BringChange2Mind

November 10, 2010

Clouds with a Sweet Silver Lining

“Most days I try my best to put on a brave face. But inside my bones are cold and my heart breaks. But all the while something is keeping me safe and alive.  But so many people are looking to me  to be strong and to fight but I’m just surviving. I may be weak but I’m never defeated. And I’ll keep believing in clouds with that sweet silver lining.” -Kate Voegele, Sweet Silver Lining

I spent this past weekend at Active Minds’ 7th Annual National Mental Health on Campus conference. Active Minds, a national non-profit and BC2M partner, brings together hundreds upon hundreds of students and gives them the inspiration and tools to decrease mental health stigma and increase awareness on their college campuses.  At last year’s conference, I was still working as a full-time Active Minds staff person and didn’t have the opportunity to step back and truly bear witness to some of the incredible things taking place. I knew that the organization covered everything from stress relief tips to model for preventing suicide.  It’s one thing to understand in your mind the change that is taking place, it’s another thing entirely to feel it in your soul.

Marc Peters and Alison Malmon at the Active Minds National Mental Health on Campus Conference

I’ve never lost anyone  to suicide and I pray I never will. However, I’ve met family member after family member and friend after friend, mourning the loss of loved ones to a senseless act of  violence by their own hand. I had never really understood how my former boss, Alison Malmon, could so completely dedicate her life to a cause so grounded in her own personal pain of losing her brother. This weekend, I finally saw that she draws incredible strength from the passion of the students with whom she works. I finally saw not only the tears in her eyes when talking about how much she loves and misses Brian, but the joy in her heart as she looks out over a room full of people so invested in this movement.

From three people at her first club meeting many years ago, to a ballroom full of student activists is a remarkable journey. While I know that there is nothing Alison can do that will allow her to completely let go of the pain that she lives with every single day, I find great inspiration in how she has worked tireless to have Brian’s memory not only associated with a tragic loss, but with a living memorial that reaches students all over the country. From a place of pain, she’s developed for others a place of belonging and a joy for life.

Inspiration for my BC2M blog posts comes from someone or something different every week. This one started not with Alison, but with a BC2M Facebook friend and real-life stranger. She spent Friday at the conference to visit the Send Silence Packing display that features ownerless backpacks representing the 1,100 college students lost to suicide each and every year. After she saw my Facebook status update about the conference, she  messaged me to tell her how much having her son’s story featured on one of the Send Silence Packing backpacks at this year’s conference meant to her and her family.

Her message led me to reflect on my own history with suicidal ideation and being suicidal. One of the things that always keeps me here is knowing how much losing me would hurt my friends and family. Even at my lowest moments, I never want to bring pain to others. I never gave much thought to how I developed that line of thinking, but this weekend I suddenly knew.

Seeing the hurt in Alison’s eyes (and seeing that same hurt in the eyes of all of the countless mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers and friends that I’ve met who had lost someone to suicide) helped save my life. While I grieve with them for the loss of someone special in their lives, I am forever grateful that they have had the courage to share their experience in a way that saves the lives of so many other children and friends. I know that not even the shiniest of silver linings could dim the pain they feel, but I want all of you to know how much your strength means. You may never know how many people you’ve reached. So when you find yourself wondering if it’s worth the agony of revisiting such haunting memories, please know that you reached me.

Thanks for reading,

Marc

October 13, 2010

What Can I Do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Marc Peters @ 7:30 am

Ask yourself why you are involved in this cause. You may have a mental health disorder or know a family member who does. You may have lost a friend to suicide or simply had your heart broken by all of the news reports of young people taking their own lives. We all have our own motivation for getting involved. The problem is that it is (relatively) easy to get fired up about a cause. It’s much more difficult to sustain that commitment.

One of the things we can do is to guard against “do-gooder” flame-out. You may have instantly realized that youth suicide is a tragedy and an issue to be addressed. Maybe you think it should have been eradicated yesterday. Perhaps you quickly came to the conclusion that mental health stigma is a disgrace and that every day that it exists in our world is a terrible reflection on us as human beings. Impatience can be a valuable trait when it keeps you from settling for the status quo. It becomes dangerous when you grow easily frustrated when change doesn’t come at your preferred pace. Mental health stigma and suicide have been a part of our culture from day one. They will be a part of our culture tomorrow, next week and next year. Yes, we should challenge ourselves and each other to set HUGE goals, but we also need to set small, achievable benchmarks.

I know that I explicitly needed to be told that I couldn’t do everything myself. I could commit every hour of every day to this cause for the rest of my life and not reach everyone. Some things can only be done together. It is instinctive (and reasonable) to think, “Well if I won’t see results right now and I can’t get it done alone, why tackle this at all?”

