Tag: depression

Vince Danh 

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

Growing up in a first-generation household, we never shared our feelings or expressed a lot of affection in the traditional Western sense of the term. My parents worked hard to escape war and poverty and to find success in a new country, and they never complained. That set an example of success and stoicism for me that defined a lot of my upbringing.

I spent the majority of my life believing that I shouldn’t express myself, let alone show anything that might be interpreted as weakness. Fitting in meant success, and that meant being perceived as someone who had or at least had the appearance of everything being OK.

My friends knew me as the guy who they could always talk to because I was always level-headed and, in their words, “well-adjusted.” I was the confidante, the one who kept his cool and could help address their own issues and challenges.

However, like an iceberg or a duck floating on the surface, what was unseen was my own inner-self’s struggles. Eventually, things reached a tipping point, and I slipped into a dark place.

I realized that I needed to treat myself just like I treated my friends. The advice that I gave them I also needed to give to myself. “It’s cool to not be cool.” That was the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned—to acknowledge my own challenges and shed the veneer of being OK all the time.  

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

It took a lot of soul-searching, working with a therapist, and acceptance to recognize and overcome my challenges. One impactful read that I recommend to everyone, no matter what their current journey in life, is The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Reverend Desmond Tutu. Working through that book helped me recapture a very important fact that’s been lost in the hustle and bustle of our modern world. Human beings are intrinsically wired to feel and express compassion and joy. Too often we forget that we are joyful creatures by design, and we let doom and gloom cloud that. 

Other things that helped me have been adopting routines and personal activities that are solely for me. I try to adopt or try out a new hobby every couple of months as a fun way to continue growing, but I always acknowledge that there shouldn’t be any pressure or stakes to it other than for my own personal benefit and growth. Sometimes these exploratory hobbies stick and become a lifestyle such as cooking or motorcycling, others like piano might not, but I can look back and still feel good that I gave it a shot. 

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Just as we have an emphasis on physical education in school and professional lives, I believe the same importance needs to be placed on mental education. In 2023, there is no reason why our schools don’t have mental education classes that can help our youth learn how to properly recognize, process, and work through mental and emotional challenges. 

Following up with that, the professional and corporate spaces are making amends to recognize the validity and benefits of promoting positive mental health in the workspace. However, there is still a stigma around mental health that can only be diminished by increasing the availability and access to education. It starts with our generation so that the next can be better off for it.

 

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

I truly believe that we should treat ourselves like we treat our friends. We give our friends a lot of grace and understanding, and too often short ourselves of that same treatment. Next time we might feel like being hard or critical of ourselves, stop for a moment and just ask if what you want to say to yourself is what you would say to a close friend. 

 

 

Benson Langat 

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

Upon my arrival in America, I was greeted by the frigid embrace of winter, presenting a significant challenge for me as a track athlete. The absence of transportation and friends compounded my difficulties, requiring a rapid outdoor running adjustment. During weekends, when not engaged in competition, I often found myself alone in my apartment, a mile from the nearest grocery store and other essential amenities. I was compelled to traverse the streets day and night on foot. In the absence of classes, isolation became my constant companion, and I began to experience the weight of depression as I grappled with the resettlement process in a foreign land. 

Life became an arduous journey, and in my struggle to cope with the stress and solitude, I turned to overeating, which detrimentally affected my performance as a college athlete. My depression was further exacerbated by a multitude of stressors, including adapting to a new language, the demands of academics, economic challenges, unfamiliar food, and divergent religious practices. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I joined a support group for international students and athletes, providing a sense of community and a space to share your experiences and feelings with others who may be going through similar challenges. I was also paired with a host family, which made everything better. I also kept an open line of communication with my track coach and professors, explaining my challenges and seeking their support or accommodations if needed. I was reminded that addressing these challenges may be an ongoing process, and reaching out for help and support is essential when needed.  

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

One of the most damaging aspects of the current system is the stigma associated with mental health issues. People often hesitate to seek help due to fear of judgment. Promoting awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions can help reduce this stigma. Public education campaigns and open conversations about mental health can contribute to this effort. 

 

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

Many people who struggle with mental health or have suicidal thoughts often suffer in silence due to stigma, fear, or shame. It’s crucial for everyone to recognize that talking openly about mental health challenges is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and courage. Encouraging individuals to share their feelings and experiences without judgment can create a supportive environment where they feel heard and understood. 

