Tag: 30Days30Stories

Jeff Pickett

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

About 10 years ago I went through a painful divorce that led me to think some pretty unhealthy thoughts. I was between jobs, only saw my kids for a fraction of the time I used to from being separated, and I felt so isolated. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel as additional challenges came my way. I remember going through this dark time, and it was hard to get out of bed.

All seemed hopeless.

But when I stopped to consider my thoughts and possible actions, I began to realize how selfish my thinking was, and that if my unhealthy thoughts turned to actions, my very young daughters would be left without a father to help them in life. My actions would result in a downstream catastrophe that I did not want to be a part of. My daughters deserved better than that.

I soon realized that my current situation was not something I would allow myself to be identified with. There was hope the whole time—I just wasn’t looking hard enough. There was more life for me to be a part of.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and to put others first. I renewed my faith, started going to church and even volunteered my time at church so I could think less about poor me and instead focus on how I could help others. I also started journaling.

As you might expect, life did get better. A few years later I met an amazing woman and soon-to-be stepmother, and I can put the past behind me. Today I’m in a much better place where I am still a work in progress, but still progressing and still growing, even at 54.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Journaling was a big resource for me. Faith and stoicism were other resources I turned to. Some therapy was also involved. I may get a tattoo of the Stoic phrase Amor Fati (lover of fate). It is the embrace of your fate, even if things go bad, because we learn from our mistakes and failures. If we see past failures as learning times, then we can come out on the other side a better person.

 

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?

We can work to build resilience when we remember our loved ones over ourselves and what we have to contribute, regardless of how worthless we may think we are at times. Sometimes we have to be beyond ourselves, which isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the end. Put reminders up (like tattoos) to remind yourself of where you’ve been and where you want to go!

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

You are not a failure. Failure is an event that you experienced.

Niko Hathaway

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

Over the course of my life, I’ve dealt with significant and at many times severely debilitating symptoms of social and generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar type II (frequent and persistent severe clinical depression with occasional hypomanic episodes), as well as ADD. The diagnoses are all interrelated, and in my eyes, symptoms of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

Moving through life with this much neurodiversity without an understanding of what is actually causing so much stress can bring a person to their breaking point—especially in a society that is not designed to recognize and support the gifts that people like myself bring.

I wasn’t raised to talk about mental health. My depression started as early as the third grade from what I remember. I recognized early on that I was different, and my way of “being” in the world didn’t fit the typical mold. Feeling I would be cast out or looked down upon, basically “in danger,” I forced myself to do the things that were expected hallmarks to success—work hard in school, college, and grad school, and go into a high-paying career in a field that helped people.

In college, my dreams were to be a director/producer for music videos, but I was told it was too hard to make it in creative videography. I ended up working as a production assistant for TV news, and when I saw the distortion in “the news,” I became disillusioned. I was encouraged to pursue a job in healthcare to make an impact in the world. I got into a competitive graduate program but realized early on I did not feel passionate about this career. I listened to everyone else instead of my heart. I developed many unhealthy coping mechanisms like an eating disorder and a massive substance abuse problem with alcohol, as well as other addictions, to cope with the pain of deserting myself. I had abandoned myself to become what I was told was safe and expected.

The repression of my truth and use of harmful coping mechanisms to deal with this repression led to symptoms and diagnosis of major mental illness. To add fuel to the fire, as a highly sensitive, deeply empathic person who did not know herself, I was drawn to imbalanced romantic partnerships where the focus was on meeting the emotional needs of the other at the expense of valuing myself or even being visible.

 

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

The journey to understanding the events that cause the appearance of groups of symptoms that we call “mental illness” was the key to overcoming the challenges I faced. This has taken a lifetime of deep introspection, counseling, life coaches, mentors, endless studying and a willingness to face the things we are taught to turn away from. I needed to do a lot of “mirrorwork” and “shadow work,” and I continue to do these practices. “Mirrorwork” is confronting the things that make us uncomfortable about others and examining why and what wounding they are reflecting to us. “Shadow work” is taking a deep look at the parts of ourselves that we hide away, are ashamed of or try to repress and instead trying to understand.

Once I worked through disillusion, programming and shame, I was able to explore the things I was interested in but was told I “should not be” when I was younger. This included deep spiritual study in world religions, the wisdom traditions, and mystical philosophies, as well as learning about how power structures work in politics, religion, banking, and capitalism and how fear is widely leveraged to build controlling narratives that make us question and doubt ourselves. Learning to question literally everything I’ve been taught and push back when things feel out of alignment has been essential to taking my power back. Really, that is the most powerful work I have done—to challenge the systems, beliefs, and values that were impressed upon me since birth so that I could access my truth vs. what I’ve been conditioned or told was my “truth.”

I haven’t had any symptoms of any of my previous diagnoses for several years now. Freeing myself from as much oppression as possible and challenging myself to do so has been my saving grace. The key was learning about myself, bucking societal norms, and making the effort to trust myself versus what was taught to me that helped me to stand up for myself and follow my own personal truth.

“Unlearning” is a life-long journey that is best started as early as possible. My resources range from psychology textbooks to lectures by spiritual thought leaders and everything in between. I would highly recommend the books Radical Self-Acceptance by Tara Brach, Belonging by Toko-Pa Turner, and Untamed by Glennon Doyle. On Instagram, I love the accounts The.Holistic.Psychologist and Toniagy. I talk about my journey and everything that has helped along the way in my podcast, Brave Never Broken with Niko Hathaway.

 

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?

Education is the first essential step—learning what healthy thoughts and behaviors are and are not. When we are educated, we are able to recognize imbalance within ourselves and our environments. Resilience is built when we lean in to the discomfort of actually recognizing imbalance, calling ourselves on it and taking the necessary steps to create change.

 

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

Diagnoses are simply a helpful way of identifying a cluster of symptoms. They don’t define a person.

Jocelyn Doan

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

Growing up, I struggled with various eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. By my senior year in high school, I sought my first counselor for exercise bulimia. She and I were not a good fit, so I wrote off therapy after about five sessions. When I graduated from high school, I moved away to college in Bozeman, Montana. I struggled with intrusive thoughts, withdrew from classes, and returned to Sioux Falls. I voluntarily checked myself in to treatment. In treatment I was assigned a psychiatrist and therapist and was prescribed an antidepressant for the first time. I continued therapy for a few sessions after I was discharged, but ended them pretty abruptly when my therapist told me that my depression was merely situational from my breakup with my high school boyfriend.

I took a year off from school and then re-enrolled in a new field. After beginning school again, I sought out a new therapist and began weekly (even twice weekly) sessions. Fortunately, we were a good fit. However, my depression really came to a head while I was in school to become a respiratory therapist. I was balancing multiple jobs, being a full-time student in a medical field, a relationship, and a variety of extra activities. One day, I just couldn’t take the pressure anymore. I woke up from a “failed” suicide attempt, involuntarily checked into treatment. I woke up angry and confused and just wanted to be out of the institution. After I came out of my stupor, I decided that I woke up for a reason, and I needed to figure that out.

I returned to school after explaining the situation to my professors, and I graduated that May. A few weeks later, I left town and ventured out on the Pacific Crest Trail to try and re-find myself. Now, four years later, I still work on my mental health every day. But I can honestly say that I’ve become someone strong and resilient enough to be in a healthier place that I’d never imagined, wanting to live life every day.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Consistent therapy, medication (initially), holistic medicine, creating and utilizing a strong and loving support system

 

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?

Be a kind person, and when and if you’re in a healthy enough mindset, offer your story in vulnerable moments with the people who may benefit. You never know what someone is going through. Kindness and pure intentions, along with eliminating the idea that the not-so-pretty parts of someone’s life are “taboo,” go a long way in making someone feel like they’re not alone.

 

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

Everyone has a story with struggles that are unique to them. You’re not a burden for asking for support throughout your journey.

Kelsea Kenzy Sutton

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

For much of my life, achieving and succeeding was the recipe to soothe my anxiety. I was always just some planning, prepping, practicing, and obsessing away from another win. And surely if I won enough (awards, good grades, positions, grants) then that pit in my stomach would go away. This approach worked for quite a while — until it didn’t.

Even though I’ve struggled with anxiety and its close sibling, depression, for much of my life, I especially suffered during my two pregnancies and postpartum. Then in 2020, the anxiety and depression became severe and accompanied by PTSD when our second child, a daughter named Lenore Antonia Sutton, died because of brain trauma from a knot in her umbilical cord.

I was very physically unwell during both my pregnancies, and after our first son was born, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune condition. I struggled to eat or sleep and to generally take care of myself. This is a recipe for mental and emotional difficulty for me, and it was extra hard with my second pregnancy when I had an active 4-year-old who needed his mom. For both pregnancies, I headed into the postpartum period exhausted and depleted.

Between my first and second pregnancies, I was able to work on my physical well-being enough to continue my patterned coping mechanisms mostly successfully. I dabbled in talk therapy, but only attended a few sessions and felt like I was managing.

Toward the end of my second pregnancy in July 2020, I had little reason to expect any outcome besides a typical delivery and coming home with a healthy baby. My water broke a few weeks early and I labored for about 36 hours. Our daughter was born on July 8th, but she confusingly wasn’t breathing when she was delivered. The medical team revived her, and she was flown to Sioux Falls. We were hopeful her lungs would develop more, and she would get better.

We spent a week at the NICU, a roller coaster of hope and despair. On July 15th, her dad and I held her and told her stories while she slowly quit breathing. Easily the worst night of our lives.

The brutality of losing a child was debilitating. My anxiety, depression, and PTSD were severe. My feelings of failure and unworthiness were nearly impossible to escape. My regular coping mechanisms were not going work.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

We nearly immediately entered talk therapy as a family, as a couple, and individually. My doctor prescribed a bridge medication for me that helped get me through some of the earliest weeks.

I was able to lean on a network of friends and family for whose love and thoughts and prayers I am endlessly grateful. I was especially thankful for the people who had lost children that reached out to us and the group of local mothers who had had similar experiences making space for grieving together.

I also found much purpose in a community project that would honor our Lenny, and I found my way back to myself with re-embodiment practices like weight lifting, walking in nature, and making rest a top priority. In so many ways, gifts and wisdom I dreamed of giving to my daughter have actually been given to me through grieving and healing.

 

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?

Understanding ourselves and processing our emotions is difficult, important work. Understanding our family’s stories and patterns, where we have gaps in our needs being met, and how to regulate our nervous systems will create more resilient families and communities. We owe this work to ourselves, to each other, and to our children.

South Dakotans need access to trusted, affordable resources and services to be able to do this work. Those who are elected to represent us have a duty to solve access issues. We also cannot lose focus on co-occurring factors like poverty, lack of housing, and lack of access to any healthcare in building resiliency.

And all of this depends on us recognizing how much we need each other. We need relationships, family, friendship, and community. We need to take care of ourselves, and we need to take care of each other.

 

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

I had an ‘aha’ moment several years ago when I learned that excessive irritability is a sign of depression. I (like I think many others) thought of depression as sadness. But I immediately noticed those patterns of irritability in myself and some people close to me. I hope that can be an ‘aha’ moment for someone else too.

 

Listen to the latest episode of Great Minds with Lost&Found, featuring a conversation with Billie Sutton and Kelsea Kenzy Sutton!

Find other listening options on Anchor.

 

You can also watch the episode on YouTube:

 

Billie H. Sutton

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

My name is Billie Sutton. I am a former professional rodeo cowboy, state senator, and 2018 candidate for governor of South Dakota. I’m a husband, father, financial professional, and rancher. My story is about trauma, loss, and perseverance.

I grew up on my family ranch in rural Burke, South Dakota – population 600. I still live there today because I love Burke and the way of life I learned here. I started riding horses as early as I can remember. I fell in love with horses and with rodeo. My childhood dream was to be a world champion rodeo cowboy, and I worked really hard to make it happen.

My senior year of high school, I finished second in the nation in saddle bronc riding at the National High Schools Finals Rodeo. That earned me a full ride to the University of Wyoming on a rodeo scholarship. I went on to be the all-time top points scorer at UW and started rodeoing professionally. Rodeo was my plan for the future. My dream was to make it to the National Finals Rodeo, and I was on my way. I didn’t know I would soon face a challenge much harder than all my years of training and traveling as an athlete.

It was October 4, 2007. I was 23 years old, had been rodeoing professionally for a few years, and was competing at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot, North Dakota.

I had drawn a horse named Ruby. I got in the chute, just like any other ride. But before I could nod my head to open the chute, Ruby flipped over on me, slamming my back against the chute gate. Ruby stood up. And I knew I had broken my back. I was instantly paralyzed from the waist down.

From that day on, everything would change.

When I woke up in a hospital in Minneapolis, I remember thinking about how I had my whole life planned out. Even at 23, I had been sure how it was going to go. I was going to be a world champion bronc rider and one day return home to run the family ranch.

But, instead, now I was being told that I would never ride bucking horses again. That I likely would never walk again. That was the most sobering moment of my life.

It was often a dark and difficult path. Full of uncertainty, frustration, jealousy, and anger.

Only with a wide and deep support network did I realize my spinal cord injury was something I could and would overcome. Despite many moments of despair, people who loved me, a sense of community, and my faith ultimately sustained me and gave me hope for the future.

I’ve gone on to finish college, get married, pursue a beautiful career in financial services and government, start a leadership nonprofit, and best of all – make a family. I want everyone to have the resources and support I did when I got hurt, and I’ll never stop working on building a world where that is possible.

I had thought (perhaps naively) that my spinal cord injury would be the hardest thing I’d ever face. But in 2020, I once again needed the support of so many people to help grieve the loss of our baby daughter, Lenore Antonia. She lived with us for just one week, and on the seventh day, my wife and I held her while she took her last breaths.

Lenny was all our best dreams, and we could never live without her if we weren’t told so many times by so many people that we are loved and we aren’t alone. We found purpose in helping build Lenny’s Lilly Pad at the Burke City Park – a place to remember her and many other children our community has lost too young. We found healing in the most precious gift of twin boys from our friend and surrogate earlier this spring. We have found a way to walk that most difficult path and hold grief and hope together.

If we can surround ourselves with people that love and support us, and lean into that support, I’ve found struggles like mine can make us stronger. They can teach us how to keep hope by living the values of empathy, thoughtfulness, kindness, and understanding.

I hope you too always persevere, overcome adversity, and never give up.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Family was the biggest resource, but I have also gone to counseling at Rising Hope Counseling, LLC, in Burke South Dakota. Talking about my loss helped me a lot.

 

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?

Tell your story. It is healing to tell your story, and it can help others to hear your story. It will also build understanding and empathy. Everyone goes through struggles in life, and we need to understand that we are not alone. Often times people do not know that we are struggling, but if we talk about those struggles it can bring healing and help.

 

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

No one is immune to struggling with mental health, and we are not alone in those struggles.

 

Listen to the latest episode of Great Minds with Lost&Found, featuring a conversation with Billie Sutton and Kelsea Kenzy Sutton!

Find other listening options on Anchor.

 

You can also watch the episode on YouTube:

 

Susan Kroger

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

I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. I didn’t grow up in a family that talked about our mental health, and I was always encouraged to ignore my struggles. When I was in college, I became actively suicidal and knew it was time to reach out for help. I was able to connect with a therapist and a doctor who both prescribed life-changing medications for me and helped me through therapy for the very first time. That experience helped me understand the importance of not only taking care of myself, but of seeking help from professionals. I decided to enter a career in mental health myself. I finished my master’s degree in mental health counseling at my alma mater and moved to Sioux Falls where I landed in a job where I had the opportunity to counsel young women, many teenagers, who were mothers for the very first time. That experience shaped my entire professional career: my heart is with women and children, and everything I’ve done professionally in the past 20 years can be traced back to those early experiences in the mental health field.

When I was 29 years old, I became pregnant with my daughter. I didn’t fully understand the impact of postpartum depression and anxiety until I experienced it myself. Once again, I experienced suicidal ideation and serious bouts of depression. However, this time I knew where and how to ask for help. I was able to find a therapist in Sioux Falls who helped me cope with my depression and attach to my daughter in a healthy way. I’m the mother I am today because of her guidance and support.

My own experiences with depression and anxiety have helped me be a better support to others. That being said, my kids and I would not be where we are right now—happy, healthy, and thriving—without the support of mental health professionals and lifesaving medications. Please don’t be afraid to seek help.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

My primary care doctor was critical in connecting me to the right medication for me.

 

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?

By both asking for help when we need it and helping others when they ask for help.

 

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

Medication doesn’t change your personality. It provides balance.

Kimberly Keiser

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

I imagine there isn’t one mental healthcare provider who doesn’t fear losing a client or patient to suicide. For me, being in the unique position of another person entrusting me with their mental healthcare and therapeutic journey is an honor and a sacred space. Over the years I have treated many individuals who have experienced depressive episodes that included suicidal ideation or more acute urges or behaviors related to suicidal attempts.

One of the most meaningful memories I have of walking this journey with a client was during my pre-licensure hours working in an employee assistance program. I was an inexperienced provider and working on developing skills and competency as a mental health counselor. A woman contacted our agency who was experiencing acute suicidal ideation. As I proceeded to conduct a needs assessment, or asking questions to determine the level of care she needed, I found myself more deeply connected to the pain and concern behind her initial feelings of wanting to end her life. Like most beginning therapists, clients don’t realize that they help the therapist to a greater or equal degree than the therapist helps them. By the end of our call, we had established a plan for support and the client was stabilized. It was during those moments that I learned for the first time that I didn’t have to fear another person’s desire to want to die due to their suffering, I just needed to be present with it and hear their story and empathetically bear witness to their pain.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

As a licensed mental health counselor, it is extremely important to understand the differences between suicidal ideation that is routinely experienced during acute episodes of clinical depression—e.g., “I wouldn’t mind not waking up today”—and an actual plan to carry out the act of ending one’s life. The latter requires mandatory reporting and action to save another person’s life. Patients sometimes fear being reported if they talk about having suicidal ideation, which alone is a common symptom of depression. Creating a safe space for clients to talk about all aspects of depression is critical to managing depression and ultimately curbing thoughts of self-harm or ending one’s life.

 

 

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?

Some individuals are more prone to having resilience than others. Research has consistently shown that resilience is more innate in some than others for reasons we do not yet scientifically understand. That being said, research has also shown that resilience can be developed. As a mental health therapist, I am a proponent of working with a professional mental healthcare provider to learn and develop skills of resilience for those who don’t possess high degrees of this innately. While fragile, the human condition is inherently oriented toward a potential for growth.

 

 

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

No one should ever stop believing there is hope.

