Human Power Project
Behind Happy Faces; Taking Charge of your Mental Health
In his presentation, “Behind Happy Faces; Taking Charge of your Mental Health,”
Ross tells the story about when he was in school; everything on the surface seemed to be fine. He was making friends, getting good grades and had a fun social life. However, no one could have imagined how many emotions he was suppressing. Ross was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 16, was hospitalized for attempting to take his own life during his senior year of high school, and like so many other freshmen, just wanted to fit in. He tried to hide what he was feeling to convince everyone that everything was ok, but that can only last for so long. Ross’s story resonates with the millions of students who are putting on a happy face to hide their true emotions.
Ross teaches students about the complexities of mental health issues and empowers them to seek help or help their friends seek help. Most mental health challenges are highly treatable, but too often remain hidden in silence preventing people from achieving the recovery they are capable of.
The program focuses specifically on how students can achieve positive mental health by learning about their coping mechanisms. Ross uses tasteful humor and insights to help participants understand common mental health conditions and individual differences. He also covers warning signs that students can look for in their friends and peers, as well as resources that can provide guidance in these sensitive situations.
Survival, Recovery, Acceptance
In his presentation, “Jordan Burnham: Survival, Recovery, Acceptance,” Jordan tells the story of how he, as a high school student, seemed to have it all. A popular student athlete, he was elected Freshman Class President, got good grades and had a loving family, including an older sister he adored. But the smiling happy face was a mask he wore to cover the anxiety and depression that lay beneath the surface—fear that he wasn’t good enough, difficulty with the transition into high school, pressure to excel academically, as well as in sports. Soon he was drinking and his grades were falling, and he was finally diagnosed with depression. A year later, he found himself in a treatment center, and not long after that, in a hospital bed, following his attempt to end his life by free-falling from his 9th floor bedroom window.
Now, Jordan speaks out about his struggles, a messenger of hope for others that although we can’t choose the things that happen to us we CAN choose how we cope with them. With a combination of talk therapy and medication, physical exercise and a wide support network of family, friends and fellow advocates, Jordan copes with depression in healthy positive ways, living the example that everyone should feel confident about seeking and accepting help.
Key Topics: Advocacy, Anxiety, Athletes and Mental Health, Depression, Men and Mental Health, Race/Ethnic Minorities, Religious/Spiritual Communities, Stigma Reduction, Substance Use and Abuse, Suicide, Trauma
It Wasn't Supposed to Happen to Me
David Romano lives with depression; in his presentation, “It Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me,” he reveals his experiences with the dark lows of self-injury and a suicide attempt during high school, and his ongoing path to recovery. When he began to feel the early symptoms of depression in middle school, he thought everyone felt that way and that it was part of growing up; but when he reached tenth grade and depression turned into a sense of darkness enveloping him, David assumed that he was failing everyone, including himself, and that he wasn’t the man he was supposed to be. The popular student and multi-sport athlete tried to maintain his outward image as the fun, goofy kid, and used sports and other activities to cover his inner struggle. A mental health check-list he read in health class shone a light on his symptoms, and he began a treatment plan under the care of a professional; after some ups and downs, he found the right combination of medication and therapy, and has focused his energies on self-healing and spreading awareness about mental health and suicide prevention, as a speaker and through his Bike Across America for Mental Health campaign.
Key Topics: Advocacy, Athletes and Mental Health, Depression, Men and Mental Health, Religious/Spiritual Communities, Self-Injury, Stigma Reduction, Suicide
Flying Under the Radar
In his presentation, Pablo Campos, discusses how he engaged in increasingly risky behaviors and polysubstance abuse, which led to an attempt to take his own life during his senior year of high school.
Pablo was born the year his parents came to the US from Guatemala and grew up in Alexandria, VA. Despite grandparents on both sides struggling from depression, addiction, and anxiety, he grew up without any discussion of or education on mental health. Juggling the norms of both the Guatemalan and American cultures was a challenge for Pablo, particularly when it came to emotional expression and seeking help. Lacking healthy coping skills, Pablo engaged in risk-taking behaviors including using and abusing substances, which led to an attempt to take his own life while in high school. After multiple stays at inpatient facilities for depression and addiction, with unsuccessful results, he learned he had undiagnosed ADHD; he eventually found proper treatment and began his road to recovery. He now talks publicly about how stigma and a lack of education made seeking help more difficult, but by finally finding a strong network of professionals and loved ones, he was able to grow from being his own worst enemy to a powerful participant in his recovery.
Key Topics: ADHD, Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Faculty/Staff Trainings, First Responders, Men and Mental Health, People of Color and Mental Health, Stigma Reduction, Substance Abuse, Suicide Prevention.