 

 

Nichelle Lund 

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

I’ve always struggled with some form of mental health issues, specifically anxiety and obsessive worrying, which would happen very cyclically throughout my childhood and young adult life. Since moving to South Dakota, living so far away from my family and childhood friends, I’ve noticed that I struggle significantly more, less with worrying and more with depressive episodes. Winter has regularly been my downfall, coupled with a physical assault at the beginning of the pandemic (3/20), limited mental health resources, and the idea that “I just need to pick myself up and dust myself off, I can handle this.” 

My “oh shit” moment came on a dreary February morning in 2023. I hit (another) pothole, and I got so angry. I was mad that the pothole wasn’t big enough to swallow my car whole, with me in it, because then at least it wouldn’t be my fault. Shortly thereafter I lost a good friend unexpectedly, and the intrusive thoughts got worse, but always with the tinge of – “as long as it’s not my fault.” I don’t want people to think I did it to myself. I was okay with dying, but I didn’t want to do it. Somewhere along the way, I knew I was in big trouble. March has never been my friend – but this year was particularly bad. I cried every day on the way to and from work with just a heaviness in my chest that I could not escape. 

I smiled, did my job, volunteered, and made sure things in my life got handled, but I was just doing what needed to be done to not show anyone the cracks. I was playing a part in my own life and not owning any of it. I didn’t really care about anything. 

I’ve never asked for anything from family or friends – I offered help and support and was right there when people needed me, or even when I thought they might need me. So when I hit the proverbial “rock bottom” and no one was around to help, I knew I was in trouble. When you’re always the helper, it makes it so much harder to ask for help. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I started out using the BetterHelp therapy app around mid-March. I switched providers a few times trying to find the right fit. I finally found one that was good, but not great. Our sessions were only 30 minutes, and by the time I got into the meat of the issues, the session was over and no solutions were available. She recommended me to a foundation that specialized in helping women who were the victims of violent crimes. They referred me to a local therapist with Moore Counseling Group where I could receive EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing) therapy. This helps me to both process the most recent trauma and desensitize triggers that had been established during childhood and my youth. 

Because of this therapy, I’ve learned that my voice had been stifled, I didn’t have any boundaries, and I didn’t trust anyone to be there for me when and if I asked them to be. I’m learning and healing a little bit more every week.

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities? 

We have started making mental health a mainstream conversation, and that is SO important. For people to see themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences portrayed in others, so they know they aren’t alone, is a massive improvement from where we were 5, 10, 20+ years ago. 

I think the biggest struggle is buy-in from generations that believe you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The folks that think therapists and counselors are only there to pacify you and collect your insurance money. 

Normalizing mental health is important, but normalizing going to therapy is going to be just as important in the future, which also means beefing up the programs in schools that promote education in that field and the importance of healing from the inside first. 

 

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

If someone has a single vulnerable moment in front of you and then brushes it off, don’t ignore it. Just because they say “I’ll be fine” doesn’t mean they will. They probably don’t know how to ask for help. That’s not something everyone learns growing up. 

 

Jerry Cook

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

My dad died by suicide just before my fifth birthday. My sister passed away in 2019, potentially suicide-related. I’ve spent most of my life learning, growing, and recovering from loss and suicide loss. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Family, friends, counseling / therapy, research and learning, volunteering & supporting the community, healthy hobbies, art, and music. 

Through doing lots of work on and for myself, I also co-founded MindBodyHeart Pathways with my wife, Dr. Michelle Cook, and we offer coaching, counseling, and psychiatry services in addition to ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. 

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Some of the major hurdles I see are limited access to mental health care and the quality of that care. Additionally, people who do seek help need to be supported rather than looked down upon…we need to help eliminate the stigma. We also need to move away from the thought that life is/should/will be free of challenges. Working through challenging times builds resiliency. 

 

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

It’s okay to be vulnerable and reach out for help and be open to different types of help. 