Elaina Houser

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

When I was only 4 years old, I lost my father to cancer. Following the loss, my grandpa sexually assaulted me until the age of 12 when I came forward with what was happening. About a year and a half later, one of my best friends attempted suicide. After seeing how that affected everyone around us, it really opened my eyes to how important it is to go to therapy regularly and talk about your problems and thoughts. At the age of 22, I was raped by someone I considered a good friend. Ever since the traumas I have been through, I have struggled with mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

 

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?

Be very open with your past and the battles you are fighting. No one can help you when you stay to yourself and bottle your emotions up.

 

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

Make your mental health a priority. You matter.

Stefanie Plummer

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

I have dealt with depression, anxiety, and bipolar 2 disorder since I was in middle school. Throughout my education, I have had periods in which my depressive phases last longer than normal or hit a little harder due to the level of stress I am under.

One of my depressive phases during my LPN program really took a toll on my day-to-day life and my academic career. Every little thing I needed to complete on a normal day-to-day basis felt like it was too much to handle. The thought of even taking a shower felt overwhelming. My professors reached out because I had missed a few classes, and I had started to get behind on my assignments. I normally have a multitude of different tactics I use to prevent myself from spiraling too far down the rabbit hole, but this time those techniques didn’t work. I was emotionally all over the place.

At first, I was embarrassed to ask for help or even admit I was struggling. Once my professors reached out to Jessi, the school counselor, I figured it was time to get help before my academic career suffered. I finally called my provider after two weeks of severe depression and notified him of my recent issues. He decided to increase some of dosages of medication and schedule a few extra appointments to check in with me. After that, I met with Jessi weekly to help keep me accountable, and if I didn’t show up to my appointment, she would text me to check in. All of my resources stayed in contact with each other to ensure I was getting everything back on track.

Looking back now, had it not been for all my resources, I could have failed out of the program. Fast forward a year, and I am now finishing my RN degree. Although I still have days where I don’t feel 100%, having those resources in my corner helps me feel better prepared to combat the bad days.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I was able to reach out to Lake Area Technical College’s campus counselor. Jessi was able to meet with me on a weekly basis until I felt I was in a better place. Jessi was also able to communicate with my professors to ensure a judgement-free zone while I worked through my depressive episodes. I also worked with Dr. James Chiu from Sioux Falls, S.D., to adjust my medications to a dose that worked better for the time being. During my depressive episodes, I kept in contact with Heidi, my vocational rehabilitation specialist. She was able to help advocate for my situation with LATC and provide an extra sounding board when I needed to talk. My biggest resource was my family. They helped get me up and moving on days that I had no motivation. They encouraged me to get outside and took time out of their days to remind me someone cares.

 

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?

There are bound to be days where we don’t feel 100%. It is important to recognize our emotions, process why we feel that way, and make a plan for how to handle those emotions in the future.

 

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

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. An empty lantern won’t provide light. Self-care is the fuel that lets your lantern glow brightly.

Jennifer Finne

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

I think I’ve struggled with some form of depression dating back to my teen years, long before I was diagnosed. Having survived forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse growing up, I found it hard to learn how to properly manage my emotions. I was ashamed to discuss what was going on with anyone, so instead I chose to bottle everything. This led me to develop some unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as cutting. I remember feeling so lost and utterly alone. I was blissfully unaware of what a healthy relationship looked like, causing me to enter several toxic relationships. All I knew is that it felt good to be seen.

Most of my past partners suffered from some form of addiction, and me being the “fixer” that I am, I believed it was my job to help them. In doing this, I lost sight of myself. I stopped taking care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While I knew that everyone has their faults in a relationship, I was conditioned to believe that I was crazy for feeling a certain a way or that things were always my fault. I became very overwhelmed with the situation and fell into a deep depression, causing my work and personal relationships to suffer. Feeling that I had no way out, I attempted to take my own life. Obviously not having been successful, I felt an enormous sense of guilt reaching out for help.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I am so thankful I am still here. Developing a strong support system for me was key, as well as therapy and medication management. Hard times will always exist; I am confident now that I will be able to make it through and know that I don’t need to do it on my own.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I developed a support system that I could rely on when I am having dark thoughts, people I could talk to without fear of judgement. Therapy was key for me in order to process some of the emotions that I never really took the time to deal with. I also had to work through my aversion to taking medication and learn that it was ok to do what was necessary to keep me healthy and happy.

 

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?

Making sure alternative resources are out there for people who may not have close friends or family to turn to. Loved ones should not take it personally when they cannot help someone feel better. Instead, just be there for that person in any way they will allow. A little understanding goes a long way and people that seek help want to do so without the fear of being judged.

 

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

No two situations are the same. While someone may have many things to be thankful for, they may still be struggling internally. Never assume someone’s situation, and act with kindness in your heart.

Jake Danielson

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

I struggled with suicidal thoughts for the majority of my life. Once I got to college, they got so much worse. I felt so lost and so alone with how I was feeling. I have such a great life. I have amazing family and friends. “I shouldn’t be feeling like this” is what I thought. So, I did not tell anybody. That eventually led me to my first suicide attempt.

It was only then I realized how much people care. There were people who wanted to be there for me and help. It was okay to ask for help. There are people in this community who want to see me get better.

But at the same time while I was in the mental health facility, I noticed a lot of people had no visitors. These people needed someone they could count on. I wanted to change that.

I wish I could say it all got easier after that, but it did not. A few years later I was diagnosed with psychosis, as I struggled very badly with auditory and visual hallucinations. They overtook my life to the point that I really couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what was fake. I felt almost bedridden and as though I was crazy. Through help and medication, I was slowly able to get my life back only to once again struggle with something new. This time it was insomnia. It left me feeling so exhausted to the point I stopped doing school, I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t even walk around my block. I just sat on the couch and felt like a zombie all day. These struggles led to another suicide attempt.

But I am very lucky to say today it’s been over two years since my last attempt, and every day since then has been a slow process of getting better. There is hope. There is healing. Things get better. I can truly say for the first time ever I am excited to be alive and see what this life can bring to me.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I think there are a lot of good resources out there.

  • After my first suicide attempt, I used Behavioral Health. I currently am at Southeastern Behavioral Health.
  • There is now a behavioral health emergency service in Sioux Falls.
  • 988 is the new mental health hotline number.
  • At the WeCan Movement we are holding events to bring people of struggles together. The website allows us to connect with people who need to talk. There are people out there who do want to learn about you and your struggles and help you overcome.

 

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?

I think the most important thing is to hold on to a little bit of hope. Life completely turned around for me when I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I can have a happy life.” When I started to have hope in that, I asked myself, “In order to live a happy life, what would that take every day to make that happen?” It completely changed the way I operate. And once we learn to have hope for ourselves, we can have hope that all of us can heal from our struggles and truly grow. And we can all take a part of the responsibility of helping each other get there.

 

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

I think the most important thing to realize is we really are not alone as we think. There are a lot of us who struggle with things. Although all of our experiences are different, a lot of us struggle with the same things, and as we are more open, we realize we aren’t the only ones with these struggles. There are people with the same struggles as me, and they have continued to overcome these struggles. There is so much power in that.

 

Check out the latest episode of Great Minds with Lost&Found featuring Jake Danielson:

 

 

You can watch the episode on YouTube here:

Jessica Cline

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

I have struggled with my mental health for the majority of my life. In my younger years, I didn’t understand that is what fueled a lot of my missteps through life. My unaddressed depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder led me into a life of drug addiction and external validation.  

I began my rehab journey in 2013. While I was in treatment in Florida, I was diagnosed with those mental health disorders, but due to extenuating circumstances, I could not continue my treatment/medication and soon relapsed. In 2015, after a series of horrible events, I found myself in South Dakota, starting over with two suitcases to my name. Even after all the years of therapy, and trying to understand my drug addiction, it still didn’t click for me—I was still seeking external validation and love in all the wrong places. I still had no idea who I was or what I was worth. 

In 2016 I terminated an unexpected pregnancy, and that is really what I called the “beginning of the end,” after a pretty big downward spiral. While I wasn’t in active addiction anymore, I was still in that addict mentality—the “storm” followed me wherever I went. I had job loss after job loss. I couldn’t even find a way to be honest with the therapist and psychiatrist I was seeing.  Eventually the pain was too much, and I attempted suicide.  

After that, I had a weeklong stay in a behavioral health unit. I was determined to “get it right” this time—if I could do enough and be enough, all of this would go away. I still couldn’t see my mental illness as something that had to be handled on a daily basis—it’s not something I can just FIX. It’s something I grow to learn and understand.  

In the fall of 2017, I attempted suicide for the second time. I had spent an entire month on my couch, not working, not showering, hating myself, my partner resenting me—and I determined that I was not made for this world. It HURT to just be awake. It hurt to just exist. I thought I had done too much wrong, and there was no way my life could get better.  

Thankfully, through a support system and the enduring love of my grandparents, I made my way back to North Carolina. I spent the next 18 months finding myself, not looking for a new boyfriend, not chasing a high that would never be enough. I found my way back onto my feet and really discovered who I was and how strong I truly am.  

Mental health is not a weakness. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Once I learned to embrace my mental health and my story, and grew to understand that my journey is part of who I was, the real healing began. Now in September 2022, I am currently engaged to the most perfect man and 7 months pregnant with a sweet baby girl. I have a career I love, two dog babies that are my entire world, and the best friend group I could ever ask for. I have made all of my amends, and I am happy and in love with who I am today. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

 

I can’t say there is a specific thing/resource that has helped me—it’s been a variety of things over the years. Finding a hobby, having a support system of friends and family, having an animal. I’ve seen a few therapists/psychiatrists over the years, and they have helped in their own ways. I did spend some time with AA/NA, and having that network of people was very nice. 

 

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? 

I think taking the time to understand and learn your specific mental illness/struggles and triggers is the key to staying ahead of things. Learn about yourself. Build a support group that you can reach out to. Find a hobby to keep you distracted when the days get too hard. Practice emotion regulation. 

 

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

It’s OK to have mental health issues. It’s not something you can just “be better” than. It’s an illness that has to be maintained and nourished so YOU can stay healthy. 

Jaxxen Cheney

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

My depression started when I was around 12, in seventh grade or so. I was bullied every single day, and at first, I had good self-esteem, but then that started to degrade after the constant harassment. I began to truly believe that the things people said about me were true. I started having suicidal thoughts in middle school. I was eventually placed in a residential facility for the majority of my eighth-grade year and half my freshman year.

When I got out, I was traumatized, and I didn’t know how to behave around others, so I was also bullied for that. It never really stopped. Through all of high school, I was ostracized and an outcast. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder, once I turned 18. I also came out as LGBT (not specifying for my safety) when I was in the residential facility. I was met with much homophobia and transphobia upon coming out. I was an outcast at school, not just because of my mental health, but also because I didn’t fit into the box that was considered “normal.”

From fall 2019 to fall 2020, I attempted to take my life four times. The fourth time was on October 13th, 2020. I had been planning it since April. I had planned the rest of my life around that attempt, and I was sure it would succeed, so I let my grades slip and let my few friendships fail. My attempt failed, and I didn’t think I could ever recover from it. But I did. This was my junior/senior year of high school. I say junior/senior, because I graduated from high school in three years, which was a huge accomplishment for me. I graduated in the class of ’21, a year earlier than I should have, and it was a huge relief to get past the pain that was high school. I had no friends. I was entirely alone. I suffered with absolutely crippling loneliness in high school. Even at my graduation party, a few people I kinda knew and some of my teachers came for a bit.

After taking a gap year, I will be starting college, which is a completely new start, and I’m very optimistic that my life will be better, now that high school is over. I have friends who care about me now instead of being ostracized, and my general mental health is much better.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I had a psychologist. That was really it, I’d see her once a week, but besides that, I was alone. I struggled with this myself. I didn’t really have anyone to support me. I had no friends to go to throughout my entire life, up until this point. I didn’t HAVE resources, so I’m not sure what to put for here. I didn’t have anything to help me. I just suffered through it. But no one should have to, and that needs to change.

 

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?

I don’t consider myself resilient. At all. I understand why people refer to me as that, but I don’t consider myself that. I barely survived all that I went through. I don’t know how to build resilience because I don’t feel that way myself.

 

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

People need to try and understand mental health, and in my case, being queer as well. There’s so much hate and stigma with it. People didn’t understand that I couldn’t eat certain food or wear certain clothes, or be around bright/flashing lights and loud noise, or that it was hard for me to make appropriate eye contact, or that I didn’t pick up on social cues, because I was autistic. They didn’t understand that my mood could change very quickly, or that it was easy for me to become infatuated with something or someone in an uncontrollable manner, because I’m bipolar and borderline. Everyone thought I was just weird and messed up. I wish they had understood why I was the way I was. If even a few people had attempted to understand in high school, perhaps I would not have been treated as harshly as I was.

Corey Kennedy

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

My name is Corey Kennedy, and 21 years ago my brother died by suicide. I was 25 at the time, and he was 16. I was very close with Josh and felt that he was someone I had to protect. His death was very, very difficult for me to process as I really didn’t know that there was anything wrong or that there were these feelings of anxiety or depression, especially to this magnitude. I also had to deal with the repercussions of my family falling apart. I had just recently married, and we both really struggled to come back from this loss.

I really wish that I could go back in time and change things and take another opportunity to keep him from being in that situation or give him a place to land and allow him solace to survive that situation. At that time, it was really challenging. This was in the early 2000s, and guys talking about feelings and emotions and things that were beyond just normal processes didn’t happen very much. What I learned was that I had to find a way to communicate, a way to process and find people to talk to. I was fortunate that my friends were supportive and understanding and helped me realize I had to find support. I learned that I can see a counselor and talk about what is happening, and I can try to learn how to follow what I needed to get better, and I learned that I can ask for help—that it is OK to do those things.

I also learned about my own depression and anxiety and my feelings of self-harm and when I get to those points. My life past the loss of Josh has been difficult, and it still creeps up on me sometimes. The feelings that surface sometimes surprise me. I have had dark days, and I have lost a sense of direction for myself, and in this I certainly understand why Josh got to where he got and did what he did, but I also have those resources in place to help me process those things now. I make sure that when I am feeling that way that I let somebody know, and I make sure that I’m not in a place where I’m dealing with that by myself.

In this world, things are always going to create difficult situations for us, but learning how to talk about it and learning how to deal with it and having a network of people in place to help you when you need help is critical. Now that I have learned these things, I am taking the opportunity to learn how to share these things with other people and how to do better by making sure that other people have access to these things, because I couldn’t do that for Josh back then. I hope that he sees that he’s a part of it, and I hope that he is helping me through this journey.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Counseling, suicide prevention organizations, pastors, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends and family. I have a thirst for individual exploration and did a lot of reading self-help books. I also like to write and draw my emotions so I journal and write songs, poems, and books. I also paint, draw, and create art.

 

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?

For me, learning that my feelings are not a mistake or wrong, and that we all feel the same feelings and that we can, if we choose to, talk about them with others. Share the experience and learn from each other’s individual journeys to expand our own journey. This often requires help from counselors, mentors, teachers, coaches and other people who have training and experience in talking and offering resources. Commit to wanting change and put in the resources you need to accomplish the change and let it happen.

 

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

We all have these feelings. Your feelings are not wrong. The idea that you cannot talk about certain things is ridiculous. Find a way to express what is inside that is causing you pain and set it free.

Shastin Gerbracht

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

On January 6, 2022, I was at work with a client. I had my Apple Watch on so I could feel that my phone was ringing repeatedly. This was unusual, so I checked my watch and saw that it had been my husband. I excused myself to check my phone and received a text from my husband that my 19-year-old son, Collin, texted into his place of work that he was not coming in because he was going to kill himself. My husband was already on his way to my son’s house. I left work immediately and began to drive toward it, thinking that we would get Collin, take him to hospital for some help and maybe have him move back home. As I got closer and closer, the fear of the worst gripped me. When I turned on his road, I saw the ambulance. There are not words to describe this terror. My husband came running out and met me outside. Through my screaming I realized he was gone. He had died by suicide.

I have experienced trauma before, as I served in the military for 20 years. This was like nothing I could have imagined. It was like a sharp cut through the fabric of what my life was. It impacted every realm of my life. I felt heavier, physically and emotionally crushed, changed forever.

As I move forward down this new path, I try to carry both the grief and hope. My hope is that I find new purpose in this life to use my wonderful son’s memory to help others through this, or more importantly, to help in the prevention. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

When I was still at my son’s house on the day of his death, Bridget from the Front Porch was there with support and resources. I attend the Front Porch support group and try to attend other gatherings with people who have experienced the same thing. This has been critical in helping me see beyond my present moment to how it might look for me after a few years. This support is essential to the hope that I carry.

I went to see a mental health counselor as soon as I could get in and continue with this as well. Through therapy we discovered that it was important that I continue to engage and say “yes” to opportunities and activities that might eventually bring joy, connection, or relief. This can be something like agreeing to go hiking with a friend or agreeing to submit my story here. Along with this mental health care, I also see my provider for medication to help me with the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

I reached out to friends, and I continue to call on them when I need to. I have requested from everyone I am close to that we talk about Collin as much as we can.

I focus on self-care a lot. I feel a lot better when I am able to work out, journal, read, and spend time with my dogs daily. My most important self-care goal is getting enough sleep. I can see a big difference in my coping skills when I am tired versus when I am well-rested.

I am working toward getting involved with helping others, as this can be very healing.

 

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? 

I think the sooner we build support for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities the better off we are. So that when someone does start to feel down, alone, or unsafe, they have people to reach out to AND feel comfortable doing so. The more wellness that exists upstream of a crisis, the better. 

 

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

It is possible to carry pain, grief, etc., while also carrying hope and joy. We can live fulfilling, meaningful lives without feeling like we need to “fix” these difficult parts of us. And there is support out there. Reach out! 

Michael Tromp

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

Around seventh grade, a wave of depression hit me in an unmanageable way. I went from being a happy kid who was involved in everyday activities to sleeping all day listening to music. School was in full swing, and I lost all my effort for anything. I was flunking classes, and getting into substances. After a while I found an unhealthy outlet in cutting. After a few weeks of this negative coping mechanism, suicidal thoughts seemed to increase and become much sounder and more reasonable.

Now that I look back on it, I realize that’s when I should’ve sought help. But help was a foreign thing to me. I believe we pressure younger males to be “men,” and asking for help is really not a specialty of that stereotype. So I found it weak or selfish to ask for help from others.

My first suicide attempt was in seventh grade. I remember waking up the next morning sick and hurting but still alive and feeling the immeasurable disappointment I was brought from that. There were two more suicide attempts over the years, and each resulted in failure and hospitalization.