Just because you can’t fix the problem completely doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. The onus is on all of us to serve as support system for each other and prevent others from losing hope and giving up.  Everyone has a sphere of influence. Everyone has people they can reach. We all have people we look up to and people whom look up to us. If you learn that one of your friends suffers from depressive episodes, you can find out how they want to be supported and fill that void. You can offer to be called day or night and be willing to drop anything you are doing to be with them when they desperately need the presence of a friend. You can speak up in groups of your peers when they are bad-mouthing people who are “crazy” or dismissing people with depression as “overly emotional.” We can all be more supportive to people we care about and (more importantly even) to people we pass by daily and hardly notice. We can use teachable moments not to admonish people for expressing ignorant beliefs, but rather to increase understanding and decrease stigma.

We all can do something. Take Ron Artest for example:

From ESPN.com

Ron Artest of the Los Angeles Lakers is motivated to win another NBA championship because he plans to auction his ring from last season’s title to raise money for mental health counseling in schools.

I think it’ll be more important to give back to something I believe in, which is providing kids with someone to talk to because it’s so expensive. I pay for parenting counseling, marriage counseling and anger management, and it’s very expensive. This will be for children of all demographics, rich or poor — preferably the rich can pay for their own psychologists — but it’ll be a great way to help kids who don’t know where they’re going in their life at this point.

When I think of mental health advocates, it’s easy to relate to Tipper Gore using the reach of the Vice Presidential office of her husband to bring mental health issues into the national debate. It’s easy to comprehend Mrs. Carter offering fellowships to journalists to write about mental health. We applaud Glenn Close for sharing her sister’s story and using her celebrity to draw attention to a cause that is all too often ignored. They are the ideal advocates we have…for middle class and elite America.

But what about everyone else…it’s commendable that Ron Artest is using his considerable clout among young people, the very people unlikely to seek help, to make a difference. We may not all be NBA superstars with a sphere of influence in the millions, but no matter how large or small, what is important is that we do something.

You don’t have to change the whole world. Start by changing your world and I will work on changing mine and if enough of us do that, the entire world will begin to change.

October 8, 2010

Love Is Always Louder. Always.

Filed under: Resource, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 2:20 pm

Last week our nation was rocked by a series of tragic events.  Within a matter of a week, five students – all under the age of 20 – took their lives because they were bullied due to their sexual preferences.  While no words can express the sorrow we all feel after hearing about these events, the BringChange2Mind team wants to extend our deepest condolences to the families of those that were lost last week.

Each of these men endured hardships that most of us can’t begin to imagine.  They were tormented because of their sexuality, their privacy was breached and their lives were destroyed by people who didn’t understand them.  Sadly, when they felt that there was no hope left they ended their misery by taking their lives.  What they didn’t know was that there was hope.  There was love.  There were people who cared deeply about them.

One fact is very clear in all of this.  We are in the midst of an epidemic of  bullying.  Kids as young as 5 are the victims of bullying that can continue all the way up through college and in the work place.  While some are able to endure and cope with the daily pain that comes with being the victim of bullying, others are not.  The saddest part about this epidemic is that it’s 100% preventable.  We can prevent it.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon.  It has lingered and been begrudgingly tolerated in the hallways and jungle gyms of our school systems for decades.   It often happens right under our noses – in our front yards and in the streets of our neighborhoods.  But we need to recognize that the big difference between today’s bullying, and the bullying of the past, is that bullies now use technology to tear apart their victims.  This form of bullying can be far reaching and devastating.   Bullies torment their victims on Instant Messenger, Facebook, and MySpace.  Some go as far as posting indecent photographs and videos of their victims on social media sites.  These avenues of bullying were not available in the past.

Thankfully, among all these tragedies, there is hope and help available for those in need. Love Is Louder was created by actress Brittany Snow, The Jed Foundation and MTV with support from Active Minds, Ad Council, DoSomething.org, Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love is Not AbuseReach Out, STOMP Out Bullying, The Trevor Project, To Write Love on Her Arms and Wired Safety.

The Love Is Louder movement strives to amplify the momentum of other inspiring online campaigns and invite anyone who has felt mistreated, misunderstood or isolated, into conversation. They are here to raise the volume around a critical message — that love and support is more powerful than the external and internal voices that bring us down, cause us pain and make us feel hopeless.

After these truly disturbing events, it is so important to support one another.  The growing negativity within our society stemming from abuses such as bullying might seem more powerful than the “good” in our society.  We are here to say that’s not true, and our BC2M community of over 14,000 tells us that.

There is more good than evil in this world.  There are more shoulders to lean on than there are bullies in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.  If you can’t find someone to talk to, remember you can turn to your fellow BC2M supporters or seek help through our Response Team.  Never hesitate to ask someone for a shoulder to lean on or a hand to hold as you walk toward help.

Be sure to visit Love Is Louder on Facebook to learn more about how you can help the movement.  We need as many people as possible to spread the love and the message: Love Is Louder.

