MYM Speaker Returns to His Alma Mater with a Message

Andrew Muelenberg

When It Comes to Mental Health, It’s Important to Share Your Struggles

A student-athlete who graduated in 2014 returned to campus to speak to the current men’s teams about the depression and anxiety that surfaced during his senior year.

By: Meghan Kita   Monday, December 11, 2017 11:52 AM

The week before the first football game of his senior year, Andrew Onimus ’14, an accounting and finance major and a starting defensive back, suffered an injury: a hematoma on his lower back. He was able to play, but not at his full capacity. He didn’t feel like himself. Still, despite the athletic setback, he had one thing most college seniors covet: a full-time job lined up. With that stressor out of the picture, he wondered, why wasn’t he sleeping?

As Onimus, who was also captain of the men’s track team, recounted the downward spiral that began that semester during a speech to Muhlenberg’s men’s teams in the Seegers Union Event Space on November 8, he noted that insomnia was the first red flag. “I never had any mental health education,” he says later. As a speaker with Minding Your Mind, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that connects schools with young adults who can talk about their mental-health struggles, Onimus always shares how to know something’s wrong: If you’re in “a rut” for more than a couple weeks, if you’re losing interest in normal activities, if you experience a change in appetite, those are all signs you should seek help.

Onimus didn’t—at least not right away. After a few months in which he felt progressively worse, he got to the point where he was suicidal and in the emergency room. That’s when he learned he was suffering from depression and anxiety, and once he had a diagnosis, he could begin taking steps toward recovery. For him, that meant taking three months off.

“It took me so long to understand what was going on,” Onimus says. “I didn’t even know I needed help because I thought I would snap out of it. Once I reached out, it’s not like I got better right away, but at least I was in that recovery mode. It’s tough to stress that, because a lot of college students have a bunch of responsibilities they’re trying to get done in four years. They think, ‘I can’t miss even a day, let alone a week or a month.’ But I needed to. Sometimes you just need to take time to get your health back.”

Lily Otu, the assistant director of athletics for student athlete development, diversity & inclusion, invited Onimus (and another Minding Your Mind speaker, for the women’s teams) to campus after the athletes requested more information about mental health. She started her role in July, so she hadn’t known Onimus as a student. She reached out to Minding Your Mind after seeing another one of their speakers on ESPN, and while that individual wasn’t available, the organization let her know a Muhlenberg alumnus was on their roster.

“I thought it would be an awesome opportunity for someone to come back and talk about what they went through on this campus and the support they received from many people who are still here,” Otu says.

“I know how fortunate I was to have the support group I have,” Onimus adds, “not only my family, but the resources at Muhlenberg, too: my professors, the coaches, the training staff. The talk at Muhlenberg was probably my most emotional one yet.”

Nigel Long ‘18, a business major who’s a point guard on the basketball team, took away from the speech exactly what Onimus intended: that it’s not only okay to confide in your teammates and coaches when you’re struggling, it’s critical for your health and wellbeing, and it’s just as critical to be receptive to friends who might open up to you.

“Males tend to have a misconception that you can’t have emotion, you can’t be depressed,” Nigel says. “It was good to see somebody who has actually gone through it. Just because you’re this rugged football player, you can still have struggles emotionally. Not everybody is willing to open themselves up and talk about their problems, but it’s important to express yourself.”

Onimus, who balances his full-time job as an accountant with his speaking engagements, says sharing his story is one thing that helps keep him well. “I’ll do an assembly at a high school at 8 a.m. and I’ll see people napping like I would have done when I was a senior,” he says. “I start to think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ But afterwards, when someone comes up crying and saying thank you, I know it is.”

While he continues to have occasional bad days, he now has coping skills—like turning to one of his passions, physical activity—he can rely on. “For the most part, I’m like, ‘I have depression, I have anxiety, but I love life,’” he says. “I have a good job, an awesome family. The people who were there for me when I was crying, upset and hurting are laughing with me on weekends. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Main Line Today Q&A with MYM Founder Steven Erlbaum

From October 2017 Main Line Today:

Q&A: Minding Your Mind’s Steven Erlbaum
The nonprofit founder shares his favorite things.

BY VICTORIA ALFRED-LEVOW
Steven-Erlbaum-800-89641732

Ten years ago, Steven and Amy Erlbaum started a dialog on mental health, hoping to educate young people on topics that are often stigmatized. Today, Ardmore’s Minding Your Mind has reached over 300,000 students across six states.