When I started on the path to healing, it wasn’t even me hoping to help myself—it was me looking at another person in my life and seeing how taxing it is on another person. Not just taxing on myself. At first, I sought that out as a reason to stay alive. But it only provided a reason to live for other people, and I needed to be able to live for myself. Over the past year and a half, I have healed in my own ways. It was a process of eliminating negative thoughts and replacing the immediate thought of killing myself whenever anything bad happens.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Friends and family are big resources, but other outlets for me were gaming and sports. I needed to find ways to release those feel-good chemicals. A lot of outside activity. I went through therapy and treatment for years but when you’re not accepting of help, those kinds of treatment aren’t gonna be as effective. You need to be able to accept help first and foremost before those methods can help you.

 

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?

We need to make asking for help a lot more acceptable. I’ve run into a multitude of people that aren’t as accepting of mental health. And we need to be ready to help and accept it.

 

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

(Suicide) is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Willette A. Capers

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

I have struggled with my mental health just about my entire life. I grew up being bullied heavily. It caused me to hate myself and the literal dark skin I was in. I thought I was ugly and wasn’t meant for life on this earth. Why wouldn’t I believe it—my peers were telling me this every single day. The bullying was so bad, that I was beaten with a baseball bat and thrown in the trash can, and told I was too ugly to live.

Even today, I struggle from time to time with loving myself. When I met real friends in college, they poured into me and really made me see the value in my life. They loved me, and I loved them back. For years I was on the right track in regard to my mental health. I had found the right antidepressants to aid in mood stabilization and anxiety, and I was really doing a great job at utilizing my coping skills.

That was until it became unbearable at work. It was bad. I wouldn’t wish those conditions on my worst enemy. In the midst of those issues, a tumor was found on my ovaries (the first of many). After having surgery (again, the first of many), my doctor shared that I would probably never be able to have children. I was devastated. I began to spiral. Then one day, I packed up my apartment, wrote notes to my family, took some pills, then called my mom to tell her I loved her.

That call saved my life. Had I not called to share that I was struggling, I wouldn’t be here today. I will never forget the pain in my mother’s voice to hear her child struggling. I never want to hear that again. She is my why. She is why I fight every day. And even though we are thousands of miles apart, I carry her with me, always.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I have regularly seen a therapist since middle school. Talking with my family and having an accountability partner who pays attention when I seem withdrawn has also helped.

 

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?

We have to dismantle the stigma associated with mental health. More people would be willing to share their struggles if they weren’t worried about being judged or treated negatively.

 

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

I can’t just make myself feel better. It’s not a light switch I can turn back on. Stop minimizing my experiences but support and continue to encourage me.

Gabe Dannenbring

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

My story is related to social media. I was working as a teacher and 2 years ago I decided to make a TikTok video and post it. At the time, I had 6 followers. Over the next week, that video has 41 million views. I then started making TikToks consistently, and since then I have grown my social media following to over 1.6 million followers. Through that journey, I learned how important it is to be resilient. Although most interactions on my accounts are positive, I still have people leaving negative comments and hate on my videos. I’ve had to become resilient and persevere through people trying to tear me down.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Having a solid group of friends to turn to, books and YouTube videos about resiliency, self-affirmation.

 

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?

It’s important to be confident in ourselves. When you have confidence, you can become much more resilient because you are confident in who you are as a person. Resilience is built by reaffirming who you are and why you are capable of succeeding.

 

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

Life is challenging. There will be seasons of life that are more challenging than others, which is why we need to be able to persevere through challenges.

Find Gabe on TikTok and Instagram.
Check out the latest episode of Great Minds with Lost&Found featuring Gabe Dannenbring:

 

You can also watch the podcast episode:

Shalea Schloss

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

Over the past 15 years, mental health has been a huge player in who I have become as a professional. I have experience working with people in different capacities such as child welfare, education, geriatrics, nonprofit work, and mental health inpatient services. Each of these entities works directly or indirectly with mental health. The stories that brought me to the mental health profession are inspiring, but they also deal with heartache and disheartenment. Anyone reading this passage, please make sure you are checking in and taking care of yourself.

When I was 5 years old, my older sibling was diagnosed with ADHD. Prior to this, my parents weren’t sure what was going on. What I remember from that time was the stigma placed on my older sibling. I remember overhearing my mom repeat what a teacher said about my older sibling: “[They’re] just a bad kid.” Bad kid… like they were a criminal or something. That’s how I perceived it. I didn’t want to be associated with that. I thought to myself, “The teachers think that of them—what will they think of me?!” So, what did I do as a 5-year-old? I followed every rule, studied hard, and tried as hard as possible not to be deemed a “bad kid” like my older sibling. As my sibling began to receive services for their ADHD, that vision of them being a criminal dissolved. I no longer felt the need to distance myself from them and became proud of being their sister. Over the years, I came to realize that the teacher was wrong—my older sibling isn’t a bad person. They are smart, funny, caring, a great parent, successful, and a great sibling.

As I got older, I couldn’t shake mental health issues. When I was 13, my best friend at the time attempted suicide. Navigating a situation so mature and unfamiliar at such a young age and confusing stage in life caused me to be empathetic and more aware of warning signs of when someone is struggling. I tried my best to be there as a friend, but you can’t wrap someone in bubble wrap and follow them through life. Sometimes you have to sit on the sidelines.

What really pushed me to become the person and professional I am today was a situation that involved my younger sister. When I was 16 and she 13, she attempted suicide. A week or so prior to the attempt, I noticed my sister engaging in self-harming behaviors. I asked her about it. She denied it and told me to leave her alone, but I wouldn’t let it slide. I told her if she didn’t tell our mom, I would. A few days later, knowing she did not tell mom, I confronted her in front of our mom. She became defensive and angry. She wouldn’t talk to me, and basically would only be around me when I drove her to school. The day of the attempt was coronation at our high school. I went to the coronation and out with some friends. When I got home, my mom and dad were sitting on the couch with my sister lying in between them. My mom and sister had been crying, and my dad looked shocked. I asked what happened, to which my dad told me “Your sister attempted suicide.” My world came crashing down. The guilt of knowing what she had been doing hit me. I was a wreck. My parents had to get my sister to the emergency room and then to Avera McKennan, which was two hours away from where I lived, ASAP. I stayed home with my younger brother, spiraling. I called a friend and just rambled on about what I could’ve done. I waited until my parents got home. I drove my brother to school that next morning to help my parents as they digested the events from the previous night. I stepped up and put on a brave face. Sometimes brave faces are not as helpful as people think they are. After that night, I decided I never wanted anyone else to go through that pain. So, I made it my mission to become a mental health therapist. And as I sit writing this, I am a licensure exam and supervision hours away from accomplishing that dream.

My family and I remain resilient throughout all of the ups and downs of mental health that we have faced since that day. I can’t speak for every member of my family regarding how they stay resilient in the face of mental health issues, but what has kept me resilient is my passion, drive, and experience with mental health. I tell people, “You didn’t get this far just to get this far,” because it possesses a message of strength, endurance, and passion, one that I have to remind myself at times I feel defeated or as if I can’t take one step further.

Through the years, I’ve been told I have impacted the lives of many individuals, and they have found a sense of purpose through their interactions with me. I have learned what is important as a human being and the power of being vulnerable, asking for help, and checking in with yourself. I’ve had my struggles off and on throughout the years with anxiety and depression via trauma from bullying. However, I know that allowing those things to stand in my way will only do that, stand in my way. I’m a little too ambitious for that to happen.

To end this long story, I will leave readers with a quote from the great Leslie Knope: “I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.” Helping and caring for others is my thing.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

USD Student Counseling Center
Avera McKennan Hospital
To Write Love on Their Arm website
Music

 

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?

Accept vulnerability. We as humans are not programmed to always fight. At some point, it becomes tiring to constantly be on high alert or put on a brave face and continue throughout the world knowing that you have these feelings so deeply wounding that they leave eternal scars. Being vulnerable isn’t a bad thing. Contrary to belief, allowing yourself to admit you aren’t ok, that you need help, inspires people around you to take that step forward to letting down their guard and admitting they aren’t OK, which causes a domino effect for them to seek out help. This builds resilience.

 

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

Brave faces aren’t always helpful. It took me some time to realize I have been putting on a brave face for the past 27 years and it has gotten me into trouble from time to time. What I believed to be stress and being “too ambitious” was masking signs of anxiety. What I believed to be just being “blue” was actually beginning stages of depression. Putting on a brave face is OK for certain situations, but in a situation where catharsis is needed, isn’t the best time to do that.

Cody Ingle

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

Growing up gay in rural Indiana is not something that I would recommend—especially when compounded with religious fundamentalism. For most of my life, I felt I could not live as my authentic self. Religion told me that being gay was not an option, and I tried for a long time to change that about myself. I entrenched myself in religious gatherings—church on Sundays, youth group on Sunday and Wednesday. Figuring out sexuality in a rural community is never easy, and I felt so alone. I felt taken advantage of by older men who preyed on my uncertainty. I felt so much shame and regret.

I was bullied my entire middle school experience and much of my high school. My bullies were both relentlessly cruel and surprisingly inventive. Everyone thought I was gay and made fun of me for it. I desperately wanted to admit the truth, but never could. There were many times I considered taking my life—I felt a lot of pain and wanted to end it.

At 18, I went through a form of conversion therapy—something to try to change my sexuality. Two intense sessions of prayer, quasi-counseling, and battling the “demon of homosexuality” tried to convince me I was straight. I went through these various forms of conversion therapy for the next six years. Group therapy in college coupled with quasi-counseling and prayer sessions in churches. I tried dating women in high school and college to turn myself “straight.”

Throughout this time, my mental health suffered. I always felt as though I was inherently bad and evil. I was made to believe that being gay was the result of a demon—and that I was the one that kept inviting it into my life. I went through one last round of conversion therapy at the age of 24 while working as a youth pastor at a church. I officially came out as gay in February of 2016. This time was simultaneously horrible and liberating.

After coming out, the church I worked at sent a letter to all the parents and leaders stating I had chosen to “follow the ways of the world.” Some family members did not contact me for months. I lost almost all friendships and relationships. Though this was traumatic, coming out began the process of healing. I found a community of people that supported me—that validated my feelings. I began therapy—real therapy—to address the trauma the church had caused. Finally, I was able to live authentically.

There are still days I wrestle with the trauma of conversion therapy and feelings of low self-worth. I probably have an existential crisis daily. However, the healing I have found through a strong community, especially with Sioux Falls Pride and other LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit organizations, has been tremendous. Going to therapy—real therapy—has helped to lessen the PTSD experienced by religion and conversion therapy. Therapy has helped me to know that my authentic self was worth expressing. It lifted the burden of shame and regret by informing me that these were feelings placed on me by others. Through a lot of growth and self-reflection, I have been able to address my mental health in positive ways with the help of a strong community of people.

Though there are still days when trauma and low self-worth creep into my mind, I am now in a space where I can feel those emotions, address them, and continue to live an authentic life. To me, the ability to live authentically as myself has been the most healing process. I can be fully who I am and know that others will love me for it.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Mental health therapy has helped me address my mental health in extremely positive ways. Organizations like Sioux Falls Pride and other LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit nonprofits have helped as well.

 

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?

One of the best ways to build resilience for me is the idea of authentic living. Being able to express ourselves authentically is crucial to resilience. Encouraging this in others will help our loved ones and communities as well. As a community, we must be willing to allow others freedom of expressing their authentic selves, and welcome and embrace them. Be willing to have conversations and really get to know people.

 

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

I wish that everyone could understand that mental health affects everyone. We are never alone—and there are resources to help.

Lena Tran Schaeffer

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

Growing up, I struggled with balancing two cultures while trying to figure out how to be a pre-teen and young adult.

My family and siblings came to the US as Vietnamese refugees in the early 90s, and shortly after their arrival to their new home country, I was born. I came from a very strict and conservative Vietnamese household where I am the youngest of 5 siblings, with a 10-year age gap from my closest sibling. Growing up I had my mom and dad, but also older siblings acting like my parents so I often felt very alone and couldn’t talk to anyone. I was conditioned to keep my thoughts to myself, be respectful and to always listen to my elders and obey their orders.

When I was young, I had suicidal thoughts where I can vividly recall my sister calling the cops on me when I threatened to harm myself because I felt like no one in my family was willing to understand me and be supportive. I remember yelling at my family, “Your life would be SOOOO much easier if I wasn’t alive!!” I know at the time I was in the heat of the moment, but those words were truly a cry for help.

People show love in different ways, and now as an adult, I may not have heard the constant words of affirmation from my family that they were proud or loved me, but I know they were and just showed it in a different way. Even though our family didn’t have much, I know my parents worked so hard to ensure I had a better life than they did. They weren’t the type to tell me they “love me” verbally, but they truly showed me they loved me in many other ways.

Reflecting back, I know speaking up and sharing how I felt helped me feel better, but also let others who I love know how I truly felt, even if the situation was chaos and/or not ideal. I know my tantrums and threats of self-harm were a call for help, and though I felt at times that my loved ones “didn’t care about me,” their actions really came through to show that they love me and want me to be safe and well.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Truthfully, the resource that has truly helped me address life’s challenges has been taking that initial step in asking for help through my friends, teachers, and other adult role models in my life. Talk it through. Confide in someone you trust. When I was going through family drama, I thought of my boss at Golden Dragon and called her sobbing, and she was there to help/listen. You don’t have to be super close to anyone, and even strangers are willing to listen and show that they care. You are not alone.

 

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?

People need to become better listeners. When someone comes to you, they are not always looking for a solution. They just need to vent/talk to someone. When someone approaches you in desperate need, first just be all ears, listen, and show compassion. Then, depending on the conversation, ensure you are asking questions to gauge if they need additional help. It is okay to ask, “Do you plan on harming yourself?”, but that shouldn’t be the first question right away because the person may get defensive. I think we, as a society, need to be better listeners and not judgmental. I think fewer people would need therapists if they felt like they had a supportive group of folks surrounding them always that they can talk to and confide in. Isolating our thoughts is no bueno.

 

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

You are not alone. Even the happiest looking folks may appear they have it all on the outside, but in reality, may have their own internal battles that are relatable to others.

Mary Ellen Wolfe

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

I lost a loved one to suicide 17 years ago. Since this loss, I’ve found myself struggling, too, with bouts of anxiety, depression and complicated grief—even suicidality. The feelings of abandonment and fear are intense when you lose a loved one, especially with lingering questions and no forewarning. After my loved one died, I struggled with nearly constant fear the rug would get yanked out from under me again. The world no longer seemed safe anymore.

But the last few years I’ve come to a place of greater peace. While the process involves regular self-care, I’ve also had a few changes of mind that were pivotal leaps forward.

One pivotal moment was when I realized I could heal myself. There was a stretch when not a single person—not even mental health professionals—seemed to offer consolation or understanding. I’d never felt so much despair. All alone one night, I sat in this space between life and death, a moment of choice. I felt an overwhelming temptation to take my life. Death was right there, so close. It seemed almost simpler to die than to live. But I remembered how it felt to lose my loved one to suicide and decided I couldn’t inflict the same pain on others. I said “No” inside to death.

I was crying so hard, nearly hysterical, when suddenly I felt peace come over me. I began talking to myself, out loud, in the midst of crying: “It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna make it. You’re strong. Even if you’re all alone, I’m here for you.” As I was saying this to myself, I was thinking of other people who were depressed or suicidal, too. I could almost feel the collective pain of others. And the compassion I felt for others, in that moment, I felt finally for myself, too.

I still suffer moments of intense despair when I feel entirely alone. But I’m training myself to pause and draw on this peace and comfort as a constant. I offer myself hope by creating a safe space inside to fall apart.

These moments usually precede some great step forward. Life’s journey has hard stretches, but if you refuse to accept death and open your mind to life, you, too, can offer yourself peace and comfort in these dark moments of life.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

There are so many different types of care, including, of course, counseling.

I’ve found cognitive behavioral therapy a valuable way to open your mind to new patterns of thinking. I’ve come to see my mind was very narrow and closed in certain areas. A shift in mindset literally can change your life.

If you have recurrent fears and anxiety, even if you haven’t been outright abused or suffered what we consider a typical “trauma,” I highly recommend a person consider trauma counseling. A person can develop complex PTSD from emotional neglect or emotional abuse or even from dysfunctional families or communities.

I’ve found the trauma therapy tools nearly miraculous. It helped release me recurring, intrusive fears through what seemed pretty straightforward techniques. It takes a while to build up the personal trust to get into the frame of mind to use the trauma healing tools, but it is worth it. I cannot say enough positives about trauma therapy.

Creativity is a surprising and profound healing outlet. I was never a “creative kid” growing up. I never received much nurturing or notice in this area. But one day I decided to write down the story of losing my loved one to suicide. It helped me lay down the past and find peace. And I paint out all the madness and intensity when I can’t figure out how to say it with words. I first paint anger or sadness or frustration or fear and then over top of that I paint peace or loved or joy. I’ve learned literally to paint my way to peace.

 

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?

I’m going to be very honest here. I think we live in a repressed community. There is so much left “unsaid.” Highly sensitive people often sense the underlying tension, stress or resentment or even judgment. What is unsaid is just as, or more, harmful than what is said.

I speak with many people every day who feel scared to express their real selves. They feel unsafe sharing their pain or doubts. There is such a pervasive pressure in this community to appear successful and to appear in control. Many young people need a safe space to fall apart or to fail. Failure is so integral to learning and future success, but there seems to be so much pressure on young people to perform. They also need a safe space to let it out—–to get angry or express frustration or despair or need. We need adults—we need parents—we need community leaders, who lead by example and can handle the needs of youth in this regard.

There is a real need in our community for empathetic listening. There is a need for people who have learned to converse on depression or anxiety or suicidality without fear or without fix-it optimism. There is a need for people who have walked through their own pain and feel comfortable conversing on the topic.

We live in a community that needs a greater awareness of boundaries. When people say, in the context or family, community or religion, that they love you, yet don’t accept you as you are and try to change you into their mold of what is ideal, the confusion is so damaging, especially to young people.

When people say they love you, yet deny or minimize your feelings, or make fun of you for seeking therapy, or mess with your head and put you down one moment then praise you the next, or treat you as less-than because you won’t let them control you—this is damaging.

In short, we need to learn how to love people without control or repression—we need to create a safe space for people to give voice to less-than-perfect feelings.

 

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

There is great peace in letting yourself fail and believing you will be OK even if you have to go it alone.

Jackie Hendry

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

I was 24, fresh out of a series of unhealthy relationships, including what I would later recognize as a sexual assault the previous winter. I was a USD grad student at the time and living alone. The assault happened in my apartment, and it was hard to avoid triggers in a small town—especially when, at the time, I was trying to maintain a friendship with the person who hurt me. I fell behind on course work, struggled with under eating and over-indulging in alcohol. I started self-harming, partly to offset some of my internal pain by bringing some of it to the surface, but also as a sort of test. If I ever did decide I couldn’t live anymore, did I have what it took to “do it.”