~ The BringChange2Mind Team

October 6, 2010

Acts of Kindness: Countering Bullying in our Schoolyards

Filed under: Youth — Tags: , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:15 am

My heart may have been irrecoverably broken this week. Each and every day this week there seemed to be a new story about a student lost to suicide. People are waking up to the fact that there is an epidemic of bullying in our country and all too often it is ending in tragedy.

I’ve been suicidal before. I get brought up to the edge by a chemical imbalance, but what keeps me there thinking about taking my own life is self-loathing. A self-loathing that was fostered by making the wrong friends in grade school and sticking by them after being constantly demeaned. A self-loathing that was fostered after being called out for being overweight. A self-loathing that was fostered by being made to feel too smart by my classmates and not good enough by my father. It took me a long time, a great therapist and good friends to get over all that. But too many young people aren’t giving themselves that chance.

Bullying is a fact of life. From the time we start kindergarten until we graduate from college, we are faced with “school-yard bullies” Some kids are just mean and haven’t been taught a sense of right and wrong. Others have an abusive home life that fosters the belief that doing wrong is right. Now, we can love these bullies and hope that they grow and change and mature, but the reality is that eradicating bullying from our society is unlikely.

Let’s work under the premise that bullying will always exist and the bullied will always be suffering as a result. We can try and be punitive. We can confront bullies with fists or we can sentence them to detention and never change the behavior of others. It’s futile. We aren’t going to win playing this game. We need to change the rules of the game. We need to change the game itself.

To be honest, the bullies aren’t where we need to be spending the majority of our energy. It’s the bystanders at whom we need to take a hard look. So many of us watch people getting harassed and never respond. If we do respond, it is to challenge or report the bully. All too often, we forget to support the bullied student. We need to counteract anger with love. If there will always be premeditated acts of hatred, we need premeditated acts of kindness. Random acts of kindness are all well and good, but that’s not what this situation requires. We will never get anywhere in fits and starts. We need to take every opportunity to affirm the people in our lives. We need to build their defenses up before these incidents take place.

We all must realize that our words and action carry serious repercussions. Words carry weight. They can affirm someone or they can break them down. We need to build people up. We are losing far too many people to keep doing the same old thing. I doubt that we will ever “cure” depression, but we can bring an end to this senseless loss of life taking place in our communities and across our country.

I’ve seen people argue that suicide is without exception, a byproduct of mental illness. Speaking from someone who has gone through severe depressive episodes, it is important to know that the behavior is triggered by something. You may have a warped sense of reality, but it is in fact still reality that you are looking at. A rational person might look at being publicly humiliated and bullied and be able to cope with the ramifications. A depressed person might look at the same situation and thing that their world is over and they have no choice but to end it. That is what we are fighting. That is what we need to prevent. Tell your friends and family what they mean to you. Tell your classmates that you care. Tell your neighbor that they are important to you. Together, we can make this a better world to live in and one that our friends stick around to see.

September 9, 2010

Take 5 Minutes to Educate Yourself (and Others)

“As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident” ~ Peter Greene

From Take5toSaveLives.com

Most of you probably know this, but for those who don’t, tomorrow (Friday, September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day.  In fact, all this week – from September 6th – 11th – is National Suicide Prevention Week.  Why should we make a whole day out of suicide prevention?  Wait, a better question is why should there be a week dedicated to suicide?  Here’s why…

  • 11: suicide is the 11th cause of death for all Americans in 2007*
  • 34,000+: the number of people took their own lives in 2007
  • 1 in 15: in 2007, 1 suicide occurred every 15 minutes
  • 376,306: the number of people treated in Emergency Departments for intentional, nonfatal self-inflicted injuries in 2008
  • ~1,100: approximately 1,100 college students took their own lives on campuses across the country
  • 2: suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds

Now that I’ve laid out the facts for you, here’s how you can help yourself, a family member, friend, or even a complete stranger in need.  I encourage you to read the details of each step on Take 5 to Save Lives, a campaign produced by the National Council for Suicide Prevention:

  1. Learn the signs**
  2. Join the movement
  3. Spread the word (via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  4. Support a friend
  5. Reach out

For a list of additional resources, I urge you to go to the Find Help page on our website If you know of anymore resources, I encourage you to use the comment section to educate other people about them.

Remember, when a family member or friend reaches out to you for help, you should always be there for them.  The fact that they are trying to get your attention means they really need a helping hand.  Help yourself, and them, by learning the signs and joining the movement. During Suicide Prevention Week, take it upon yourself to spend 5 minutes learning how you can help someone who is in need.

Also, be aware of your surroundings and the people you regularly pass in the hallways of your school or office, the courtyard on your campus, or the cashier at your local coffee shop or grocery store.  You never know when you might meet someone showing signs of depression or suicidal ideations.  These tips can – and, at some point, will – come in handy.  We owe it to each other to live life with our eyes wide open, ensuring that everyone we meet has someone to talk to.

*Statistics were found on a PDF from the CDC’s website | **Steps were found on Take 5 to Save Lives

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