What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share? 

In the Winter of 2015, I lost my mother to a battle with melanoma cancer. My mother, Jennifer Hahn, had been diagnosed in 2011 and had overcome her illness, only to later lose her battle against cancer in February of 2015.  

 I was a junior at the University of South Dakota. I was highly involved on campus, in classes, and in the community; however, I began to step back as my mother became more ill. I started seeing my friends less and my family more. My efforts in my academics began to slip, and I fell behind. I spent the majority of my time at home in Sioux Falls and very little time in Vermillion, where I left a large support system behind.  

The grief began prior to my mother’s passing as the doctor informed us there was no positive end in sight. Once hospitalized after a seizure, my mother never came home. We as a family made the decision on a hospice house where she spent the remainder of her days. On February 16th, 2015, my mother Jennifer Hahn passed away as I sat at her bedside. From this day on, the majority of the year is lost. I felt hopeless, lost, and deep pain; all the while never showing this to family or friends. I felt as though my mother wanted me to be strong, and thus I never showed grief, only the ability to move forward. I often masked my pain through academic work and social life, appearing as though I was not hurt or affected by this huge loss. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

In the Fall of 2015, I began my senior year at USD. It was a fresh start and I felt as though I could be myself again and not the girl who lost her parent. To help myself, I spoke with the counselors at the USD Psychology program. During these sessions, I began to realize I was able to feel the sadness and grief without feeling as though I was disappointing my mother. Speaking about my grief and pain helped me to understand my emotions and my outlook on life.  

During this time, I also began to work on my own therapies through my artwork. I developed my Senior Show concepts surrounding my pain and progression through the loss of my mother. The ability to physically create and show my emotions helped in my healing. This healing was not overnight and is never fully done, as it still pains to think of this loss; however, the resources I found at USD and since in my adult life have aided in my growth since this loss.  

  

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges? 

Resilience is found in each individual in ways they may never know. Providing resources in a variety of manners can help reach any audience. I found my peace through art therapy and counseling at a time when I was in college. College is a difficult time for students in many different capacities, and for these students to know there are resources can be life-changing. I found counseling and Lost&Found through student outreach. The work Lost&Found is doing for college students in particular does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. This organization helped me and many others during hardships and will continue to in the future.  

  

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand? 

You are not alone. Reach out and there will be a hand to help.