I’d started an internship with South Dakota Public Broadcasting—where I now work as a host and producer—and would often find myself on the verge of tears sitting at my desk. I had a panic attack after seeing my perpetrator on social media moments before I went live with the noon newscast. I managed to hold it together for the four-minute news report (a colleague even told me I did a fantastic job), then went to the bathroom to cry. Most people didn’t know how badly I was suffering, and I did that on purpose. I was hurting, but I also hated myself a bit for hurting so much when I’d had such a privileged life. I worked in the news, and understood there were so many bigger problems in the world. How dare I feel so bad? What am I doing to help the world?

I recognized early on that I was in a dangerous mindset, so I started making use of the free counseling services for students on campus. I told my counselor in our first meeting that, “I don’t have time to be this sad,” which felt true as pressure mounted with school and other responsibilities, but I also worried I couldn’t get through this rough patch on my own. That service, and a determination not to hurt my parents by dying, saved my life.

It took about eight months of counseling, journaling, and work before I managed to see the other side of that dark chapter. A couple years later, I decided to finally seek medication to help manage my depression. During the pandemic, I started counseling again to deal specifically with the sexual assault that triggered that depression in 2017. I look back on that time now with love and gratitude for myself for surviving.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Journaling, talk therapy, Sertraline, USD’s student counseling services

 

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?

The more we can make counseling and management resources available the better, but recognizing symptoms of mental health in ourselves is critical. I only sought help because I recognized I might have a symptom of something bigger, and that helped save my life. That’s part of why sharing a wide variety of stories like these can help break stigma and help ensure people who need help are able to recognize themselves in someone else’s story and know it’s OK to ask for what they need and deserve.

 

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

I think of my depressive episodes as a “flare up.” My mom has rheumatoid arthritis—some days her symptoms are more manageable than others. She deals with them through a medication regimen, taking care of her health in other ways, and going easy on herself on days when her symptoms flare. I try to think of my depression in a similar way.

Jana Boocock

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

I experienced my first panic attack at the age 24 at the beginning of my professional career. As someone in the behavioral health field, I was investing in my clients and my work, striving to ensure individuals were not afraid to reach out and that they had access to the resources they needed, but I was not in turn investing in myself. My mental health continued to decline, and I would go on to experience more panic attacks, debilitating anxiety and depression. I was unable to fulfill my duties at work and home, and my personal relationships were suffering. For so long I operated under the perception that as someone working in the behavioral health field, I was not worthy of therapy, and there were others that needed it more. It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I finally decided to seek help.

Over the next year, through a combination of therapy, medication and prioritizing self-care, I started to feel like myself again, but halfway through my pregnancy with my first child, my anxiety and depression returned, and I felt the lowest I had ever been. As I approach three weeks postpartum, my mental health has continued to wane with the unique challenges faced during this period. Not only am I trying to care for myself, but now my daughter also. During this time, I have come to realize how important it is to continue to prioritize taking my medication daily, engage in self-care, surround myself with support and reach out for help when I need it. Taking care of my mental health takes work every day, and with each day, good or bad, I learn a little more about myself and what I need to cope with my anxiety and depression.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I accessed mental health services through my Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This was an easy way for me to find a therapist and access services without having to worry about costs of therapy initially.

I found a primary care provider who listened and validated my feelings, and worked with me collaboratively to decide on the best route to treating my anxiety and depression with medication. They have never been dismissive and have always been patient in finding what works best for me.

I was open and honest about my mental health with friends and family. Any time I would share my struggles, I found many would share their own struggles with me in return, allowing us to further dialogue and support one another.

 

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?

Encouraging open dialogue surrounding mental health, sharing our own personal stories and hope for recovery, in addition to familiarizing ourselves with resources and offering them to those who may need it.

 

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

You are worthy of help.

Cherokee McAlpine

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

I was born to parents who were addicted to drugs and alcohol, and a mother who was physically abusive and neglectful. I was taken away at 3 years old, after going through a rape, abuse for multiple years, and my siblings overdosing on my medications. I was put into the foster care system where I was raped repeatedly by an uncle. We, my siblings and I, were removed from my aunt and uncle, and taken in by my grandparents after my biological parents signed away their rights.

Shortly after moving there, severe abuse, neglect, and anger problems started. Both of my grandparents had very strict rules and often beat us for random reasons. Around the age of 7, I remember I started to feel depressed and attempted suicide for the first time. My sister walked in on me and convinced me to stop. I also started picking at my scalp as a way to self-harm. At the age of 8, I was diagnosed with depression. My grandmother was a retired LPN, so often times when I hurt myself or tried to kill myself where I needed medical attention, she handled it herself, as I was too young to understand how to “correctly” kill myself.

At the age of 12, I was finally taken away from my grandparents, who had adopted us in 2007. We were put back up for adoption and moved from Chamberlain to Fort Pierre. I ended up continuing to threaten to kill myself, as well as self-harm, so I was sent to HSC in Yankton, SD. I was there for a month and then sent back to Fort Pierre. However, treatment did not help, and I continued to hurt myself and ran away twice. I also assaulted my foster mom and destroyed much of be belongings. When I was being arrested, I kicked at the cop trying to arrest me. I was charged with two assault charges and a property damage charge and sentenced to mandatory treatment.

I was sent to Abbott House, where I lived for 1 year, 10 months, and 18 days. I successfully left the program and moved into their foster homes in December of 2013. During my time in the foster homes, I began to struggle again when my great grandmother died. The last time I ever hurt myself or someone else was October 30th, 2016. I had attacked my foster home out of anger, then attempted suicide. I was taken to Abbott House for three days and then moved to a different foster home. It was there that patience, love, understanding, and logic helped me overcome the trauma of the past and let go of those thoughts and urges to hurt myself and others. I was able to go to college, where I graduated with an associate’s degree in human services and went back to work for Abbott House. I have had a few slip-ups over the years where I was tempted to kill myself or self-harm, but I used the coping skills I was taught and my support system to help battle them. I have been clean for almost six years, and I plan to stay clean for the rest of my life.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Treatment at Abbott House; medications to address my depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder; continued therapy; foster parents who were patient, kind, understanding, and loving; Avera Behavioral Health (I went there in December of 2021, where I was diagnosed with BPD); writing poetry; and self-help workbooks.

 

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?

People struggling with similar issues I faced need someone who is patient, understanding, loving, and does not pressure them to talk, but lets them know they are there when they are ready to talk. There needs to be a lack of judgment for how they are feeling and coping, no matter how “positive” or “negative” the coping skill is. They also need honesty. For me, when someone was honest and upfront about how difficult it would be to overcome what I went through, but let me know they would be there every step of the way, I had faith and hope. And when I was told to “get over it,” that I was “dramatic,” that I “needed help,” or told that it’s “easy to move on,” I felt discouraged and misunderstood.

 

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

You cannot just “get better.” People who struggle with self-harm, suicide, or mental health will have good and bad days. You just have to be there no matter what and help them through.

 

Check out the Great Minds with Lost&Found episode featuring Cherokee:

Adaya Plastow

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

I lost a close friend to suicide.

When I first met him, I pegged him as a wild child who liked to have fun. He was always the life of every party and held a room with all of his adventurous stories. He was one of those people that you just never really knew what to expect when he was around. Through our conversations we learned that our grandmas were actually really close friends. We spent day trips bonding with each other and our families.

It was a difficult time when he later lost his grandma, as he was very close with her. I knew that he had been going through some hard times with his girlfriend and still processing losing his grandma, so I gave him a call one night. He did not answer the first time, but called me back about 20 minutes later. I answered the phone in an upbeat fashion, and it was returned with the most broken sob saying “Adaya.” He always was a very put-together, strong guy, so I was taken off guard. I sat on the phone and talked with him, trying to calm him down. He lived in a different town than me, so I was unable to go see him that late at night. I remember just sitting and not knowing what to do. He wanted to get off the phone, so I asked him if he was in a safe place. He said he was home and then hung up.

I texted him the next morning to check and see how he was doing, and he said not great. He didn’t show up to work. And then I never heard from him again. I remember finding out I had lost him when I checked my phone while doing homework on my living room floor. I could not believe it. It took a little bit before we found out if it was true or not. I felt responsible for all the things I could have, should have done. The “what ifs” were eating at me day after day. I struggled with PTSD, trust issues, self-harm and ideation while trying to cope with the grief. The only way I knew how to grieve was to act like I had it all together, ignore the problem, don’t let anyone see you hurt, and I was so wrong.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

  • Therapy: After about 8 months of trying to hide my pain and not being myself, I got to the point with my mental health where I was starting to scare myself. After researching and a few phone calls, I had my first appointment with my therapist. He was very open and made me feel very comfortable and safe. He was very clear that therapy works only if I wanted to be there. Yes, he pushed me and made me uncomfortable at times, but he also made me grow into a more self-aware person, and taught me how to better manage stress. He diagnosed me with PTSD, and explained how it was impacting me so I could better deal with the “triggers” that come up in everyday life.
  • Lost&Found Advocates: I also went through the Lost&Found Advocates program that helped to make me more aware of my and others’ mental health. It helped create a foundation of resilience and gave me a community that I was safe to express my struggles in.

 

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?

We need to talk more about mental health, especially with our midwestern culture regarding mental health. I didn’t take it seriously or think anything of it prior to my friend’s death. I thought talking about it made me “weaker” in today’s society, but it actually does the opposite. It takes a lot of courage to be that vulnerable. To be resilient, you have to be willing to ask for help when you need it. Resilience is recognizing you are stronger than you think you are, but also knowing your limitations and when it is time to step back for yourself. It is going to look different for everyone, as we are all coming from different walks of life.

 

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

Regarding suicide, it is extremely difficult for those that are struggling with it. It is also extremely difficult for those that the victim ends up leaving behind. Even though you may not think so, you have a ripple effect on everyone around you—for good, bad, or otherwise. A small act of kindness, a gentle word, or a helping hand could very easily be saving someone’s life long enough for them to get help.

Heather Kittelson

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

I was born into generational alcoholism — I lived in denial until it almost killed me. After my fourth child, I developed a terrible case of postpartum depression, and I turned to alcohol. Depression and alcoholism had won. The shame and guilt and hopelessness were paralyzing, and I lived in fear every day. On Dec. 5th, 2019, I had decided to take my life because I was scared for my future and my family’s future with me in it. That morning, my husband was obedient to divine intervention and my life was saved. I went to 30-day in-patient treatment. Sobriety is where I live and what I love. I now live my life 100% for Christ and helping others find authentic pure joy and hope!

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

100% telling my story as often as I can has been a BIG piece of my healing!

Podcasts – Hope still Stands with Ben Higgens, Montgomery Companies with Jordan Montgomery, Suffering Strong with Jay and Katherine Wolf, In the Light with Dr. Anita Phillips, Unashamed with Phil & Jase Robertson, The Quote of the Day Show with Sean Croxton, Made for This with Jennie Allen, The Christine Caine Equip & Empower, Christine Cain, etc.!

Authors/Books: The Bible, ALL John Maxwell books, Set Boundaries, Find Peace – Nedra Glover, Jon Gordon Books, Dr. Kevin Leman books (parenting), Boundaries – Henry Cloud and John Townsend, etc.!

Counseling: Soul Strong Ministries – Meredith Vander Zee, New Haven Ministries, New Creation Ministries – Andy and Kate Anderson

 

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?

Share, Share, Share!!! We need to start talking and listening! Healing comes from being vulnerable and being open. We need to be there for one another and build our communities around loving and truly caring about each other’s wellbeing. We need to serve others and take care of ourselves — mind, body and soul!

 

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

YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and YOU MATTER! We are all children of God, and we all have a very specific purpose here on this earth!

Adam Bair

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

I grew up in a “high demand” religion where there was no such thing as depression or anxiety. If you experienced any of these emotions, you needed to reach out to the church to point you in the right direction to let God help you overcome them. The church clergy were untrained in any sort of mental health education or therapy. That being said, many of them told me to pull myself up by my bootstraps. It took me years to figure out that what I was experiencing was depression. I broke from the ecclesiastical grips and sought help from my doctor. This was the first step towards my mental health recovery.

 


 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I found many resources online. At first, I sought out religious articles and videos. But the resources I found most helpful were genuine people talking about what they were experiencing and how they overcame those challenges. I found more in common with these people, and it helped me tremendously. I also spend a lot of time researching and learning about my family’s mental health. As I dug into this, I realized that what I had was not caused by myself. It was something that many people in my family had experienced. This helped me recognize the behaviors that I would see in myself.

 

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?

Finding your community is really important. People telling stories about their own struggles helped me come to terms with my own. Creating a space where people feel comfortable to talk about these things is important to help overcome them.

 

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

Mental health is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to take care of your mental health.

Eliza Blue

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

I spent most of my childhood and the first half of my adulthood struggling with anxiety and depression. After moving to South Dakota and starting a new life as a rancher, I discovered I could be happy!

 

Eliza wrote a song to tell her story:

“I Made It Home” by Eliza Blue

It feels like exile when I get this low
When I’m so far gone, there’s nowhere else to go
And the weather’s changing fast
The fog is rolling in
Oh, my city of the sea
I will leave you for the middle of, the middle of the country

But if I’m singing this song to you, you know I made it through, you know I made it through, you know I made it back

And it’s almost dawn now, so it’s as dark as it’s gonna get
I made it this far, and I haven’t given up yet
And I’m singing this song for you so you know I made it through
You know I made it through
You know I made it home

I got my daddy’s eyes
I got my mama’s hands
I got a worried mind
I got his angry glance
But that’s not all I am
That’s just how I began
And I’m beginning to see there’s a place for me

I’ve lived through drought
I’ve lived through fire
And I’m ready now to start to flower
Yeah, I’ve lived through drought
I’ve lived through fire
And this field is ready to burst into flower

Oh, I’m singing this song for you
You know I made it through
You know I made it through
You know I made it back

Yeah, I’m singing this song for you so you know I made it through
You know I made it through
You know I made it home
I made it home
I made it home

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

More stability, work grounded in the seasons, and more time spent outdoors. More time with animals and less with humans (turns out I’m a big introvert, and city life was really stressful for my nervous system). Meditation and a lot of work learning how to use positive self-talk to replace many of the negative thought patterns I didn’t even realize I had. Learning that some of my “problems” were a result of neurodivergence and are actually my superpowers.

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?

Teach people to trust and cultivate their inner knowing. Provide safe and loving spaces of self-discovery where difference is celebrated.

 

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

You can learn to be more resilient!

Erica Johnson

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

My story is about both resilience and clarity. Often, resilience is built before clarity can be built, even though it would make much more sense to have clarity first to build resilience. Resilience is not normally a word I would use to describe myself or typically think of or see in myself. But through all the years I’ve struggled with mental health issues, it’s exactly what I’ve learned to become.

My story starts at too young an age. Childhood trauma, sexual abuse, grief from losing my father, grandparents, brothers, and more—all before I was 10. Not knowing how to cope or deal with loss and grief as a child led to repression and hiding my emotions and true self. I was always quiet, sometimes even unable to say more than yes, no, or I don’t know. This repression led to not knowing myself or letting others know myself, including my family.

My young mind soon began to fill with negative thoughts—“I’m worthless. I must be doing this all wrong. I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t want to be here. I can’t keep this up. I should be happy. I should be normal.” And so much more. The negative thoughts, repression, and trauma led to some of the symptoms that would later be diagnosed as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder/suicidal ideation, eating disorders, self-injurious behavior, addiction, insomnia, borderline personality disorder, and ADHD. I’ve struggled with eating disorders, constant self-harm, and addictive behaviors and actions, all starting when I was 8-11 years old.

My first suicide attempt was in 2010 at age 12. By the age of 18, I had attempted to take my life 21 times. Between college and present day, it became another 15 times, the most recent being St. Patrick’s Day 2022. Through middle/high school, while I was struggling with not fitting in and constant thoughts of suicide, I thought it was obvious I had depression/anxiety. I didn’t realize that it could be more than depression/anxiety. I did my best to try to fix myself. I didn’t reach out for help, and I hid all of my thoughts and feelings from family, friends, and doctors. I put a smile on my face and became known for always having a glowing, bubbly personality and always being happy. I showed up for school with that famous smile, mere hours after spending the whole night alone in my bedroom planning to not wake up again.

The first time I finally did reach out, I was in college. I began counseling and started medication for depression, and eventually anxiety too. At first, I was so excited that I was being heard, I didn’t realize the medications I was on weren’t working for me. It was my first time on medication and my first time reaching out, so not only were others proud of me for getting help, I was also proud of myself. But the medications went from not working, to making my depression worse and increasing my suicidal thoughts. After all of those years of not reaching out, now that I had, I still didn’t know how to be honest with myself or with my doctors and counselors. My suicidal thoughts were at an all-time high, and my mind was telling me I was a failure from all of my past attempts that didn’t work. I was now planning again, but thought I had to try something new.

At this point, my non-religious queer self decided to join a conservative Christian-based college group so that I could join them on a spring break trip to the ocean. The ocean has always been such a peaceful, free, and open place in my mind. This would be the perfect place to finally change my life, and it did just that. I did follow-through with the attempt; however, right at the end I snapped out of it and did a complete 180. Instead of wanting to take my life, I realized I wanted to take control of my life and finally start living.

Most of my life, especially as a child, I always felt like I had no control. I realized a lot of my early suicide attempts were based on finally having a way to feel in control of something. When I was in the ocean that day, it was free, open, and beautiful. However, it was not at all peaceful during that trip. The weather had been bad each day, and there were people even out monitoring the beaches letting visitors know it was not safe to swim due to the waves and high winds. I didn’t listen and swam out farther than was allowed. I felt I was in this weird state of control—I WAS in control because I chose to go on this trip, I got to Florida, and I decided to go into the ocean in the mental state that I was in. I also was NOT in control—the ocean was. I could swim and stay afloat for the most part, but the waves were stronger than me. When I snapped out of it, I really snapped out of it. I got up and started attempting to swim back, and that’s when one of my friends realized how far out I was. They met me part of the way back and convinced me to go inside with them to make sure I was okay.

