Courtney and Hannah had affected him, too. He had used their picture for pleasure, but after listening to Courtney’s tape, he deletes the picture and all the pornographic images on his computer. My arms flew up in victory, not just for Clay but for all.

A man who was committing the crime of stalking took the photo at the expense of the dignity and respect of Hannah and Courtney. But let’s talk about how a lot of porn is actually produced. Some porn comes at the expense of women trafficked into sex slavery, some porn comes at the expense of women who leave their families to film porn because they feel they have few other options. Let’s start talking about where porn comes from and how, in many instances, it perpetuates rape culture and oppression.

  1. Don’t be afraid to question mental health professionals.

We cannot afford for mental health professionals to respond to students the way Mr. Porter, the school counselor, did. Beyond telling Hannah to ride out the next two months because her rapist will soon graduate, he disregarded Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.

There are A TON of skilled mental health professionals out there who work every day to ensure their clients’ wellness. However, for those not doing it well, we need to call them out. As advocates, we can help make sure our schools’ resources are quality. If we don’t call out a bad practice, then we run the risk of deterring a person who has gained the courage to try counseling from returning.

  1. Take a vow to stop using the words “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore.”

Again, language matters. When we use words like “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore” to describe women, we are perpetuating a culture in which we label, shame, and objectify women. In the show, it was never “Hannah Baker, the amazing poetry writer” or “Hannah Baker, the smart, witty girl who stands up for herself.” It was “Hannah Baker, best ass in the sophomore class.” When we call women or anyone these names, we take away their humanity. As we saw in the series, these ideas about a person can spread.

  1. Get certified in QPR or Mental Health First Aid.

Think about getting certified in QPR (Question Persuade Refer) or Mental Health First Aid to develop the skills to help someone in crisis. Ask you campus counseling center if they offer QPR or Mental Health First Aid certification. If your campus does not offer these programs, look up where you can get certified in your local community or reach out to Active Minds for more information.

  1. Recognize that Counseling Centers are many times a “white space.” Start talking about what inclusivity looks like.

Mr. Porter is a black, male counselor at Liberty High. That is pretty cool! Why? Because there are not many mental health professionals who identify as people of color. (Side note: if there aren’t enough people of a certain identity being represented in a specific space, it isn’t helpful to portray them in that space negatively.)

Most counseling centers are predominantly white spaces. Many students of color are not feeling that their experiences are validated. This is a huge problem. We need to include students of color and multicultural groups in our efforts. Listen to their perspectives. Advocate for inclusive hiring practices.

  1. Make connections with people different from you.

We are tempted to surround ourselves with people who are like us in interests and identities. The more we do that, the less we allow ourselves to learn new things about the world and about people.

Here’s a quick activity: think about aspects of who you are. What identities do you hold (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, social class, religion)? Now, think about the five people you are closest to. How are they different from you? How are they the same? Think about what you’ve learned through those relationships, and recognize that there is so much more you could be learning by getting to know other people.

  1. Reflect on your thoughts about the series with others.

What ideas came as you watched the series? Anything you saw that you never thought about before?  Did anyone in the series make you consider a new perspective? Take time to think about it.

Then, talk to other people who have watched the series. Gather their thoughts, too. Start thinking about the issues presented in the series and start asking questions. Maybe even write a blog post like this one. This is the way we are going to create change on our campuses.  Everyone has their own unique ideas. Trust me when I say, the world wants to hear yours.

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What REALLY Happens When You Reach Out to Crisis Lines? http://activemindsblog.org/what-really-happens-when-you-reach-out-to-crisis-lines/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 13:58:24 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6425 As someone interested in mental health, you may know the numbers to the Crisis Text Line (text BRAVE to 741741) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) by heart. What you may not know is what happens — and what doesn’t happen — once you pick up your phone to reach out in a crisis. We partnered with our friends at the Crisis Text Line to dispel myths surrounding these services, so you can know what to expect when you place a call or send a text to help yourself or a loved one get through a difficult time.

