How talking about mental health can inspire people to take action

Arrow with the word "act"“Your greatest ability to help your community is through your deepest wound.” We have heard how to begin the story of mental health with a text message, and how talking can spread that story, now it’s time to talk about why that story is important. Listen to how Text, Talk Act, is taking the pain we have experienced around mental health and turning it into a healing process. As we explore what it means to be mentally healthy, listen to why we must act.

In our three-part series we meet people working on the front lines towards this goal. Their voices are joined by the text messages of Text, Talk, Act participants, who have taken part in the conversation to make a difference. The talk around mental health is personal, powerful, and raw, and hearing it might just cause you to act.

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Basant : My name is Basant Virdee.

Krystal: My name is Krystal Roach.

Kayhl: I’m Kayhl Cooper.

Tim: My name is Timothy Cox.

We are here to open up about mental health. We are here to put everything on the table and let everyone else know, “That’s ok.”

Tim’s video: I think that it’s important to support Text, Talk, Act, because more then ever kids are feeling depressed, and alone, every day at school. I know that I did, and I know that some of my friends, who I thought I helped out of that, have been depressed enough to take their own lives, even just this month. Share your story, help a friend, be a hero.

Tim: It was very raw, because I had agreed to do that video before my friend killed herself. So it was Like, “Ok, I need to make the video now.” And it wasn’t until I was actually filming that I thought, “Oh my gosh, I have to mention this. I have to bring it back.”

My friend Taylor was one of the most forward-thinking young women I have ever met. She was a member of a friend's gay-straight alliance, and I think she may have become president at some point. All of her group of friends knew that she dealt with depression, but it was something that when we all came together, it was healed. And I think that was for all of us - this group of friends - that we all came together to do something, we were all always focused on improving the lives of others and letting people know that being different is not bad.

She became very alone, and she didn’t have anyone in college to tell. She didn’t tell her parents, even though she could have. I got a call at 4 a.m. It was my friend Kyle, that started the gay-straight alliance, calling me saying, “I’m sorry if I woke you up, but there’s something really important that I just found out, that I need to get off my chest. and...Taylor died.”

Basant: When people are ill and they’re mentally suffering, or they have anxiety or they're sad, this is the birth of a healer. Your greatest ability to help your community is through your deepest wounds. And when you’ve gone through something difficult, only then can you help other people with the same problem... now you've achieved depth in your life and your understanding.

Tim: Feeling depressed and alone? Man, that’s my entire life. [laughs] From as young as I can remember, I was singled out as being different, whether it was while I was at home or in school... For me, I felt depression. I felt alone. In sisxth grade I was being bullied so hard for finding something I loved. I actually got called faggot and gay for years before I ever knew that I was gay.

I’ve had to deal with suicidal thoughts and feelings of depression since as young as sixth grade and younger. I went into a mental institution in sixth grade for suicidal thoughts, and when I came back to school two weeks later some girl decided to tell everyone that it's just because I’m crazy. Just a new way of bullying me, just a new word. My friend is so upset and so defensive that she screams out something along the lines of, “He was gone for two weeks because of people like you make him feel like he wasn’t worth being here."

Basant: Changing human behavior can be pretty difficult, and changing a whole nation’s behavior, or a whole culture of people, some people have said it’s like boiling the ocean. It’s really hard to change a whole dynamic, and a whole group of people, and it’s hard to know how to start that, and what to do; so Text, Talk, Act is a program that’s trying to do just that.

Tim: Text, Talk, Act is a platform that starts the conversation that we all should be having.

Basant:  We ask, “What would you do if you could change something about mental health? What could your community do? What could your country do?” We collect those answers and submit them to elected officials. We submit them to people who could help take action on those ideas.

Tim: What I really hope is the future of Text, Talk, Act is that more people get involved. I would like it to be something that is mentioned in shows. I would like it to be something that we have posters up for it in schools. I think that if this country would open their eyes to mental health, it would be such a dramatic decrease of some problems, that we could actually focus heavier on other problems. We need to implement the tools that we have, and Text, Talk, Act is one of those tools. That is the first step to anything. Now that the tools to actually have these conversations and actually talk to people about what is going on are becoming more available, and people are urging others to start having this conversation, we need to listen, we need to use the tools, and we need to not be afraid to talk.

Honestly, if I ran the world, we would have some sort of weekly get-together, some kind of group therapy session in every little neighborhood. Everyone is living. We are all dealing with this. None of us chose to live, none of us chose to be born, but we all are and we put so much time and effort into having reasons to hate other people and having reasons to wish negative things upon people and not be happy for people. But really, if we all just stopped that and came together as a group and said, “Hey we are all having to deal with life. Lets help each other through it. What’s going on in your life? What can I help you with? What do you need to get off your chest?” That’s where it starts.

Kayhl: I think to be mentally healthy is just to be in tune with what you’re thinking and be aware of what you’re thinking. It doesn’t have to mean that you never get stressed, it doesn’t have to mean that you’re never anxious, it doesn’t have to mean that you never have problems. It just has to mean that when you do have those things, when you are having a hard time, you’re just aware of it, and you yourself can be ok that your struggling with that, and you can talk about it and resolve it, instead of just letting it brew.

Basant: Being mentally healthy means that you pay attention to your mental state and you see that as something separate from you. For example, you think things all day, and when our knee hurts, my knee hurts, we don’t think, “I am my knee and I’m hurting.” And I think that being healthy is similar. “Oh, I am angry," and we can see that and label it and think about it and say why am I angry. I guess a balance of logic and emotion together—recognizing how you feel and how to work with that.

Tim: I’ll answer this directly. I don’t think that there is such a thing as mentally healthy. I think that in the future, being mentally healthy will be defined by knowing your mental health, by being aware and consciously treating or doing something to improve the issues that you have, but I don’t think there is anything such as not having any mental health problems. I don’t think there is such a thing as being mentally healthy. I don’t think that if you have mental health problems that you’re mentally unhealthy.

Krystal: I think to be mentally healthy, part of it is being comfortable with yourself and feeling good. You don’t have to feel good all of the time, because obviously your mood changes, but you should feel happy sometimes. You should be able to enjoy yourself and not always feel like the world is falling down around you.

And I kind of feel like to be mentally healthy…I guess my abstract answer is, to look up at the sky and know that it might not always be clear. There might be a few clouds every once in a while there might even be a big raincloud, but that raincloud isn’t there forever. You have sun sometimes, you have a little overcast sometimes. But you do have the sun, and the sun is the really important part, and you know that the sun will always return. I think that’s something that’s important about being mentally healthy—to always have the hope that the sun, your happiness, will be back.


Sound credits:

Song: Nicolas; Artist: Johnny Ripper

Song: Intermezzo; Artist: Podington Bear

Song: Safe In Glass Houses; Artist: Dexter Britain

Song: We Call This Home; Artist: Alex Fitch



April 3, 2016

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