Shortly after, that same friend made a simple comment that made a huge impact: “You know, sometimes depression meds can actually increase suicidal thoughts.” A simple conversation about mental health was the last push I needed to get more help. Between that conversation, my attempt, and finally being honest with my doctors, I was able to switch medications and found something that worked better for me. This is where clarity started to come into play and became an important role in understanding myself and keeping my resilience strong.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

  • Persistence in getting the right diagnosis: After the first couple medication switches, I was doing better, but still not great. Through more time, and continued treatment, my doctors and therapists, along with family and friends started to notice additional symptoms of mine that didn’t fall under just depression and anxiety: poor self-image, addiction, continued suicidal thoughts, age regression, recklessness, self-destructive habits, inability to focus, and not being able to fall asleep, which eventually turned into not being able to stay awake. As each of these symptoms was looked at more closely, it turned into a new diagnosis. PTSD, addiction, ADHD, insomnia, borderline personality disorder, etc. As additional diagnoses came, I’ve been able to try different combinations of treatment. This includes medication, counseling/therapy, DBT groups, hospitalizations and rehab, and a self-help plan.
  • Persistence in getting the right medication: The first step is being honest with your doctor. If the medication isn’t working, let your doctor know and try a new one. Continue this process for as long as needed. Once I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, the medication and treatment for that ended up improving my depression/anxiety more than any medication alone that I had tried specifically for depression/anxiety. Spending enough time with a doctor and/or psychiatrist and being honest is the best way to get a proper diagnosis (or multiple diagnoses).
  • Therapy: There are so many different options for counselors and therapists in South Dakota, as well as throughout the country.Doing a quick Google search and making a phone call (or if you’re anything like me and like to avoid talking on the phone, most places even have the option to email or submit an appointment request online) can help you find somewhere to start.Check to see if your school (middle school/high school or college) has an on-campus counselor. My first counselor was an on-campus counselor at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls that I was able to see for free while attending, and they even helped me find another counselor/therapist for after graduation.

    Some employers also have options, if not a specific counselor, they may have EAP programs to get connected with eligible therapists, counselors, or doctors.

    I’ve personally gone to Planned Parenthood and Avera Hospital for general appointments related to mental health.

  • Specialized care: In Sioux Falls, I have specifically gone to both Avera Behavior Hospital and Avera Addiction Care Center for additional help.
  • Crisis resources: I’ve also used resources like the 211 Helpline, NAMI, and various Suicide prevention hotlines/crisis centers (including 988).
  • Reaching out to friends and/or family has also been a great resource for me. A lot of times, they want to help but don’t know how – and sometimes I don’t know how they could help me either. One thing I started asking friends and family who were willing to help, was even just ask for their help finding and getting an appointment with a doctor or therapist set up. Something that seems hard in the moment for someone struggling, but a very simple thing that someone can do for you when they care.

 

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? 

At first, as each new diagnosis came, so did my denial. “No, it’s not addiction. I’m just depressed” or “No, I can’t have PTSD. It’s just anxiety.” In reality, it was a combination of it all. And the clarity of discovering these new diagnoses and being able to start a form a treatment to help each of them is how I was able to continue to grow and maintain the resilience I’d built up from all of my years struggling silently and alone. I still struggle every day, but I am still here toughing it out, still alive, and more resilient than ever.

If you’re here reading this right now, you’ve likely even started to build up some resilience in yourself, even without realizing it. Look within and see how for you’ve already come. Find as much clarity as you can in yourself to find the areas you need to address to maintain your resilience. Embrace and adapt to change, while learning to enjoy it.

 

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

Talk. Talk about suicide, talk about depression, talk about all aspects of mental health. Just a simple conversation can be of more help than most people realize. The simple comment my friend made about how for some people, certain depression medications can actually increase suicidal thoughts was all I needed to get the motivation to be honest with my doctor about my prescription not working.

ACTUALLY call these helplines. I think a lot of people dealing with a mental health crisis or contemplating suicide think calling these helplines isn’t going to work. I know I did before I made my first call. It took me years before I called a suicide helpline for the first time, and I wish I had way sooner. For me, it helped knowing that I’m not calling this number to “cure” myself or “cure” my depression/suicidal thoughts, etc. I’m calling because I need help right now and being alone with my thoughts has just been making it worse. Calling, even if for a short time, can help in some way. They can provide resources; help you get in contact with a medical professional or even checked into the nearest hospital if necessary. But even if you already have some resources or don’t find it necessary to go through all the steps, the conversation with the person on the other side of the phone can even just be used as a distraction to help get your negative thoughts to calm down for the moment.

MaKaylee Kluesner 

Note: We said we’d do 30 stories in 30 days, and we hit that goal yesterday—but we have one more we’d like to share with you. MaKaylee’s story is a good reminder that maintaining our mental health is an ongoing process, and we can strive for resilience at any stage of that journey—even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of dark days.

Thanks for finding the courage to share your story, MaKaylee. We support you in your fight.

 

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

When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer. When I received the news that it was terminal and that I would lose my mother forever, I began to self-harm. At this time, I was also being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. My mother passed away August 24, 2012, when I was just 14 years old.  

I was living in Florida at the time with my mother and maternal grandmother. My father lived in Sioux Falls, S.D. After only meeting him roughly four times in my life, I moved to South Dakota in 2013 to live with a person who was basically a stranger to me.  

I had already developed depression, and soon after my move to South Dakota, I developed anxiety enhanced with family conflict. I struggled with my mental health, went through many counselors before finding a good fit, experienced inpatient treatment through Avera Behavioral Health and Human Services Center, and came out of that feeling okay. This was 2014.  

After graduating high school in 2016, I once again was struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I attempted suicide in 2017 and in 2018. I got in touch with my family doctor and was referred to a psychiatrist. We spent two years trying multiple medications and doses. In March of 2018, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This illness has been the hardest to overcome. My psychiatrist informed me about DBT, or dialectical behavior therapy. I finally reached out to the therapist that my psychiatrist referred me to in July 2021. As I begin this journey with DBT, I still find myself struggling immensely. My most recent suicide attempt was September 19, 2021. Suicidal thoughts trouble me almost daily, but I am still resilient as ever and pick myself up every morning ready to fight these diseases that try so hard to overcome me. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Avera Behavioral Health was my first experience of aid. They provided resources on how to help with my self-harming behaviors, and cognitive behavioral therapy resources to help with my depression and anxiety. When that wasn’t enough, HSC was my next best help. In HSC, we had groups for everything: depression, anger, grief & loss, resiliency, and even a survivors group for those who had experienced abuse. I have also had a tremendous amount of help through American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Sanford Psychiatry & Psychology Clinic. Being in touch with people who want to help me and fight this disease has been the greatest success for me. 

 

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? 

The greatest challenge in my opinion is believing in yourself. When mental illness darkens your world, it can be hard to feel worth living and hopeful for a better future. I found my greatest strength to be resilience. Speak up to those around you so they can celebrate your successes with you. The words “I’m proud of you” and “You are so strong and courageous” go so far in helping those of us who struggle with mental illness find our resiliency. As a community, getting involved with organizations that help fight against this disease can also help those of us who struggle find HOPE. 

 

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

Not everyone’s story is the same. Mental illness is so complex. Also understanding that it is REAL, just as any physical disease, and that it’s okay to speak up about it. Too many people face these challenges in the dark because they are afraid of speaking up because of the stigma behind it. We NEED to lose the stigma. 

Butchie Corcoran 

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

My older sister Brittany took her life in March of 2016, and since then I’ve battled with having to find my own path in life. When Brittany was here, I was always just following in her footsteps. In the last 5 years I’ve had to figure out who I really am on my own. Losing not only my sister but my best friend has been the hardest part. I took my grief and internalized it, and it turn into anger. It’s hard to overcome the anger when I still have so many questions. I have found a lot of comfort in knowing she is finally at peace and is no longer fighting with herself every day. After an attempt of my own and I started to get the help I needed, I finally found my true Le$bean self and came out to my family and friends. After living as my true self over the past year and a half, I finally found it is OK to be known as Butchie and not just as Britt’s little sister. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Utilizing my therapist, my Wonder Woman mom, my dog Sebastian and many friends, I have felt the love and support to be BUTCHIE! 

 

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? 

Realizing that the most important opinion of ME comes from ME and the people who love me and not letting anyone else’s opinion change that. 

 

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

To be your true self, it has to start with you. 

Phyllis Arends

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

My friend’s daughter, Julie, died by suicide when she was a college student. Julie was truly an “all-American girl.” She was loved by so many. She was an excellent nursing student and active in many college activities. The saddest part of this story is that she was able to hide her suicidal thoughts from those close to her. I had seen her three days before her death and she seemed her normal bubbly self. Her roommate did not notice any changes in Julie’s activities or demeanor. Yet, Julie left a detailed description of how she wanted her funeral handled. Looking back some people now realize she gave away some personal possessions. At the time she did this, it just seemed she wanted to share with those she cared about.  

I want to reach the Julies of the world and encourage them to seek help. Hundreds of people would have done anything for Julie if they had known she was hurting. I’m certain others also have a lot of people who would be happy to help them if they just share how they are feeling. The most difficult thing can be to reach out when it seems the world is dark. The world can be better with some help from professionals. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Getting involved in suicide prevention efforts. I need to feel like I am helping people seek help for mental health challenges. I encourage people to call 211 and get connected with the support groups they offer. 

 

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? 

Talk, talk, talk. I think the more conversations we have about mental health problems the more “normal” they will become, and people will feel less ashamed to say they are receiving treatment for one of these medical conditions. And, please receive professional help when you are struggling. 

 

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

Mental health problems are medical conditions like any other ailment our bodies may have. I’ve never heard anyone say the body only gets ill from the neck down. 

Michaela Seiber 

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

In July 2018, my friend Taylor died by suicide. She had just moved from Sioux Falls to Omaha, and she was struggling. Taylor moved to Omaha for a fresh start; she had lived in Sioux Falls much of her life and was trying to find some answers to some big questions. One day I got a call from a friend, letting me know Taylor was in the hospital in Omaha after a suicide attempt. I knew she was dealing with a lot after her move, but the last time I saw her (Pride in the Park, June 2018), she was optimistic about things turning around. That was the last time I saw her in person, the last time I hugged her. We quickly formed a Facebook group of friends to do what we did best: organize and pool resources. Friends took turns staying with Taylor while she recovered after being home from the hospital. She started some new meds but continued to face financial burdens and identity crises. We sent cards, texts, and snaps, thinking we could keep her afloat from a distance. One night, we realized nobody had heard from her. One friend was coming back from Omaha and another was heading down in a couple of days; we thought we had surrounded her in enough love and comfort to get her through those couple of days alone. In the middle of the night, the police were called to check on her because she wasn’t answering calls or texts. Taylor had left us. That same year, I had my first panic attack and started the same anxiety medication she used to end her life. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Access to affordable medication and healthcare. 

 

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? 

I still don’t know that answer. Talking openly about mental health and how we cope can destigmatize therapy and anxiety/depression medications, encouraging others to seek this help. 

 

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

Don’t measure your mental health journey against anyone else’s yard stick. 

 

Alexa Steve  

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

When I moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, I had just graduated college. I was moving to be with my soon-to-be husband, who is an excellent support for me. Leaving college, I felt my community disband, which I had been in constant contact with for the last 5 years. I deeply missed my friends and felt lonely moving to a new place where I knew just one person. I had a lot of difficult days, grieving the loss of the closeness I had felt with the ones I loved. Even though all I wanted was a friend group, I found myself isolating at our apartment and not wanting to go out in the community. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

My husband was a great source of comfort, as well as remaining in contact with my friends virtually. I enjoyed doing yoga throughout college, and explored the various studios in Rapid City before landing on The Yoga Studio. I found great joy in the classes as well as the community-based events, and found new people to build spend time with. The Yoga Studio provided solace during a time I felt so lonely. 

 

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? 

To build resilience at a population level, it is important to have spaces where people can connect and belong. These allow people to find common ground and build relationships with those who have similar interests. Addressing mental wellness at a population level benefits everyone. 

 

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

It is OK to not be OK. And it is important to remember mental health is just as serious as any physical issue. 

Victoria Penny

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

At age 12, I was diagnosed with atypical depression, but I wasn’t prescribed medication until I was 23. For those 11 years, I fought to stay alive. I self-harmed for most of that time and attempted suicide once at age 15. I drank recklessly from 15 to 21 and was in an abusive (emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual) relationship from 16 to 21. The decision not to have me on medication was my parent’s choice, out of fear of the black box warnings for consumption under 18. When I got my own insurance, it didn’t cover mental health, and I couldn’t afford it. I dealt with daily intrusive thoughts and consistent nightmares. When I was 22, I had nightmares for 13 straight weeks. That was the cue for my new therapist to prescribe me medication. Soon after, they diagnosed me with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, adult attention deficit disorder, and (again) severe atypical depression.  

At age 22, I finally came out as a lesbian, and realized that holding that in was having detrimental effects on me. Yes, things got better, but there was no magic fix or magic pill. I had to actively combat the urge to end my life and pull myself out of the dangerous situations that I was in.  

My mental health isn’t perfect, and I am still on medication and seeing a therapist regularly. My last self-harm was 3 months ago, and while I’m doing well now, I know that mental health is an uphill battle. I am now married to an incredible partner, have an excellent job, and loving pets. At age 27, I can honestly say that I didn’t expect to live this long. I never expected to see life beyond 21, and all that it entails. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Therapy sessions regularly. Finding medications that work for me. 

 
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? 

Create a culture of openness and acceptance in your home. Acknowledge neurodivergencies and offer aid. 

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

It is so much more common than you think. 

Tayler McCarty

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

I was introduced to the word suicide at age 13. A good friend of mine came to me about a “suicide pact.” Being so young, still so naïve to what the world had in store for my life, I agreed. Talking about how sad we were and making these plans it almost felt like planning a play date, not our final moments. The day we had chosen was set for two days before our very first day of high school. I had then changed my mind, still treating this plan so lightly and not seriously, I asked her over and over on social media for her to let us at least go to one day of school, but her mind was set. I don’t think at age 13 I knew the severity of “death.” Final was something I don’t think I could nor can I still wrap my brain around. That crisp September morning, I woke up to a phone call. She was gone. She left without me. To this day I carry around the guilt of not telling anyone. If only I would have done something. I felt like such a coward for staying. She left this world alone, and I will live with that forever.

Losing her changed my life in so many ways. After that my mental health spiraled downward. I was put on anti-depressants and played roulette with psych meds, trying to find something that worked. I have attempted suicide three times.

At age 22, I got pregnant with my son and lost him at 23 weeks pregnant. I delivered him unexpectedly alone, at home. After two blood transfusions and two surgeries, I developed a highly addictive relationship with narcotics, which lead me into the next six years living life in addiction. During one detox off of opiates I got desperate and graduated to methamphetamine. At this point I had developed schizophrenia on top of my already diagnosed anxiety, manic depression (with suicidal ideations and tendencies), ADHD, dissociative disorder, and an eating disorder (body dysmorphia).

I have had three substance abuse treatment stays. For the last one, I was away from home and my two daughters for 4 months. I will celebrate 3 years clean and sober on January 2, 2022.

I still battle my mental health struggles daily. However, every day I am dedicated to taking care of myself and my mental health as well as helping others. Three months ago, I achieved a goal I have had since I was a junior in high school—I finally got myself into a spot mentally and physically where I applied to become a crisis counselor for the crisis text line. After a long submission and them contacting references, I was accepted! It has been an amazing feeling to give back to the same places that helped me pull through some of my darkest days. I want people to know it’s okay to not be okay, and there is hope and help out there. You matter. Your story matters. SO STAY.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

The support and family I have built around me. My resilience and strength to keep pushing on. Podcasts and Ted talks. A couple mental health mentors along the way.

 

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?

Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. Bottom line, we need to be making places more “talk” or “open door” friendly. There needs to be more educational tools given to certain work fields. We need to be teaching our children about healthy coping skills, rather than pretending it won’t happen or thinking if we bring hard subjects up to our kids that maybe it’s planting a seed in their heads to do those things. Stopping the stigma that kids should be seen and not heard. We need support groups for all ages in grief, dual diagnosis, etc.

 

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

This too shall pass. Do not make a permanent decision for a temporary problem. What you feel now is not a forever feeling. And there’s hope and help out there. Everyone’s story matters, and tomorrow wouldn’t be the same without you in it.

Liz Moeller

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

Goodness. What story do you want? I am 36 years old and I was just diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I know how a lot of people picture ADHD—a hyperactive young boy who can’t sit still and focus in school, right? Wrong. It is so much more than that. I am a mental health therapist, and even I didn’t realize the extent of how debilitating the disorder can be.  

I first started questioning if I had ADHD when my husband pointed out that I was never able to clean one area at once. I would bounce from room to room getting distracted by something else that needed to get done. That’s how I’ve always been. I never thought anything of it. But then I started paying attention at work. I did the same thing there. I started researching symptoms of ADHD in women. One of the first things I read was how ADHD can be frequently missed or misdiagnosed in women, with many “slipping through the cracks.” Interesting. Then I looked at the symptoms: inability to shut out sounds and distractions, overwhelmed in stores or crowded places, forgetfulness, mood lability, impulsiveness (including impulsive shopping), forgetting names and dates, easily distracted and disorganized, low tolerance for frustration (explains my road rage), excessive activity or restlessness, just to name a few. I met them all.  

All of a sudden it felt like my adult life was making sense. I don’t know how many times I told someone, usually my husband, “I forgot.” It felt like a bad excuse, but it was true. Loud noises have always overwhelmed me. In a room with a lot of stimulation it was like I could hear it all at once but never make sense of any of it. I would find myself snapping if something was said or done that I didn’t like. I felt like I could never control that emotion and often felt terrible for getting mad at my kids or my husband while also never quite knowing where the reaction came from. I was overwhelmed constantly. I could take one look at the list of things I had to do and instead of jumping in, I would just shut down. My procrastination has always been a joke to me, but now I know it’s actually a symptom. Being on time is an accomplishment for me. I thought I inherited that from my parents—turns out that is also a symptom.  

Finally being able to put a name to all of the things that I thought were just “wrong” with me has been relieving. I now know what the source of the symptoms are, and I know there are all caused by one thing. My executive functioning doesn’t work like other peoples’. It makes things harder for me, but now I know that. Far too long I felt as though I was failing as a wife, mother, and as a person. But now I know that’s not true. I feel it has made me a better therapist as well. I have been able to recognize other people in the same situation. For years I thought it was my anxiety, but I know it is so much more than that. The name ADHD is very deceiving—it’s not just an inability to focus. It’s an executive functioning disorder that impacts your entire life. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

I first went to see a psychologist for testing. I wanted to make sure that I got a formal diagnosis and didn’t just try medication to see if it helped or not. After that I saw a mental health nurse practitioner who prescribed me a long-acting ADHD medication. Before I was diagnosed, I had naturally started adapting to difficulties in my life such as placing things where I can see them so I don’t forget and making lists to keep things organized. I continue to do that now. I have also started reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching Tik Toks (yep) to get more information on ADHD. Some of the information is researched based, while other information is coming directly from other women sharing their experiences. It has been so helpful. Every day I’m learning new information about myself. 

