Tag: anxiety

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:


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.

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.

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. 

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 


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. 

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.