My Path to Mental Health and Mindfulness
I remember the night like it was yesterday. I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college. One of my closest friends had just opened up to me regarding her traumatic childhood, her struggles with anxiety and depression. She confided in me that she was having intense thoughts of suicide and how she had a plan to act on it in the near future. I did the best I could at the time to talk her through these feelings. I was very scared and very uncertain about what I was saying, anxious about what would happen next and extremely sad that my friend was feeling this way.
The very next day, I went with my friend to our college’s counseling center and made sure she was seen that day by one of the therapists. Thankfully, my friend was seen quickly, and over the course of the next two years went to therapy regularly and felt better. During those two years of my friend’s treatment for her clinical depression, I majored in Psychology and started exploring holistic remedies for anxiety and depression. That’s when my friend and I took our first yoga class together. I didn’t like it at first, but my friend took to it quickly and it was a major part of her healing. It wasn’t until my own journey through depression and anxiety at the age of 25, and again at 31, that I rediscovered yoga and the power of our breath. This was key in my recovery and paved the pathway to self-love and understanding. I became a certified yoga instructor to deepen my practice and pass along this power of self knowledge to others. I never forgot that night my friend opened up to me. To this day I am thankful that she had the courage to let me in and that I had the courage to talk with her directly about what she was going through and support her in getting the help she needed. I made a vow at that time that I would help others who were feeling lost, sad and depressed.
Fast Forward to Today
That vow brought me to where I am today, working atThe Jed Foundation (JED). JED’s mission is to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We partner with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention programs and systems; equip teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other; and encourage community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health.
I work onJED Campus, a program designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of developing comprehensive systems, programs, and policies with customized support to build upon existing efforts for mental health and emotional wellbeing for students. As a Campus Advisor, I work closely with colleges and universities nationwide on tasks like developing or re-writing their medical leave policies, strategizing on how to increase help-seeking behaviors on campus, decrease shame and prejudice surrounding mental health issues, and increasing social connectedness and community among students. I also weave my passion for practicing and teaching mindfulness into my daily life at JED. I teach the power of breath, practicing the sacred pause, yoga, and self care to fellow colleagues. I am also developing and curating more mindfulness resources for our JED Campuses and the JED Community. Working at JED is helping me to make a larger impact for our young adults and to give support to the college’s they attend.
What You Can Do
Nationally, suicide rates are on the rise and people are feeling more socially isolated. It’s imperative to let people who might be struggling know that they are not alone and there is help.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, Week, and Day. There are actions you can take to feel better and to help others. I encourage you to take time for self-care each day whether that’s a yoga class, a brief walk outside, a mindful moment. It makes a big difference.
Learn how you can be there for someone in need, by knowing how to identify someone who might be struggling, how to reach out to them, and then how to refer them to a professional who can help.
Check outPress Pause, a campaign from JED and MTV, focused on simple mindfulness techniques to help manage common stresses and emotional challenges.
It’s encouraging to see people like Anna Victoria and companies like K Deer prioritize these important issues. They partnered to create theAnna Stripe legging and are donating a percentage of proceeds with each purchase to JED. Wearing these leggings with the pop of pink against the gray and black is a reminder that even with bad days, and hard times, there is always hope and brighter days ahead.
Seize the Awkward, a campaign from JED, Ad Council and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, provides signs to watch out for and conversation starters to help you seize that awkward silence and talk to your friend about their mental health.
You can also learn what to do if you’re worried about yourself or someone else atjedfoundation.org/help.
With light and love,
P.S. If you or someone you know needs help now, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. For 24/7, free, confidential support, contact Crisis Text Line by texting 741-741 or call The Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Find more resources, learn about mental health and what to do if you’re worried about yourself or someone else atjedfoundation.org/help.