 

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? 

Communicate and educate. We spend a lot of time passing judgment. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if instead of judging, we communicated with each other? Communicate our wants, our NEEDS, how we can be of help, and communicate our stories. I feel that resilience starts when we can look within and identify what we need for ourselves to thrive. Once we can get ourselves in a good place, then we are able to look forward and help/support others. 

 

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

Mental health affects everyone. Remember, there is help, and there is hope. 

Melissa Dittberner

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

Fourteen years ago (this month), I was a full-time welder and single mother without a high school education. I was working 50-60 hours a week at a job that made me miserable but paid the bills. After a long, hard-headed struggle with management that did not love a woman working in a man’s world, I was fired. I cleaned my locker and skipped out of that place singing with joy, literally (they were not happy about that either). I was too stubborn to quit even though I knew it was best to get out of that toxic situation.  

Being fired was an absolute blessing in hindsight. I was immediately happy that I would be able to see my kids more, to be the mom I wanted to be again. But I was also pretty fearful about what life had in store for me next. Having two young children with no financial support was terrifying to say the least. After a week of enjoying my kids and my free time I started working on my general education degree (GED) classes. I achieved my GED in about a month and applied to a university. 

I had learned grit in my past —like becoming a welder so that I could leave my abusive ex, and staying sober after struggling with drug misuse and taking the uphill path at every turn. I knew I had to dig deep, and those hard grit lessons really came into play again. I am a first-generation college student with little outside support. I felt as if I was on a raft with my two children, floating alone in the ocean.  

But I was able to jump through all the fiery hoops that higher education threw at me. Not knowing any better, I took out enough loans to buy a large company, and I studied endlessly. I received my bachelor’s degree in health sciences and I was inducted into an honors society, I achieved a master’s degree in addiction studies and did not stop there. I was accepted into a PhD program, wrote a dissertation and became a doctor. I received a doctorate degree in counseling and psychology in education. I am a ninth-grade high school dropout and people call me DOCTOR! #GEDtoPhD  

I had no idea getting fired would take me to right where I am today, but I am so grateful it did. I am a lecturer at a university. I have dedicated my life to teaching others about stigma, compassion, grit, dedication, addiction, trauma, how to help others and how to be the best version of themselves. My mission is to help people learn to help themselves and others. Cheers to change. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

My community! 

 

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? 

We have to have support for people who are struggling. No one needs to feel as if they are floating alone in the ocean. We need to have wrap-around services for people in need. We need to strengthen our communities and families by coming together to work for a greater good. We need to find our motivations and follow them. 

 

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

I wish people realized the power that is inside them. Passion and grit will take you a long way. 

Lynne Jones

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

For most of my life, I never felt good enough. That feeling wasn’t caused by anything or anyone in particular. It just was always there. And the older I got, the worse it became.

When I was 27, I got married. Looking back on it now, one of the reasons I got married was a fear of NEVER getting married because I was already so old. By year 7, I was very unhappy, but figured it was my fault. If I were a better wife, better working mother, better cook … better everything, I would be happy. But I soon began picking up extra jobs, working more hours, because “we needed the money,” but in reality, it was an escape from having to be at home— where I always felt like a failure and where I was miserable. No one ever knew how I felt, though. I never said a word about it, not even to my husband or my family. I always had a smile on my face. Everything was always great. I couldn’t admit I felt like a failure in my own life.

But the stress of trying to keep it all together began to take its toll, and I stopped eating and began cutting. I could pass the weight loss off as a high metabolism and being busy. And I wore long sleeves. I got down to a dangerously low weight, I was having trouble breathing and my heartbeat became erratic. I finally went to the doctor, who wanted to schedule me for a pysch eval. I promised I would eat (which I did) and promised I would keep the appointment (which I didn’t).  

During this time, I slowly began to build a small network of people from my church I could trust. I didn’t share much, but I began to give them glimpses of how I felt. And they began to tell me that I was enough. That I was strong and beautiful and worthy exactly the way I was. I didn’t have to pretend to be something or someone I was not. And they were there for me at my lowest moments; when I finally had had enough and almost drove my car into a bridge abutment, one of them answered my call. And a few years ago, when I finally had had enough and abruptly ended my 23-year marriage and started over with no money and no place to live, one of them answered my call. And because of them, I’m still here. I don’t need a lot of friends in this world. I just need the few that will be there through it all. But in order to find them, I had to let them in. And that was really hard. Being authentic and vulnerable is so scary. But for me, that’s when healing truly began. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

For me, it was just my small circle of friends. But I fully support using the mental health community as resources. Therapy and medication are important tools in helping people work through challenging times. 

 

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? 

I think the more people share their stories, the more it helps others who might be suffering silently like I was. We live in a world that emphasizes and rewards the perfect lives we see on social media. And that is so harmful. We hide behind filters and work to stage the perfect life. Authenticity and honesty lead to understanding and acceptance. Acceptance helps build resilience and community, and that can change the world. 

  

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

People who say they are fine, often are not. And they likely won’t reach out when they are struggling. If you sense that something is off, rather than saying, “let me know if you need anything” (because they won’t), try a simple “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want you to know that you matter to me. And if you want someone to talk to, take a walk with, or just sit with you in silence. I’m here.” It could make all the difference. 

Bridget Swier

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

The moonlight reflected off the still water, and all I could think as I sat alone on the beach in the dark with a giant bottle of whiskey was, “I want to feel the kind of stillness and peace the moon and the water have. Maybe if I walk out into the water, let it consume me and not fight it, this unbearable pain in my chest and heart will be gone.” I was exhausted from carrying a heaviness in my chest, heart, and soul for most of my life.  

 Looking back, I can see this as a warning sign of the danger I would soon be in because a few short months after that night, I would try to end my life.  

The pain I had been carrying from a lifetime of unresolved trauma was taking complete control over my life. I had tried everything to escape facing the excruciating feelings of worthlessness, abandonment, rejection, and agony associated with surviving every form of abuse possible over my 35 years of life. Nothing I tried was healthy or worked long-term, and many of the unhealthy coping skills led to more trauma created by my own choices. I used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. I felt so unlovable I searched for validation in risky sexual behavior outside of my marriage. I overate, over-exercised, overworked, furthered my education, and tried to put on the mask of a perfect wife and mother. It was only a matter of time before all those vices stopped serving their numbing and escaping purpose and presented a whole other set of problems for me to face. The consequences of my poor coping skills became so great I only caused myself more pain and shame.  

I was so good at hiding my suffering from almost everyone around me. Those who knew me from the outside didn’t see all the ugly I felt inside. Many people referred to me as a “success” given all the trauma I experienced. My perspective was the polar opposite. I knew I had always been a fighter, resourceful, and did what I needed to do to survive, but I was tired of just surviving life. I didn’t want to continue to feel that life was only about surviving; I wanted to feel internal peace, happiness, and joy, which had always eluded me. I didn’t have the energy to keep fighting to find it anymore. The force of the knockout punch from life was just around the corner and would be the lowest point in my life.   

After chasing another hollow relationship with a man filled with false promises and no foundation, I had filed for divorce. The relationship would be my next quick fix to find the happiness I longed for, but I felt conflicted about walking away from a marriage with so much time invested in it. My soon-to-be ex-husband of 17 years saw me spiraling out of control. 

On the night of my suicide attempt, I drank heavily and came home after the bars closed. I imagine in his frustration; my husband threatened to take full custody of the children. The thought of this was more than I could bear. In my eyes, they were the lifeline I had clung to for so long, and he just threatened to rip them away from me. Mid-fight, I walked into our bedroom and tried to end my life. He came back to our room, saw what I was doing, moved to stop me, and immediately called 911. 

I don’t remember much after he called 911. But I do recall my four children standing in the doorway of their rooms, crying as they watched their mom roll down the hallway on a stretcher to the ambulance. Days later, when I woke up, I remember their father sitting beside my hospital bed clutching photos of our children and with tears streaming down his face begging me to live for them. The guilt and shame I carried from that night and what my ex-husband and children witnessed would haunt me for several years. 

I had mixed feelings immediately following my suicide attempt. I was angry and embarrassed because I had failed to end my pain. I was worried about what people would think of me when they found out. I was in so much pain before, and it felt so much worse after I woke up. Surviving confirmed all the worst beliefs I had about myself. I couldn’t even get dying right. Yet, I didn’t necessarily want to die, but I desperately wanted the anguish to die. How was I going to pick myself up this time? Where do I go for help if I don’t want to die? My life felt so out of control with no idea how to gain some sense of composure, find a will to live and keep fighting.  

It was a slow and tedious process to find the path of recovery that worked and fit for me. It was painful as hell to face all I had been trying to escape for so long, but it was the only way I wouldn’t find myself right back fighting myself for my life. I realized I needed to put as much, if not more effort, into healing from the inside out as I had in finding ways to avoid the pain.  

Complex trauma meant complex treatment combinations. I needed medication to help stabilize my mood and emotions. I couldn’t deal with my PTSD and severe depression without helping my brain manage it with medication. I found a personal counselor who was well trained in complex trauma and met weekly for two years. Over time, my therapy planted the seed of hope that it might be possible to find my way out of the darkness and into the light. I started to dig deep to find out who I was, not who I told myself I was because of the violation’s others had committed against me. I had to learn to combat the negative self-talk that crept into my mind. Slowly, I gained strength, and my courage to keep facing the heartache increased. 

Five years after my attempt, I felt strong enough to use my story to help others, and I began a career in suicide prevention and working with families who have lost a loved one to suicide. Never in a million years did I think everything I went through would serve a greater mission, and my story would be the driving force for a passion in letting others know they are not alone.  

It has been eight years since I tried to take my life, and I still am mindful of my mental health. I still take medications, have weekly counseling sessions, learn about self-care, and enriching healthy relationships. I continue to learn about shame, release it, and discover who I am again as an empty nester and a loving wife. Life’s hardships can still be overwhelming to balance, but today I feel far more equipped to manage them in a healthy, productive way. There are still times where the residual effects of trauma rear their ugly head. I now know I am strong enough to thrive through those moments and am reassured, knowing they are just for a moment.  

   

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

At the time of my attempt, I did not feel like there were many resources aside from psychiatry, counseling, and close trusted friends. I utilized advice from my psychiatrist for medication recommendations to find the right combination of medicine that would make my PTSD and depression more manageable. I utilized a counselor who was very knowledgeable in trauma, leaned on my trusted friends, and explored my faith beliefs to find a church who offered other kinds of support groups. When I attempted there were no suicide attempt support groups to attend.  

  

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? 

Yes, mental wellness is an individual’s responsibility, but it is not something to be done alone. As a community, we need to gather around and embrace those struggling and reinforce the reassurance no one has to go through hardships alone. Judgment serves only the purpose of shaming and guilt; it serves no positive purpose and causes additional harm. One may not understand the suffering an individual is going through, but a conversation built on the foundation of understanding, compassion, and empathy can make an enormous difference. It is everyone’s responsibility to be educated about suicide and offer support. It is dangerous to think, “this doesn’t or won’t affect me, so why get involved until it impacts my life?” Sadly, it can be too late by then. Take advantage of classes and workshops offered on how to hold the hard conversation about suicide. You could save a life by knowing how to address it properly and where to get someone, or yourself, help.  

  

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

Anyone can be affected by mental health challenges and suicide. Suicide does not care about social status, employment, income, education, race, gender, age, or religion.    

Sydney Bartunek Bender

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

At times growing up I’ve needed to take a breath.  

I had many adverse childhood experiences: Divorce, relatives struggling with alcoholism and drug use, relatives dying by suicide, violence in the home, becoming a primary caregiver for my dad at 17 years old, and experiencing his death 10 years later. 

I’ve endured trauma, pain, and panic attacks, and I know I am not alone. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

It’s often through our own experiences that we find ways to serve others. I grew up dancing and was able to use movement to help me process those times that I felt completely numb—then when things felt unbearable in college is when I found mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.  

These are the techniques I wanted to share through Move To Heal South Dakota, a 501c3 nonprofit organization I founded in December 2019. 

  

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? 

My experience is based in using movement and mindfulness to overcome adversity and build resilience.  

At Move To Heal SD, our goal is to help children live to their full potential, and we’ve found the best way to do that is by providing access to professional development opportunities and education to those teachers, coaches, counselors, and afterschool providers who are most connected to the children we want to reach.  

 We also bring movement and mindfulness opportunities directly to underserved populations at afterschool programs such as Sioux Falls Thrive’s Kidlink Riverside Program.  

 In addition, we train and certify teachers, coaches, counselors and afterschool providers at partnering organizations, so they can become equipped to confidently share mind-body practices within their networks.   

  

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

You’re not alone. There is hope.  

Zach Koterwski-Tate

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

I’ve learned resiliency in my mental health journey by treating my depression and anxiety like I would any other illness. Destigmatization was half of the battle for me. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Medication, creative outlets, community support, therapy 

 

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? 

We have to communicate openly and honestly about what we’re feeling in order to diagnose the root causes of our mental health struggles. 

 

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

There is never any shame in asking for help. 

Kayla Koterwski-Tate 

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

I have severe obsessive compulsive disorder in several forms, as well as clinical anxiety — for me experiences with suicidal ideation and the most difficult moments of my mental health journey all revolved around wanting pain to end, and to not feel so broken and alone. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

Medication, therapy, journaling, spirituality. 

 

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? 

When I realized that my experience with mental illness does not define my worth, and that I’m certainly not alone in those experiences, I felt more able to ask for help and support. 

 

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

Most people contemplating suicide, or finding themselves withdrawn in response to their mental illness, are often just actually trying our best to survive. Grace and understanding in the face of that is everything. 

 

 

Alison Rollag

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

My freshman year of high school was difficult. I had extremely low self-esteem and felt like an outsider, struggling to find a place where I fit. I felt isolated and alone. My depression grew, and my hope of finding friends and a place where I belonged diminished. My mind raced, and I became very negative and thought, “Maybe I’m not made for this life.” My vision was clouded. The mental filter I was seeing through blocked out all the good I had in my life and turned me in to a miserable cynic.  

All of my struggles came to a head when my mom attempted suicide, and my brother and I got in to an intense argument that led to a panic attack. I remember feeling so alone and heartbroken. I moved between a couple households in an attempt to escape my situation and the resentment I felt toward my mother and brother. Suicide crossed my mind at various points. It wasn’t until an argument with the family I was staying with and high emotional intensity that I decided I wanted to be done and give up fully.  

Thankfully, I was able to get the help and support I needed to see that life is worth living. I began to attend counseling sessions and take medication, and my world opened up. It was as if the heavy, black cloud lifted, and I was seeing in vivid colors again.  

In working with patients in crisis, I am familiar with the fluid nature of suicidal thoughts. I acknowledge the reality that they may continue to come and go even after crisis subsides. It’s important not to give extra power to these thoughts and to challenge them as needed. Remember, you are not defined by your thoughts!  

It has not been an easy road, but I can proudly say that I have a successful career in mental health, rewarding relationships, and an optimistic outlook. I use affirmations and other coping skills to remember my life matters and life is beautiful. My family, friends, faith, nature, and the patients I serve are all reasons for living. I am grateful I continued living and feel equipped to meet the stressors of life, being confident in myself and those that support me. Life is worth living—you just have to give yourself the opportunity and time to see why. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

I am blessed to have a wonderful family that supports me and friends that are genuine, thoughtful, and encouraging. Most people don’t realize how many people care about them. It’s important to reach out and know that there’s always someone available to talk whether it be loved ones or the 24/7 national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

  

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 starts with communication. This could be with others or yourself. Positive self-talk and affirmations have been transformative in my life. You are the only one who truly knows what you need to hear. Seeking outward approval or validation often leads to disappointment. Know that you are worthy! I believe that happiness and peace come from within. I teach and utilize concepts such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). I use CBT to overcome negative and/or distorted thoughts. I use DBT to accept reality for what it is, mindfulness to be present, and journaling to express thoughts and feelings. You are not defined by thoughts and emotions; however, our actions do matter. These skills combined with yoga, singing, and creativity have helped me to lead a more peaceful life. I encourage everyone to be open to finding what outlets work best for them. Above all, remember that building a life worth living takes time and practice. The outcome will be worth the journey. 

 

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

My favorite quote is “Comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt. This life is your own, and therefore, comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful. Instead, lean toward compassion, knowing we are all doing the best that we can.  

Stephanie Fischer

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

Since being diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at the age of 17, I have struggled loving myself and treating myself kindly, both mentally and physically. Starting in college, moments of panic and anxiety led to self-harm in various forms. Heavy drinking in college led to an endless loop of hangover anxiety and depression that often lasted days, only for the cycle to start over. This continued at least two years into my professional career. At the age of 28, I’m finally learning to appreciate and love myself as the only human or thing I should love more than anything and truly take care of my mental health. 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

The safe and lovely community at The Yoga Studio in Rapid City has truly saved me. The teachers encourage self-love and appreciation of our bodies and our breath as sources of life. Having struggled with my relationship with myself, being reminded in every class that I have one body that serves me in every unique way has been a saving grace. 

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? 

Modeling self-love and self-care is so important in building a resilient community. That starts with safe, judgement-free spaces. I hope my loved ones know that they are not a burden to me, and if time to rest their bodies and minds replaces our plans, I am just as happy. 

 

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

I wish people understood that we are human beings, not human doings. It’s so important to listen to our minds and our bodies. If you need to rest, then rest. Cancel those plans, take that sick day, do something that makes you happy because at the end of the day, the relationship you have with yourself should be the most important. 

 

Erik Muckey

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

After completing my undergraduate studies at the University of South Dakota (USD) in May 2014, I experienced a significant depressive episode and experienced almost daily suicide ideation until I received professional support in late summer 2014. Had I not received this support, it’s quite likely I would not be here writing this story.  

As a student at USD, I wouldn’t be someone you would expect to experience depression so severely. I came to USD on a nearly full-ride academic scholarship, became highly involved in some of the most visible professional and student organizations, served as student body president, and co-founded a mental health student organization that would go on to become my full-time employer (Lost&Found). I had wonderful friends, a supportive family, lots of connections in the community, and was well-liked by those who knew me. It was difficult, if not impossible, to see my ongoing battle with burnout and social anxiety throughout my college years.  

I would come home from breaks completely exhausted, not adapting from a rural community where you could quite literally do everything, and having little to no understanding of mental health other than stories of family and community members who experienced alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. Or worse, had died by suicide. Mental health and suicide weren’t discussed regularly, and until I saw it firsthand, I couldn’t empathize with the experience. It simply wasn’t real to me. I trivialized my own mental health, at my own expense. I also didn’t give myself enough room to breathe or grieve several losses of close family and friends in the four years at USD, especially friends who had died by suicide.  