 

 

Erika Tordsen 

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

In 2019, my husband Tyler and I were expecting our first baby, due in March 2020. A baby boy. We were over the moon scared, nervous, and everything in between to become parents but excited, nonetheless. Then the pandemic restrictions happened the week I gave birth, so Tyler was the only one allowed in the room for our son’s birth. All of my feelings of excitement and happiness were quickly replaced with uncertainty and sadness. The months that followed our son’s birth were the darkest months of my life. I was a new mom who wasn’t able to have the help of family or friends because we just didn’t know what was going to happen next. Is this new virus going to kill my baby? Is my husband, who has a pre-existing condition, going to die if he gets it? We had so much worry and fear during that time that we never truly got to enjoy being first-time parents and all the joys that come with it.
 

I lost myself in postpartum anxiety and cried every single day for months. Phone calls, FaceTiming, and texting just weren’t enough. I was happiest when I was asleep because I didn’t have to feel all of the worry and fear. I constantly looked on social media and compared myself to other mothers. I felt “less than” because I was struggling, forgotten because no one could come to see us, and cheated because of the pandemic. Fortunately, I have a great husband who was patient with me and understood that I was hurting and struggling. He took care of me and allowed me to feel things without question. During that time, I found a new purpose of being a mother and I wanted to be better for my son. Eventually, I was able to get past the worry and fear, and as we started to learn more about COVID, I could enjoy being just a mama finally. We won’t remember 2020 as the year of COVID-19 but as the year of our son, Emmett. And although it took a while, I was able to feel like myself again, and a year and a half later, our second son was born. He gave me the experience I was supposed to have but both experiences shaped me into the mother I am today and I’m forever grateful for my two boys and my supportive husband. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

During the first few weeks after giving birth, my lactation consultant helped with the breastfeeding piece and reassured me that I was doing it correctly because that was a challenge in itself. Since everything was virtual, I reached out to family and friends via phone for support and made a post on my social media, which led to other mothers reaching out. They gave advice and shared their struggles too. After that, I created a Facebook group for moms to be able to ask questions and seek advice from other mothers without judgment or question. I started seeing a therapist who turned out not to be the right fit, so I asked questions and made a switch to my current therapist who is amazing! She is perfect for my needs on the mental health piece of it and also culturally. 

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities? 

I would love to see more awareness about the differences between postpartum depression, anxiety, baby blues, etc. We get pamphlets and words that explain what these are but actually hearing from a mother who experienced this before a mom gives birth would be 10 times more helpful. We are raising the next generation, and it is the hardest job. I wish I had someone to tell me the straight-up truth about how differently I would feel after giving birth. The fourth trimester is the hardest one of them all. 

 

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

It’s okay to rest and take care of yourself. We live in a society where hustle culture is glorified and if you’re not grinding, you’re failing. It’s not a bad thing to be ambitious and a go-getter, but it’s also okay to take a break, breathe, and reset. 

 

Tamien Dysart 

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

When I was 19 years old, I found myself in a deep, deep depression. Almost everything seemed pointless. I was engaging in activities that ultimately were merely masking the empty feeling I had after a few big life events. Thankfully, I had a daughter at 17 years old, which kept my mind from ever wandering into suicide. However, I remember listening to the ONE song for a two-month stretch as it reflected my mood of “what’s the point of all of this.”

It was at that moment I was invited to go to church with a friend. I thought, why not—as I had nothing to lose. It was that pivotal moment that gave me hope. I found myself being around positivity weekly on Sunday mornings. That helped to elevate my path of discovery: I had worth and began developing purpose, slowly, steadily, surely. That trajectory brought me to a place where I now am impacting thousands of people, living as a testimony of possibilities when you are shown a path to better and make the decision to walk in it, even when we don’t “feel like it.” 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Doubling down on personal development. Though it was a longer climb, it built a confidence that putting the work in directly, works. This is a basis for our saying at Think 3D that “A Better YOU Is Better for Everyone,” including yourself. My long haul of reading books, learning, and developing helped to build my mindset to be able to go back and tackle some of the harder issues that put me in a space of dealing with depression and hopelessness. 

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

We believe that workplace culture plays a major and significant role in where we’re currently at around this topic, and also is a key area of focus to help provide a better path forward. Given that the average working professional spends between 50-75% of their waking hours around work, when this is less than desirable, it dramatically impacts our ability to work on the other parts of our lives to improve upon mental health. This is besides the direct impact that work often significantly contributes to the mental health challenge. 

 

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

Everyone’s story is unique and different. Get to understand the backstory before making assessments of others. Be willing to come alongside these individuals once you understand their stories and pour positivity into them. 