Myth #1: I must be experiencing thoughts of suicide to reach out to a crisis line.

The trained counselors at the Crisis Text Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are available 24/7 for anyone who is experiencing any crisis, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, LGBTQ issues, bereavement, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or mental illness-related concerns.  (Check out the topic trends from past text conversations here.) Although what is considered a ‘crisis’ is defined loosely to encourage anyone in need to reach out for help, callers and texters should recognize that crisis lines are neither short- nor long-term substitutes for therapy, emergency care, or professional health care.

Myth #2: If I mention that I’m suicidal, they’ll send the police to my location.

The Crisis Text Line engages in an “active rescue” (i.e., emergency services) in less than 1% of crises.  The goal of the Crisis Text Line is to de-escalate the situation and work with the texter to identify the best options for seeking help locally. Emergency services are only alerted when there is imminent risk of harm to the texter and when the texter is unable or unwilling to create a safety plan (for example, unable or unwilling to separate themselves from their means for suicide or self-harm).  Similarly, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website emphasizes that its crisis counselors strive to empower the caller and help them problem-solve to identify the best course of action, meaning emergency services are only involved in situations where the caller is in immediate danger.

Myth #3: Since crisis lines have the potential to send emergency services to my location, my call/text is not confidential.

Anonymity is of utmost important to the Crisis Text Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. When you call or text a crisis line, your location and phone number are encrypted or otherwise anonymized, making it impossible for them to trace you.  In some situations, counselors at these crisis lines may ask you to provide personally identifiable information (your name and home address) to better assist you, but you are under no obligation to share this information over text or on the phone.

Myth #4: I can only reach out to crisis lines via text or phone call.

You can also connect with the Crisis Textline and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline over Facebook Messenger.  You can reach out to the Crisis Text Line by hitting “Send Message” on their Facebook page.  Facebook communication with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a little different: if a post of yours is flagged for suicidal content, Facebook reviews it and gives you the option to call and/or enter a Facebook chat with a counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The best part about communication with either of these crisis lines over Facebook is that your information is encrypted and anonymized, so you can rest assured that even your Facebook conversations with these services are confidential and secure.  They won’t have access to your profile or other identifying information, so they’ll only know what you tell them – nothing more!

So, what does happen when you call/text a crisis line?  After you text BRAVE to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, a trained crisis counselor will receive it and respond within minutes. Then, the crisis counselor will help you de-escalate your situation and connect you to help locally.

When you call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), you’ll hear an automated message with additional information and options while your call is routed to your local Lifeline network crisis center and hear some cool elevator music while you wait to be connected to a crisis counselor. Once you’re connected, you’ll have someone to listen to you, provide support, and connect you with help.

Sounds simple, huh? Don’t be intimidated or frightened by these free and confidential national resources.  On the other end of your text or call is a trained, caring individual who is volunteering their time to help you work through rough patches and access local resources. Reaching out when you need help is brave, no matter how big or small you think your issues are. Above all, your safety and privacy are paramount to the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, so you’ll be in great hands.

Still have questions or concerns about crisis lines?  Check out the websites for the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more information.

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In Memory of Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon http://activemindsblog.org/in-memory-of-amy-bleuel-founder-of-project-semicolon/ Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:37:38 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6436

 

The Active Minds community is so saddened to hear of Amy Bleuel’s death.

Four years ago, Amy, the founder of Project Semicolon, posted a note on social media encouraging anyone who is depressed, unhappy, has anxiety, or is suicidal to draw a semicolon on their wrist. She wrote, “A semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to.”

It became a poignant and powerful symbol of choosing to go on. Whether as a tattoo or drawn on, the semicolon is visible and it acknowledges and celebrates a struggle and a decision that is often hidden from view.

As Amy wrote, “Your story isn’t over.”

Amy’s vision was embraced by hundreds of thousands of college students. Many Active Minds chapters each year reach out to their peers on campus with events and activities based on Project Semicolon.