By the time I reached my senior year, the act of trivializing my mental health came to a head. After loading overwhelming amounts of student organization responsibility on my shoulders, as well as trying to complete an honors thesis, regular coursework, and serve as student body president, I began to fall into depression. I walked across the stage at USD with no job lined up, some of my closest friends spreading across the country, and my identity as a community leader in question. Things kept getting lower, it seemed, and I couldn’t imagine living anymore with that kind of pain.  

I didn’t create a plan or attempt suicide, but I did journal about how I was feeling. When I actually read what I was writing, something snapped in me for a moment. After spending the past four years as part of Lost&Found’s early team and supporting families who had lost loved ones to suicide, I realized how far down I was and knew immediately I needed to get help. For one lucid moment, I couldn’t imagine the pain I would have caused my family and friends had I not gotten the help I needed.  

That summer, I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety and began a long-term journey of receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that has been an absolute godsend. Over the past seven years, I’ve been able to dig into behaviors that kept me from living a resilient life and begin to shift my own perceptions of mental health and suicide in the process.  

That same summer, our team at Lost&Found also experienced significant transitions, as our fellow founder, president, and visionary DJ Smith stepped down from the board. While I didn’t know what the future of our suicide prevention organization would be, my experiences with suicide ideation and starting treatment led me to commit to serving as the new, permanent president of Lost&Found.  

Seven years later, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Suicide prevention wasn’t a field I ever thought I’d be in, but if it weren’t for my experiences with depression and suicide ideation, I wouldn’t be as empathetic and committed to serving others through Lost&Found. Though I’ve had my dark days since, I know that I’m equipped and capable of getting the help I need. It’s possible to learn resilience. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

The support of my immediate family, close friends, and professional mentors made it easier for me to both seek professional support and navigate the journey of improving my mental health. Weekly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helped me gradually find hope after experiencing suicide ideation, and I’ve continued CBT on a regular basis over the past seven years to navigate later episodes with depression and anxiety. 

 

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? 

No matter how lost you feel now or how much hope you’ve found, we will all face struggles in our lives, big and small. What is important to remember is that we can all learn how to navigate life’s struggles by building up our own resilience and finding ways to help others do the same. We can make life better for others and for our communities in so many ways, but ultimately, it comes back to us. Self-awareness is key to understanding what mental health and resilience look like for you, and as they say, “if you’re pouring from an empty cup,” it’s going to be difficult to contribute to a resilient community. Look inward at your own resilience and seek what you need to grow. Then, look outward at how you can be of service to others. 

 

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

Mental health conditions are one of the biggest risk factors to suicide, but we often forget that life circumstances (e.g., economic distress, relationship challenges, etc.) also create risk for suicide. Do not discount the challenges you and others may be experiencing, because they may become a burden that is too hard to carry. Suicide can impact anyone, and it’s absolutely essential to be mindful of suicide risk for ourselves and for each other. 

Wendy Mamer

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

My dad died by suicide in Brookings, S.D., in 2017.  

Following my dad’s death, I really struggled for the first few months. I tried counseling, but it didn’t go well. I didn’t have any rapport with the therapist I had met with (and I also didn’t see a way that there could ever be), and it gave me a bad impression of what therapy was. I bought a house, and the basement flooded, so we had to buy all new carpet. I had gotten engaged four days prior to my dad’s death and was trying to plan a wedding. I had an ovarian cyst rupture, and I had to have emergency surgery, which left me out of work for nearly four weeks, some unpaid, which was terrifying because Kyle, my husband, had just recently started his doctorate in nurse anesthesia program where he wasn’t earning an income. Not only was I struggling with my own grief from my dad’s death, but I was also facing major financial and medical hurdles that make it stressful for anyone enduring those situations. I remember lying in bed, sobbing uncontrollably, thinking, “How the hell is this my life right now?”  

I called a friend, and she just listened. It was then that I decided I needed to do something to get help, and I reached out for counseling for the second time. I was able to get connected with a counselor from Family Services, here in Sioux Falls, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I still see that same counselor, and not only has she helped me with my grief, but she has also helped me professionally and personally, too. Counseling is such a self-reflective experience that I’ve learned SO much about myself and others. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

I have found counseling to be incredibly helpful, as well as finding ways to use my voice to create awareness surrounding suicide prevention and mental health education. It is important to me to find a way to use my painful experience to help others feel less alone.  

 

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? 

I think increasing education at a young age is critical. We talk about our physical health, in health class, growing up. We know that we shouldn’t eat bad foods. Some of us even “jump rope for heart” to raise awareness for heart disease. But we don’t talk about the other aspect of our health that all of us have, and that’s our mental health.  

There’s this idea that we have to grow and be “strong” through adversity. Sometimes strength looks like tears. Sometimes strength looks like therapy. Sometimes strength is reaching out for help. But it starts with knowing and understanding that we need to pay attention to and understand our mental health. 

  

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

 The happiest people hurt, too.  

 

You can hear more from Wendy in her conversation on the Sept. 14 episode of the Great Minds with Lost&Found podcast.

Megan Shama

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

I have definitely had a challenging life. My parents had a terrible marriage that was abusive and nasty, which led to a terrible and nasty divorce. Later, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, my step-dad was also diagnosed with cancer, and after that, my dad developed lung cancer, which eventually took his life. Losing a parent is something that is supposed to happen to everyone—just not usually when you are in your early twenties planning your wedding. I thought that the most significant grief I could ever feel was those moments when I felt lost and alone without my dad or when I felt the grief of the shattered dreams of having a perfect family. Then I experienced losing both of my children. 

The first time my husband, Jake, and I became pregnant, it happened right away without any issues. I dealt with the usual morning sickness, backaches, and food aversions. Until one morning, I woke up and there was blood. Lots of blood. I was 21 weeks pregnant and was going into labor. This led to the worst day of my life. We rushed to the ER where my water broke on the exam table, and I was rushed to labor and delivery. My beautiful daughter, Summer Aileen, died inside of me. This was the worst pain I have ever felt. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I suffered from grief and still do. Her loss not only rocked me to my core that day but continues to rock me when I see friends who were pregnant at the same time as me now holding beautiful healthy children, and when other families post birthday pictures of babies smashing cakes, I sit alone with a broken heart. The light in my world went out, and I clawed desperately around to get it back. 

With the support of friends and family checking in, making us meals, cleaning our house, encouraging date nights and dog cuddles, the ebb and flow of grief slowly relaxed. A year later, we decided to try again, this time with a plan. I have cervical insufficiency, which means my cervix opens too early and is shorter and weaker than it should be. At 12 weeks pregnant with our second child, I had surgery to fix this issue. However, at 17 weeks, tragedy struck again when blood appeared just as it did with Summer. Once again, praying, screaming, hoping against all hope that it wouldn’t happen again, we rushed to a different ER where my son, Gabriel Jakob, also died inside of me. The weight of this second loss was once again soul crushing. 

What do you do for someone who has experienced the same tragedy twice? My friends and family came around again, but this time everything seemed muted. Students at my school wrote me cards and letters yet it felt like a recurring nightmare. I’ve already done this before. I’ve already read those words. On top of our sadness, the world around us was stuck inside during the pandemic. We suffered in silence some days and screamed, cried and howled with rage during others. 

Finally, slowly, we started to feel like ourselves again. I was in grad school and began writing to pass the time—and, to be honest, to avoid work and feelings. I have always used writing as an outlet but never realized how therapeutic it is for me. That form of therapy is usually the last one my brain picks for soothing, but my heart knows once my hands begin moving across the keys or page, the feelings flow out through them. I wrote social media posts discussing how pregnancy loss has affected woman after woman and the daddies, too, who are rarely mentioned. Those little miracles that are snatched away from us never leave our minds and are part of us until the day we die.  

Other women would message me or come up to me to share their own stories of loss. “I was only 8 weeks but I loved my baby…” “My baby was born sleeping…” “My baby was the same age as Summer when I lost them…” These stories mattered. I knew I wasn’t alone even though my grief continued to tell me I was. 

At the same time I was writing, I also began running. A group of friends from my online grad program decided it would be a great time to run a marathon because we were all locked in our houses during the pandemic. On those long runs when I trained alone, I sorted out my feelings. I grew up in a Christian home, attended Augustana University where my faith grew in new and challenging ways, and now as an adult, faith is still a focal point in my daily life. On those runs when it was just me and God, I let Him have it. I yelled at Him for taking my babies. I yelled at Him for providing the wrong doctors, for not stopping the trauma and post-traumatic stress reactions that occurred when I smelled hand sanitizer that was the same from the hospital when the entire world was obsessed with using it clearly out of spite for my situation. I yelled at Him for all the people who said, “God needed your babies more,” or “It’s all in God’s plan.” I cried so many tears alone on the trail that I bet I ran more miles with a wet face than without. 

Eventually, the runs became longer and my pain became less. I looked forward to the harsh winds that pushed against me as a way to connect with my son Gabriel. I paid attention to yellow flowers and butterflies from my daughter, Summer. Together, the three of us pushed on and ran a marathon while once again I cried thinking of everything I had been through and so glad I had two beautiful angels by my side. 

Resilience is a bitch. I kept moving on because I had to. Some days all I was able to do was to cross off that day on the calendar, but it was one more day that I was surviving in agony than the day before. Slowly, loudly, painstakingly, I grew and came out on the other side. I still have plenty of hard days, but now grief is more like an old friend than an enemy. The pain and anguish are really hidden feelings of love and longing. Those feelings are valid, and through this experience, I became a lover of running and writing, and a fierce advocate for women who may not believe their stories or their babies’ stories were worth telling. I am here to tell you to go run, to write a sentence, and to always tell me your baby’s name because all of those things are valid, and I’d love to hear about them.  

If you would like to read any of my social media posts, check out the hashtags #summeraileen #gabrieljakob or my instagram @meganshama  

 

What resources have helped you address this challenge? 

Without the support of my friends and family, I would be a mess. In addition to them, I began following other social media accounts of women who have experienced loss like @still_a_mama, @icmamaarmy, @stilllovedbabies 

I also was lucky to attend Refuel Midwest, which is a retreat for women who have experienced child or pregnancy loss. I had an emotional day in a beautiful cottage with other women who “get it,” which gave me a sense of self and once again, solidified that I am not alone and that my feelings were real and valid. 

 

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? 

Be open. We all will experience grief. Before, mental health and negative thoughts were incredibly taboo and we never shared our feelings. Now, I don’t mean that every time you are with your tribe you tell how depressed you feel. However, have that one person, maybe your counselor or therapist, that you feel comfortable and open with to discuss it. Find people who “get you” and respect you. I have a friend who always texts me before she posts anything about her pregnancy so I can prepare myself. My other friends also know if they become pregnant or have an announcement to do with babies to tell me before and separately so I can prepare for my reaction in front of other people. Advocate for yourself and figure out your triggers—then defend your mental health and wellbeing like you defend your friends. Use phrases like, “I am not in a good place to discuss this” or “Thank you for sharing, but I need to take a break for a bit.” With social media, everything is sunshine and rainbows. The average person has to search for that sunshine and that’s okay. Normalize bad days and saying, “I’m struggling today.” Then, feel what you are feeling but also let it go. Cry if you need to cry then dry your tears and find that small sliver of light to keep pushing because honestly, it might not get better, but we are amazing creatures that can adapt to the pain we experience. 

 

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

I mention this again and again above, but you are not alone. Grief and depression are vicious beasts that want to isolate you to make you feel like no one understands or has ever felt like you feel that you aren’t good enough or don’t deserve to do anything. It is equally an empty and crushing feeling, but grief is wrong. Depression is wrong. You are good enough. Find that small light every day, even if it is barely enough to light your feet in front of you. Maybe it was seeing a dandelion push through the crack on the sidewalk or stopping the microwave right before it beeps. Whatever brings you a small amount of joy on those heavy days, which will happen and are valid because feelings are meant to be felt, hold on to that feeling. Even a small piece of gratitude and happiness can carry you. That is why my children have their names: Summer Aileen – My warmth and light in the darkness and Gabriel Jakob – God is with thee and after my husband who understands me and my feelings. They all help me find the light in the dark.   

Nick Maddock

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

On November 30th, 2015, I got the worst call of my life. While I was 5,000 miles away from home in the Costa Rican jungle, my mom called to tell me that my dad had taken his life. The days and weeks that followed were as expected—confusion, dismay, and a lot of questions.  

But what came in the months to follow was actually rather surprising. It was a renewed sense of purpose and strengthened resilience. As weird as it is to say, from a perspective of growth, I look back at this time in my life as one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received. Today, still 5 years later, I am able to walk with the confidence that if I can overcome that experience, I can simple overcome anything that life throws at me. While my dad’s suicide shattered me in 100 ways, it grew me in 1,000. I became more empathetic, compassionate, and caring. I dig deep into learning about and combatting the factors that lead to suicide. I joined the board of directors of Lost&Found. And I began a lifelong journey to honor my dad’s legacy.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have the secret sauce to what led me from despair to resilience. But what I do know is that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my friends and family. They were the bridge over the rough waters.  

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

The greatest resource was my friends and family. I didn’t rely or seek any particular institutions or organizations.  

  

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? 

To me, it all comes down to having a network that will support you. This can stem from family, friends, acquaintances, or even folks you barely know on social media.  

  

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

That there is no single major “source” of suicide. It’s a multifaceted issue driven by millions of different factors. The best way to combat it is through a general approach of building resilience in ourselves and our communities.  

Kari Clark

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

We have a painful story of mental health conditions and suicide, yet we fight to find hope, and resilience in our journey. It is difficult to know where to even start . . . we have a history of mental health conditions in our family. For one of my children, his symptoms appeared at the young age of four. Due to his mental health disorders, he was hospitalized several times and eventually admitted to long-term care. It was years of advocating for what was best for him and years of trial and error on medication and therapy. Even though he continues to receive support for his mental health conditions, he is able to use his skills and gifts through working, volunteering, and spending time with others.  

My other son did not exhibit mental health conditions until his teens. Instead of properly medicating himself, he began using alcohol and drugs to ease the pain of the deep depression and anxiety that plagued his mind daily. As a result, this created acute mental health problems. He was hospitalized several times for suicide attempts and alcohol addiction, imprisoned for his actions, and lived on and off the streets. Despite his challenges, he was a beautiful and intelligent person who was given the gift of music, which he used to minister to the people on the streets, in jails, and in mental health hospitals. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see the gifts within himself and ended his life February 19, 2020, at the age of 26.  

It has been a difficult journey for our family and so many others struggling with mental health conditions. One thing I always told my boys is we must have HOPE on our journey! We want to help others feel that sense of hope too. We created a nonprofit called Journey of Hope. We openly talk about mental health disorders, addiction, and homelessness with the community and involve them in filling a drawstring backpack with basic needs, a new pair of socks, and resource materials to give to the homeless or individuals in social programs to give them hope on their journey. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has been an excellent resource in offering free educational classes as well as family and individual support groups.  

The HelpLine Center has been another beneficial resource with their Suicide Hotline as well as their ASIST training for individuals, teachers and groups. 

  

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? 

In my opinion, we must continue to educate ourselves, our loved ones, and our community about mental health conditions and suicide. We must involve the community in this process by gaining a greater understanding of one another and how we can help others on their journey.  

  

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

There is hope! 

Angela Drake

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

I lost my daughter Brittany to suicide in 2016 after a long battle with mental health. She was an all-American girl—she was at the top in sports and grades. She also had depression and anxiety. She was very focused on performance, which as a perfectionist hindered her mental health.  

She was very willing to get help. My family and I fought for her, and she was in and out of treatment for multiple years. Sadly, there weren’t enough resources and support at the time—not enough research to save her.  

Immediately after her suicide, I went into a deep form of grief and didn’t realize. It looked like caretaking in that moment and for a long time after. I didn’t take care of myself because I was focused on taking care of others, so they didn’t go through what I went through. Now I prioritize self-care. Grief changed me, because it’s complicated and doesn’t go away. Learning to take care of myself allowed me the perspective needed to take care of others. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Community, family, friends, our hockey family, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I now serve as the board chair for the South Dakota chapter. I have taken my tears and turned them into armor to help others find resources for mental health, support other loss survivors, support others with lived experience, and work with nonprofits locally and nationally to help fund research, education, advocacy, and loss support. 

  

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 not always something we can see in ourselves, especially when we need it the most.  Building it into our communities and support systems for others and finding the right support for one another when it’s needed is the bases of the best support for mental health. The sooner we can show children, teens, and young adults how to find resilience in their communities, the sooner they learn how to find it within themselves, too. 

  

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

Depression can look different for everyone. 

Mikaela Fischer

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

In 2005, my aunt (also my godmother) died by suicide less than a week after Thanksgiving and two weeks before my grandpa passed away from brain cancer. And in 2020 my great uncle died by suicide.

My family was not completely upfront with me about how both my great uncle and my aunt passed away. When I was younger, I learned from my friends on the playground that my aunt had died by suicide and it was not until after directly asking that I was told he had died by suicide. This shame and silence around both of these deaths shaped the way that I thought about death, loss, and suicide.

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

It has been a continuous process for me that has included lots of talking with friends and therapy. At the time my aunt passed, I was only 9 years old, so it was more difficult for me to process these emotions. Now that I am older, I have begun the process of understanding and allowing myself to feel sad. I studied psychology and graduate school and having this education and background has also allowed me to find the “facts” in suicidal ideations and events, something that was not addressed in my family. I have also gotten really involved in fundraising and advocating for suicide awareness. This has really helped me share parts of my story and find peace in knowing that it impacts so many. 

  

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? 

Building resilience is a process. It is not something that is done overnight, for both individuals and communities. Resilience takes practice and endless support from those you are surrounded with. I would say finding a network of people that you can talk to is huge. I think healing and resilience takes time. Talking to people and taking the time to process is a huge part of helping yourself comprehend the magnitude of what you have gone through as a survivor of loss. Conversations have helped me learn to think in new ways about my aunt and others who have died by suicide. These conversations need to happen not only on an individual level but also as a community. 

  

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

Mental health is not a weakness, and suicide should be talked about because it is something very real and not processing the emotions surrounding suicide and loss can be so hurtful to other relationships. 

Jack

Jack preferred not to give his last name.  

  

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

When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. Ever since I was a little guy, I remember obsessing over random things. My mom remembers that I used to have to get up 30 minutes earlier each day to make sure thinks were just right. For example, my socks had to feel perfect.  