 

 

Patrick Murphy

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

I had a pretty ideal childhood growing up. My parents and my brothers are great, but for some reason, I had a lot of anxiety. I fought depression, struggled with my weight, and excelled at overthinking just about everything. This stayed with me all throughout my life. A lot of this came to a crucial point in 2016-17. My wife and I were living in Dickinson, ND. We were ready to try and have kids. Unfortunately, thus far we have been unsuccessful. This hit us very hard. I felt unworthy as a husband. I was scared that my wife would leave me or resent us and our marriage. I should’ve trusted her better, because she is still here and stronger than ever. Anyway, I tried dealing with this, but I wound up burying it under denial, seeking comfort in food. I was depressed but got very good at denying it. In 2018 we moved back home to Rapid City, my hometown. We bought a beautiful home. The depression reared its head again, and the anxiety was worse than ever. You can be blessed beyond your wildest dreams and still feel empty inside. I felt alone, unworthy as a husband with extra bedrooms with no kids of our own. I was anxious all the time. I started to think that if I killed myself my wife could have a chance to start over with someone better. That was the wake-up call. I can tell you how scary it feels to formulate the cleanest method of suicide to not be a burden on your wife.

That’s when I ran to God. I gave my life to Jesus when I was 12 years old. Yet, somehow I found myself here in this place. I wrote a book of poetry that I self-published while battling these thoughts and feelings. It made me see the scripture Jeremiah 29:11 stands true. God desires to prosper us, not to harm us. To give us hope and a future.

I went to church, I confided in my wife, in friends, and men of God that I trust. I went to my doctor here in Rapid City and told her I was anxious all the time. I took anxiety medication to help me change how I approach life, and how I think and treat myself. Since March of 2023, I’ve lost 50 pounds! I have a long way to go, but I’m going. This has been five years of discovery. And reminders that anxiety doesn’t own me, depression doesn’t own me. I am a son of God saved by His Son, Christ Jesus. Starting this fall I am beginning a new journey to go to school to get a degree in counseling. So, if you read this or hear this, don’t give up. You have a purpose and can change someone’s life.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

My doctor prescribed anxiety medication. I also spoke to my wife. Close friends. I also want to mention pastors Jason and Tim Stuen here in Rapid City.

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Advertising mental health services so people know where opportunities are. I also want men to feel like it’s okay to admit they’re struggling with anxiety or depression.

 

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

It’s a process. If you or someone you care about deal with mental health issues, it’s a daily exercise. Celebrate good days. Listen and encourage.

 

 

Jasmin Fosheim

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

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for around six years, brought on by a high-stress job and a drive to achieve that manifests in never feeling like I’m enough. I’ve learned to overcome these challenges with various resources and lifestyle changes, and I’ve grown in so many ways as a result.

When I had my first child, Josie, in 2020 in the middle of COVID-19, I found that not only would I continue to battle my anxiety and depression, but I was also thrown into the tornado that is postpartum depression and anxiety. I climbed my way out, however, and went on to continue to grow and thrive.

Two years later, I found myself in the middle of moving from Hettinger, ND to Pierre, SD, switching careers, and managing major health issues with my daughter Josie and myself (including gallbladder removal at 30 weeks pregnant). When I went into preterm labor at 33 weeks the night after moving the remainder of our belongings from Hettinger to Pierre, I began the most challenging mental health battle of my life. Caring from afar for a toddler who couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy disappeared for over a month was heart-wrenching, and her mental health tanked. Spending time in the NICU in the midst of a move and career change for over a month was almost more than I could handle. And the postpartum anxiety and depression that overwhelmed me when I finally arrived home with my family, all of us shaken to our core, nearly broke me.

I persevered, however, and am now thriving with two healthy babies and a happy family in my hometown. The journey to get here, though, was the toughest thing I’ve ever experienced.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Having a mom support group of friends who were also moms was immensely helpful. In addition, I accessed counseling and medications, and I had an OBGYN who was an AMAZING advocate for mental health care postpartum for both moms and dads.

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

People need to see the people who are seemingly happy and successful sharing their vulnerabilities and the steps they’ve taken to better themselves. Without that exposure, people will continue to believe mental health care isn’t for them. In addition, rural access to mental health care is atrocious, and the fact that health care costs could ever be a deterrent for people pursuing mental health services is a gross injustice in the system of mental health and healthcare in general. We need people brave enough to share their journey (which is why this project is AMAZING, and I’ve thought so since its inaugural year), communities willing to invest innovatively to ensure services are available, and systemic change that ensures affordability of services that are vital to survival for many.