Last fall, for example, the Active Minds chapter at UCLA launched a semicolon photo campaign. “The people in this campaign were asked to speak about their history with depression and incorporate a semi-colon into words that meant a lot to them,” said Brooke Alexander, chapter co-president. “We took the photos on campus and they were featured on our Facebook page.”

The photo above was graciously provided by student Courtney Cruz. You can read below her words, explaining what the semicolon means to her as she supports a close friend dealing with depression and suicide ideation.

Thank you, Amy Bleuel. You gave the world a powerful symbol of hope and a way to make our struggles and successes visible and connected to each other. Gone too soon, you will continue to influence our work to bring the conversation about mental health out of the shadows for all to see.

Please take care. If you or a friend are struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Both are available 24/7.

 

During my second year at UCLA, I almost lost my dear friend to suicide.

“After going through a difficult situation, her depression manifested itself in suicide ideation, attempting to convince her that suicide was her only way out. She wrote a letter to me asking how does someone know if they have depression and describing her want to harm herself. Unfortunately, I did not see the letter before her attempt, but a few months after, she had the courage to tell me about the letter. In tears, she said that it was because of our friendship and the joy I’ve shown her, that she found the strength to not go through with suicide.

“That day, I vowed to her that she would not go through this alone. Using the lyrics to the song, “Sea of Lovers” she was for the first time able to explain what depression felt like to her. Within the song, the lyrics “bring me home” is in the chorus. Instantly, I told her I was going to get that line tattooed in the same area she presently has a scar from her attempt, to show her I am here for her always.

“As well versed and educated as I am in mental illness, nothing can prepare you to see someone you love not look like themselves anymore. Depression comes at 4am when the tears are falling and she needs a friend; when she feels nothing, everything, and happiness is a dead end. I have stayed up all night, good days and bad, been the strength when she had none, spent hours talking and piecing back the days she can no longer remember.

“Through an uphill battle and various obstacles, she is now managing her depression through therapy and talking to me. Seeing her battle against depression has ultimately redefined my definition of the word “strength.” She is the reason I am so passionate and have been honored to be a part of Active Minds, as Education Co-Director for 2 years.

“Her dedication to bettering herself and beating depression is the very reason I am dedicated to educating, serving, and protecting others who may feel they do not have a voice. Through education, I firmly believe we all have the ability to help someone. Depression is a word, but so is Love.

“A semicolon signifies the author’s choice to continue his or her story. To my friend: keep writing your story and I will be right beside you—when you believe you cannot write anymore, I will pick up the pen and help you. Remember, I will bring you home; This is for you 💚

— by Courtney Cruz

Photograph by Sana Mahajan

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Checking My Crystal Ball http://activemindsblog.org/checking-my-crystal-ball/ Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:33:07 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6401 About this time every spring, the cherry blossoms bloom and I’m on my way to a two-day committee meeting for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It’s one of my favorite meetings of the year and, incredibly, this was my twelfth year in a row attending.

I’m a big believer in the Lifeline as a vital resource — the country depends on this federally-funded service to make 24/7 phone and chat lines available to anyone thinking about suicide. And I’m always proud to represent the millions of college students who struggle with mental health issues or have experienced suicide. Around the table with me were representatives from different communities impacted by suicide, including the LGBTQ community, veterans, and Native Americans, among many others.

The topic this year was The Future. What can and should suicide prevention look like in the years ahead?

It’s tough to project. A couple of years ago, my crystal ball had no idea, for example, that Facebook would play such an important role. Facebook’s online tool allows people to report if a friend is posting worrisome messages about suicide so they can be directed to resources such as the Lifeline. Finding ways to harness technology for suicide prevention is something we’re very interested in at Active Minds — students are always on the leading edge.

No matter what the technology, though, the person at the other end is what really counts. We see this every day in the way students reach out to their peers who are struggling or when the members of an Active Minds chapter do everything they can to make sure mental health is something that’s talked about on campus.