Fast forward to middle school, and I became obsessed with germs around the time of H1N1. I struggled with that quietly until high school. I also became very school obsessed. I would do homework from the time I got home after school until I went to bed. I would even wake up at 3 a.m. to make sure details were just right. Everything had to be perfect. 

Again, I kept this quiet through 9th and 10th grade. I think my parents assumed I was studying extra hard. However, in 11th grade, things worsened. As graduation and college started to get closer, I started not being able to get out of bed. I stopped going to school. My parents were supportive, but I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone else.  

I had people from my high school—staff members—tell me I was lazy. People were making fun of me at school. It all felt like too much, and I attempted suicide around Christmas of my junior year. 

After my attempt, I told my parents what was going on. I remember listening to them talk about how their insurance would not pay for my treatment, but they decided to pay out of pocket to have me get care at Rogers Memorial Hospital. I was there for a month, and when I came back to school, there were so many rumors. Everything from juvenile detention to cancer. 

Eventually I finished high school online, and things have improved since. 

I never told anyone but my family and close friends. I was even hesitant to share this today, but if it helps anyone else going through something similar, then I accomplished my goal. 

Honestly, the only reason I am where I am today is because of my support system—my friends and family. I realized how much it helps to talk about how I feel—it doesn’t make me less of a person to talk about my mental health, and I am no longer ashamed of having bad days. Today, I am studying to get a master’s in public health. I want to make a difference. If I can help anyone the way I was helped, it would make my entire career worth it. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Friends and family.

  

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? 

I think it is important to value personal milestones. Personally, I look back at barely being able to go to high school to graduating with a pre-med degree. During these times, I remember little victories that led to the larger outcome. 

  

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

It’s OK to talk about your mental health and your bad days. 

Katrina Yde

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

My story is long, winding, painful, but hopeful. I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and anorexia for more than half of my life. Being forced to face life with these struggles and after the loss of several family members forced me to ask for help even when I didn’t want to keep living and felt I couldn’t be helped. 

When I was a freshman in high school, I had moved to a much bigger school and was struggling to make friends. I was always a very anxious adolescent with perfectionistic tendencies and was competitive in dance and figure skating. I remember someone pointing out calories on a box of candy and stating, “That’s a lot of calories,” and suddenly, I became really obsessive about different diets, calories, and exercise and began restricting my food intake. I was isolating and solely focused on what I ate and the numbers on the scale. I knew I was losing weight, but I didn’t understand how unhealthy I had become and how dangerously underweight I was. I was constantly having crying spells and anger outbursts at my family and knew something was wrong but didn’t want to admit to it. My dance instructor and girls in my class were commenting on how I looked “sick” and I also had some family members express their concern. I remember finally looking in a mirror one night and couldn’t recognize the girl looking back at me. I finally broke down one night and said I needed help and my parents took me to a doctor the next day and we were then referred to a therapist. I began going to therapy once a week and began a “refeeding” process to put weight back on. I was extremely resistant to all of it at first, but I knew I needed to face my fears if I wanted to live but honestly there were several times that I didn’t want to. I labeled myself as sick, weird, messed up, crazy, weak, etc. for having “problems.” 

Therapy not only saved my life but changed it for the better. I learned there were a lot of items I needed to address besides just my eating disorder, and as I began to get physically healthier, my mental health improved as well. I was considered “in recovery” a couple years later but continued to struggle with disordered eating, which also exacerbated the depression and anxiety. After taking psychology classes in high school, I decided that one day I would like to become a therapist or a social worker in order to help others. I realized that life is not meant to be lived alone, and you don’t always have the answers. Everyone needs a team behind them, and I wanted to be a part of a team as a positive influence. 

Several years went by, and I was feeling pretty good overall but still struggled from time to time. Before my senior year of college, in June of 2010, my younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia. He passed away in May of 2012. I ended up withdrawing from school in order to spend time with him and my family. After he passed, I was completely numb to life. I had never experienced grief before and was trying to navigate through it in healthy ways. Five months after my brother passed away, my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I spent several months isolating, crying, and angry at the world. Eventually, I reached out to my therapist and began seeing her regularly again. I went to therapy for over a year and still was struggling with severe symptoms of depression and anxiety and decided to add medication as part of my treatment. I wrestled with the concept of being on medication for a long time, but honestly it has helped me tremendously. Hopefully there will come a day where I can manage my symptoms without it, but until then I take medication and go to therapy. 

I gave myself some time in between undergrad and applying to graduate school because I knew that I wasn’t in a very good place emotionally to take on a master’s program. But in 2014 I knew I was ready to pursue my goal of becoming a therapist. In 2017 I graduated with a master’s in clinical Mental Health Counseling and was offered a position at an agency in Sioux Falls, S.D. It was here that I experienced a lot of growth personally and professionally. I was able to work with individuals, couples, families, and groups. With supervision and support from co-workers, friends, and family, I obtained my licenses in both mental health and addictions. I now have my own private practice where I work with adults with a variety of diagnoses and am honored that people share their stories of hardship and triumph with me. 

Remembering that there is always hope and living for the people who can’t has helped me live each day with greater purpose. Life truly is what you make of it. One of the bravest things I have ever done was to keep living. 

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Therapy. Education. Friends. 

  

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? 

Education and supportive conversations. Nature and nurture play a role in one’s ability “to roll with the punches.” With support, we can help those more vulnerable or struggling to adapt to adversity and learn healthy coping mechanisms. 

  

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

Individuals struggling with their mental health are hurting. They are not choosing to be sick. We are all people trying to get through life. We are no greater than or less than anyone standing beside us. The strongest people I know are the clients that I see for therapy. It is a privilege to be able to help others. 

Courtney Young

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

It hasn’t always been easy navigating life with such a big heart. It doesn’t seem like that big of issue; however, if you’re also an empath, a perfectionist, or are diagnosed with generalized anxiety, you probably understand.  

Growing up, in school, and even in my undergraduate studies, I didn’t realize why I cared so much about everything. It was so easy for me to feel sad, feel happy, and feel empathy all at once or within a few moments of each other.   

Learning that this is just part of my personality in addition to learning I have generalized anxiety and dysthymia (mild depression) has made things so much easier.  

I now realize I have a gift: having a big heart. Even though sometimes I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I also have a sense of others, a type of intuition, many people don’t.  

I am able to feel what others are feeling without much thought. I am able to care and make a difference in people’s lives because I can really understand and appreciate what they are going through.  

With that being said, I thought for most of my life that I was going to be a medical doctor. But I realized, based on my strengths and weaknesses, that my qualities may be put to better use in a different area of healthcare.  

When I started in my master’s of public health at South Dakota State University, I had no clue where I was going to end up. But being in suicide prevention work has really open a lot of doors to a lot of amazing people. These people and these opportunities have allowed me to build my confidence. By sharing my story and embracing vulnerability, I love myself exactly as I am, each and every day, for perhaps the first time since I was a child.  

To add more to my story, I am not sure of many people know that I worked as a case manager for over a year in Brookings, South Dakota before my current job with Lost&Found. What I learned in that year is quite possibly more than I’ll ever learn in my entire life.  

I helped clients in every aspect of their life, from figuring out their next meal to figuring out how to pay their electricity bill to getting help with medical care and medical insurance.  

My heart was too big for this job too, because although I made a huge difference in the one year I worked as a case manager, I took all of their homes home with me and really had a hard time leaving it at the office door. I did begin to learn how to help and make a boundary between their problems and the problems I bring home with me. But I knew I needed a change for my mental health, and Lost&Found was/is the perfect fit. (If you know someone that is a social worker or therapist of some sort, make sure to show you appreciate them each and every day, because those workers are some of our true heroes that even our nurses and doctors lean on in the hospital to follow through with care and discharge plans.)  

What I want to get out is that with some work, your weaknesses or struggles can become your strengths. Your career path and future might not look like what you had envisioned—it might just actually turn out much better. 

   

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Therapy is something we all should take part in. Whether short term or long term, it can help when we are doing okay and when we are experiencing poor mental health. I was in an okay place, but I wanted to be in an even better place. I went to five therapy sessions in Sioux Falls, and I absolutely loved it.  

  

 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? 

I think it starts with learning healthy coping mechanisms and sharing those mechanisms with close friends and family. It is also important to teach our children how to work through their emotions and life’s difficulties.  

  

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

It’s okay to not be okay. Just don’t stay there. Bad times doesn’t mean it’s a bad life. Perspective is everything. 

  

Lucy Benitez-Archer

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.  

Brendan S. Webb

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

I am Brendan Webb, 22 years old, and I am a senior at the University of South Dakota (USD). I am a suicide attempt survivor. 

My biological father died from brain cancer when I was just 6 months old. A few years before that, my mother also lost her father in a tragic car accident. Both losses took a toll on our family, the hardest being on my mother. My mother dated after my father’s passing, and I tried my best to connect with them to have a father figure in my life. It was tough.  

Additionally, my grandfather, my mom’s father who passed away in the car accident, was in the NFL. There was a lot of pressure growing up on my brother and me to be successful at sports.  

I moved from New Mexico to Kansas when I was 7 years old, and I went through a loss; I moved away from one of my mother’s long-term boyfriends, the man I looked to as a father figure. After that, middle school was difficult as I acted out a lot, not knowing the underlying mental health conditions I had.  

The deeper mental health issues were junior and senior year of high school. That is when my mom really started pressuring me about sports. I started cutting, and I attempted suicide. I survived and got some help, but I really just continued to focus my time on football. My mom pushed sports on me heavily because she needed me to get to college. We were a low-income family; senior year in high school I worked to help my family pay rent.  

Then, I received my first D1 scholarship summer of 2017! USD offered me a football scholarship, and that is how I ended up in South Dakota. 

My freshman year went well, but during my sophomore at USD, I learned of some traumatic events that worsened my mental health. I lost three people I knew from my hometown that November. Dealing with this news, I thought about suicide.  

I found clarity after driving and stopping by a river. I felt a sense of calmness come over my mind and body. I knew then I needed to seek more care.  

Since then, I have completed more therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic was tough to continue therapy, but I was able to continue my appointments via telehealth, which made all the difference. 

Today, I am in a better place than I was previously. With medications and me trying to practice more mindfulness techniques, I am in a good place. I like football again. I am majoring in psychology, and I want to continue my education someday to be a clinical psychologist or a professional involved with disaster response. I want to help others through difficult times, like the times I have been through.  

A lot of men, especially athletes, don’t believe in mental health, but I can see that, at times, their mental health struggles. We all have mental health. I am open to talking about mental health and believe others should be too.  

  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

The Psychological Services Center on campus.

  

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? 

A good way to get used to pain is to go through. I never truly want people to go through hardship but when you make it through the tunnel you become a stronger individual because of it. Though I say that, I do believe there should be people on the sideline to help. You don’t have to shoulder everything in life and have to deal with that pain by yourself. 

 

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

It’s okay. The dark thoughts that pop up in your head are scary, but you don’t have to listen to them. Randomly, you might have that thought of harming yourself, that’s completely normal when you’re in a heightened state of emotion, but what is not okay is to act upon those thoughts. 

Carolyn Kennedy

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

I didn’t realize it growing up, but I have always been high strung. I put a lot of pressure on myself in high school to be perfect. When I got to college, the perfection was a lot harder to achieve. Naturally, I was not always perfect and when I would fail, however minor of a failure, I would break down.  

The first year I applied to medical school I did not get in—the biggest failure of my life—and I started having panic attacks. I went to the on-campus clinic and she explained to me that I have generalized anxiety disorder, with some panic disorder symptoms. At first, the diagnosis made me feel like I was crazy, but now, a couple years later, I realized that it’s helped me navigate my intrusive thoughts.  

Since finally entering medical school, I have made strides in overcoming the perfectionist attitude, but then my anxiety started manifesting in other areas. I live a long way from home and my family. This made me feel alone and without a support system during a really difficult time in my education. Because of this, my anxiety manifested through to more of my social life. I started losing sleep because I was staying up worrying if I was coming across as smart enough to my peers. This had made me start up counseling again. This time, counseling has given me a person that I trust to support me, which was something that I felt like I was lacking. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Counseling has helped tremendously. 

For a long time, I didn’t realize that I needed to have a mental health journey. There will be many opportunities to fail in medical school, and I am so fortunate now that I have the ability to process those failures a lot better. So far, medical school and counseling has taught me that I need to take care of myself in order to better care for people in the long run. Counseling has been such a positive part of my life that I now volunteer at Coyote Clinic, which offers free, student-run psychiatric services to the community of Sioux Falls. 

   

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? 

We have to be open to receiving help, and we have to make our mental health a priority in our busy lives. 

  

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

You often can never tell when people are struggling with their mental health, so remember to check in with the people in your life. 

Briana Whitehurst

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

I used to pride myself on being strong enough to handle everything that I have been through in my life alone. I always struggled with anxiety and depression, but I kept it hidden. I always showed a smile and a bubbly personality to hide the pain and trauma in my life. The one time I had tried to get on some medication during a low point, a doctor told me they didn’t believe me and it was all in my head, so I decided then and there to continue what I had always done and simply hide it.  

Early in 2020 I got COVID, and it knocked me off my feet for over a month. I had been working very hard on myself prior to getting sick and had been very healthy. All of a sudden, I was immersed in a world of medical issues, stress and uncertainty. On top of all of that, it felt like everything around me was crumbling, and for the first time no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get myself out of the darkness that was surrounding me. I began to be filled with negativity and started telling myself things like “No one would even notice if you weren’t here.” “No one needs you.” “The world would be better without you in it.” “It is exhausting for everyone trying to figure out what’s wrong with you.” I would have mental break downs all the time where I would just cry uncontrollably in bed or in the shower because I was so embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to see my rock bottom. I felt so alone, and I told myself lies that no one wanted to be around me because I wasn’t happy and that I wasn’t the “Me” they knew. The distance from people just made things worse to the point that I had gotten into an argument with someone I loved and it pushed me over the edge. I was ready and prepared to take my own life.  

Being as depressed as I was, I had thought of many ways to do this in the past, as awful as that sounds to say now. I was crying on the floor of my room, alone in the darkest moment of my life—even though I had been through harder things, this head space I couldn’t come out of. I tried to take my own life. 

I survived. I don’t know why I didn’t die—maybe something or someone was watching over me—but that was my moment my snap to reality that I needed REAL help. It was a break in my clouded darkness—a moment of clarity.  

I knew no matter how many doctors it took I would find someone who would hear my cry for help and understand me. I would seek out therapy to work through all the trauma. But most of all I would allow myself to have weakness to be able to find my strength again.  

I hope my story helps you know that no matter where you are, you got this. Even at your weakest points, get up! You are strong, you are resilient, and you are worth it!

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Suicide Helpline, therapy, and prescribed medication by a licensed doctor for anxiety and depression. 

 

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? 

First of all, don’t believe the lie you are broken”—you are not! Second, don’t be afraid to get the help you need. Third, truly be there for the people around you, meaning listen when they are hurting, and when they aren’t, see through the happy facesbelieve it or not, some people are really good at hiding their pain, and I am one of them, so I know. Check in on those around yoube that shoulder to lean on, and encourage people to seek the help they deserve! But most of all, spread awareness and make it OK to talk about mental health. It is real and so important. 

 

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

That sometimes the thoughts you have are not your own, and you feel trapped. 

Joel Kaskinen

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

I attended graduate school at the University of South Dakota. I was pursuing a masters in higher education, and an internship was required for my program. My internship led me to Western Colorado University. While in Gunnison for the summer, a full-time position opened, and I landed the job!  

I moved from Vermillion to Gunnison and completed my degree online while working in a full-time capacity as a resident director at Western. I started in that role in 2017. My job was to manage dorms, supervise resident assistants, and support student development. A major part of this job required me to respond to crises as they arose.  

Jump to October 28, 2019. Jared, a student of mine, took his life in his dorm room. This tragedy rocked my world and the Gunnison and Western communities. I’ve lost many people close to me, but this was my first loss to suicide. I was devastated. How could I possibly support my students through their grief, when I didn’t know how to support myself through my own? Like most men in situations like this, I pushed my grief aside and put others first. I did what I had to do to move forward.  

It wasn’t until July 15, 2020, that I realized I’d still not processed Jared’s death, my loss, or the grief I was carrying. I was forced to face all those emotions after responding to another student suicide. Being one of the first people on scene and administering first aid to a student who was lying on the ground was not something that I was ever prepared for.   

I didn’t know Alex, but he quickly became a friend, as the ghost of his life haunted my daydreams and nightmares. I saw Alex everywhere. The piercing white of his eyes popped into my mind during meetings and when composing emails. I even had to take off the friendship bracelet that Jared made me, for fear that it still had Alex’s blood on it, from administering first aid. PTSD, in addition to the grief that I’d yet to process, and my new companion, depression, were now the rulers of my life.  

I couldn’t work. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I started abusing alcohol and drugs and engaging in risky sexual behaviors. For three months, I lived as a shell of the person I was before July 15th. I didn’t know who I was or what my purpose was in life. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  

Then the unthinkable happened. Kent, a first-year student in the class that I taught, was reported missing. Days later, his truck and body were found in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. He’d driven off the side of the cliff in a mid-October snowstorm.  

Once again, I was heartbroken. As I watched my life spin out of control, and I received no support from those in positions of power at work, I started experiencing my own thoughts of suicide. I remember driving over a mountain pass outside of Gunnison and thinking how easy it’d be to drive my Jeep off the side and put the haunting thoughts and visions to rest. That’s when I knew something had to change.  

I forced myself to make it to the end of the semester hoping that the holidays and a vacation would help shake things up. But in January, in a spiral of depression, on the year anniversary of the death of my aunt, whom I’d lost to cancer, I couldn’t take it any longer. I decided to leave my job at Western to prioritize my mental health. After a long conversation with my therapist, an argument with my dean of students, and an emotional chat with my supervisor, I left my job. I took some time to rest, moved back to Michigan, and allowed my pain to fuel my passion. I now work with Lost&Found with hopes to heal through storytelling and connecting with others in similar situations.   

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

Therapy, medication, quitting my job, a strong community of support, and the launch of my podcast – It’s All In My Head. 

 

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? 

I believe resilience starts with being honest with yourself and loved ones about how you’re feeling. My goal is to normalize the conversation around mental health and to be a man who is strong enough to share my story with others, knowing that it is painful, emotional and scary. I like to measure my days in wins, even if the only small victory was that I got out of bed and moved to the couch. We can overcome adversity, by giving ourselves and others grace and space to feel, heal, learn, and grow. It’s about moving forward, rather than moving on. That to me is resilience. 

 

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

I wish everyone would understand that mental health is real, suicide isn’t a taboo word to avoid, and that you can’t always see the demons that others are facing. Be patient. Show empathy. Love one another. We’re all in this together!