 

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

Mental health care is for everyone, and everyone can benefit from therapy. Connect with a counselor now so when the days are dark and getting out of bed is hard you’re not having to seek someone out and overcome the obstacles of the system. Having a relationship established when you’re OK makes reaching out and getting help when you’re not OK SO much easier.

 

 

Krista Burns

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

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was in elementary school. I didn’t know that’s what I was dealing with until I went to a therapist in my late 20s. I attempted suicide when I was 18 and used to cut my hands. I contemplated suicide again in 2021. My friend told me I needed to go to Avera Behavioral Health right away. I ended up spending a week at the facility.

Since then I have had a therapist and psychologist who help me with my mental health. I also open up to my family, friends, and co-workers more when my depression or anxiety is starting to get bad.

I feel like my story can resonate with people who are dealing with mental health problems, but don’t feel like they can open up to anyone about it. I can also show that you can live with these disorders and manage them to lead a healthier and happier life.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Avera Behavioral Health, therapists, psychologists, medications

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

There needs to be more education in schools and the community to tell people that it’s OK to not be OK, and also to teach family and friends how to speak with someone who has a mental illness. There also needs to be more affordable and easily accessible ways to talk with a therapist or psychologist.

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

Don’t tell people that everything will be alright or that other people have it worse. Listen to the person who is struggling and offer them support and comfort.

 

Claire Litzen

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

Throughout high school, I struggled deeply with anxiety, an eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It wasn’t until therapy that I was able to come to grips with my reality and seek out help.

I later experienced a ton of grief and loss due to family members passing away and my engagement ending.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Therapy

Local groups: Theyself by Wake, The We Can Movement

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Connecting with a community! I think that once you get in environments where you are able to share your struggles, you don’t feel as alone.

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

Healing and growth are not linear.

 

Jerrald H Zeigler Jr

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

I am a three-time suicide attempt survivor. Due to a military sexual assault and two molestations shortly after, I got PTSD and felt I couldn’t live with myself. My first attempt cost me my military career. My second attempt cost me my first marriage. My third attempt cost me my family for a long time. After that, I worked on my trauma through therapy and support groups. I am now co-founder and president of Empire Mental Health Support here in Sioux Falls. I owe it to the VA for understanding PTSD and military sexual trauma. Today I want to live. I have grandchildren I want to see grow up, graduate, get married, and have children of their own. Suicide is the furthest idea from my mind. I am worthy, therefore I must live! 

Ps

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

SMART Recovery, NAMI, and Empire Mental Health Support. 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Using mental illness against criminals during mass shootings instead of criminal behavior. The truth is people with mental illness are more likely to harm themselves rather than harm others. 

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

That people can never just “get over it”! 

 

 

Meagan Zerr

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

As far back as I can remember, I didn’t feel safe. I felt anxious, depressed, and like I was walking on eggshells. When you combine this with the intense pressure to perform academically, socially, and physically, I was a ticking time bomb. No one was talking about mental health in the early 2000s, so I thought the way I felt was normal. How can I be checking all these “good” boxes and still feel this way? My suicidal ideations became more frequent in my early 20s, when I turned to anything to feel a glimpse of happiness as a coping mechanism. By 25 those ideations turned to action. After years of counseling, medication, and addiction services, I am now free from those chains! 

Ps

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

At 22, I started seeing a psychologist and began my 5year journey of trial and error for medications. I started seeing a therapist at 25, and that changed my life in a huge way. I still see her! At 29 I gave up alcohol officially, and have been sober for two years. I am now off my medications and have never felt better! 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

STOP THE COMPARISONS. Social media can be a beautiful way to connect, but can also be so nasty. You are the average of the content you consume, and who you surround yourself with. Start consuming POSITIVE content, with POSITIVE people, and watch your life flourish. I also know people use social media as a coping mechanism; to get attention, validation from others, to avoid arguing with their spouse, to escape from their screaming kids. If you face your feelings head on, and sit with them, you will unlock a new level of you! But it’s effing hard.  

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

My past doesn’t define who I am now. 

 

 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.