When I look into the future, I see the continued need for strong social connections that support and catch people. Education, awareness, understanding — as early as possible and wherever students are.

In need of help for yourself or a friend? Call the Lifeline, anytime, at 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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Back At It Again: Send Silence Packing Spring 2017 Tour http://activemindsblog.org/back-at-it-again-send-silence-packing-spring-2017-tour/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:02:46 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6327

The countdown begins! We’re officially one week away from kicking off the Spring 2017 tour of Send Silence Packing! This spring we’ll be making a complete loop around the country, with stops at colleges and universities across the south, up through California to Oregon and back around to DC through the Midwest.

Send Silence Packing displays over 1,000 donated backpacks, representing the number of college students lost to suicide each year. The program is designed to raise awareness about the incidence and impact of suicide, connect students to needed mental health resources and inspire action for suicide prevention. We’re grateful to our host sites, sponsors and partners for the opportunity to bring this important program to their communities.

The Spring 2017 tour starts next week at the University of North Alabama in Florence, AL and will then travel to 14 additional locations in Mississippi, Texas, Colorado, California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Illinois. We’ll be in the road for quite some time, March 16 – May 12, so keep an eye on the blog and @active_minds on Instagram during the tour to see pictures from the displays.

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Mental Health is for Everyone http://activemindsblog.org/mental-health-is-for-everyone/ Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:54:49 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6142 You might have noticed that we here at Active Minds’ national office haven’t commented much on the political climate here in the United States over the last few weeks and months. There’s one particularly compelling reason for this. As a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization, we generally have to stay out of politics. For example, we can support getting out the vote, but we can’t endorse a candidate. Make sense?

All that said, we are an organization composed of more than 10,000 students who have been impacted in one way or another by our country’s politics and policies over the last several months, and there are a few things we would like to make clear to each and every student who follows us online, participates in our programming, leads our chapters, or just wants to make the climate friendlier for people with mental health issues.

Every student should be able to pursue their education without harassment.
No matter their country of origin, race, ethnicity, or religious belief, every student deserves a quality education. No matter their gender identity, sexual orientation, or political leanings, every student belongs on our campuses and in our democratic society. We hear reports of students being kept from returning to campus, harassed for who they did and did not vote for, and discriminated against for their backgrounds. Yet, there isn’t time for that kind of division when we’re all working so hard to make sure quality mental health care and quality education is accessible to everyone.

Every student has the right to speak up without retribution.
You likely don’t even have to scroll down on your feed or look beyond the door of your classroom to find people entrenched in controversy around recent issues. We understand controversy, but we support civility. People have stories to tell, they have beliefs to share; we do not have to agree, but we do have a responsibility to remain civil. If a conversation gets too heated, you’re allowed to remove yourself from the situation. Excuse yourself and walk away. Get off of social media. You’re allowed to do that; give yourself that permission. And don’t forget, the people you disagree with have the exact same rights. We should all be doing what we need to do to practice self-care in these contentious times.  

Active Minds is for everyone.
Everyone has mental health. So, no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, country of origin, citizenship status, political affiliation, diagnoses, etc., we welcome you here. We are an organization of inclusion, and we will continue to be so with one caveat: We Will Not Tolerate Hate. Discrimination, slurs, hate speech, and any behavior that threatens our values of inclusion and controversy with civility will not be tolerated in our chapters, in our staff offices, or on any of our online outlets. To support and ensure everyone’s right to maintain their mental health, we’ve always reserved the right to mute or block users and/or delete comments that perpetuate hate and intolerance.

We express our solidarity with and support for anyone seeking to pursue a quality education that prepares them to be better citizens, better students, better teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, business people, researchers, psychologists, politicians. For anyone seeking to make quality mental health care available to all members of our society. For those on the margins—who feel they’re being discriminated against and need a place to call home.

When it comes to taking sides, our stance is simple. We side with kindness. We side with justice. We side with truth. We side with better access to care for all.

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