Steven Erlbaum’s Five Favorite Things

1. Estia. “Their food is healthy, fresh and very different from anything else we have in our area.”

2. 13 Reasons Why. “It spoke to and brought to light many, many issues of mental health, mental illness, and how our youth responds to lots of different situations.”

3. Villanova basketball. “They bring a lot of excitement to the Main Line.”

4. Saving Private Ryan. “I’m a fan of Steven Spielberg. I think he’s a master.”

5. Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts. “They bring me back to the ’70s and ’80s—my era.”

MLT: What is Minding Your Mind and what is its goal?

SE: It’s an organization to educate our youth about mental health, to reduce the incidences of substance abuse, some forms of bullying, suicide and isolation, and to educate our youth in talking about it.

MLT: Why did you start Minding Your Mind?

SE: I just feel that there’s a need in the community to help serve the underserved and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. People, young people particularly, suffer in silence. They feel uncomfortable, so they don’t share what’s going on in their minds. Their parents are confused about what could be mental illness, depression and typical adolescent behavior. We try to clear that up with students, parents and faculty members.

MLT: Why does Minding Your Mind use young adult speakers?

SE: Our speakers are typically in their 20s and have been through lots of trials and tribulations themselves. They have not only survived but thrived by understanding their illness and working very hard to make changes to reduce the pressures and complications with mental illness. The audience—typically the middle and upper school students—relates well to them and feels comfortable with hearing somebody they can relate to.

MLT: What do you hope that Minding Your Mind will accomplish in the next five years?

SE: What we’d like to do is reach as many people as possible. We’d like to create programs that schools can see, presentations from different speakers all over the country. We hope to have a major effect on our youth with drug abuse and bullying, depression, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm.

 

10th Anniversary Blue Gene Gala: A Successful Tribute to a Decade of Mental Health Education

On Sunday, September 24, 2017, more than 350 people gathered to celebrate Minding Your Mind’s 10th Anniversary. The 2017 Blue Gene Gala returned to Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, the home of Minding Your Mind’s very first public forum in 2007. The evening included a retrospective what has been accomplished by Minding Your Mind over the past ten years, as well as recognition for communities and individuals who contributed to the organization’s development.

The evening’s honorees:

10th Anniversary Media Advocate Award: Tracy Davidson, NBC10 News anchor and advocate

2017 Changing Minds Award: The Craig Family – Chip, Andrea, Derek, and Jordan

Gerry Cuddy, president and CEO of Beneficial Bank, acted as the event’s Master of Ceremonies, and author Alan Schwarz presented an enlightening keynote address on the topic of his book, “A.D.H.D Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma and the Making of an American Epidemic.” The evening was closed by Minding Your Mind speaker Jordan Burnham, who gave a powerful, moving, and inspiring account of his experience as the first Minding Your Mind young adult speaker and the journey his life has taken since.

Please enjoy the photos from the event and follow Minding Your Mind on Facebook (http://facebook.com/mindingyourmind), Twitter (@mindingyourmind) and Instagram (@mindingyourmind) to stay up-to-date on events and progress throughout the year.

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Rep. Murt to host Minding Your Mind Forum in Hatboro

Sep 6, 2017

To the Editor:

The start of the new school year is always an exciting time and full of anticipation and hope. It can bring with it concerns by parents and students about how stressful school life is at times. In the context of school, children can face enormous pressure to achieve good grades, to fit-in socially, to avoid incidents of bullying, to make athletic teams and to have a good school year. These concerns can be anxiety-provoking for students and their parents.

In response to these concerns, I will be hosting an informational community forum called “Minding Your Mind” to discuss these and other issues, including suicide. The forum will be led by a licensed social worker who has a great deal of experience in these issues and others.

Our forum will be held on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. It will take place at the Hatboro Community Church, 730 Preston Lane, Hatboro. For additional information, please call my office at 215-674-3755. The public is invited to this free program and no advance registration is needed.

— state Rep. Thomas P. Murt, R-152
www.repmurt.com

Come To Me Campaign for National Suicide Prevention Month

Bill Savage, St. Joe’s Prep ’13 and Vanderbilt University ’17, has launched the second year of the Come To Me Campaign to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

Inspired by his former lacrosse teammate and best friend at St. Joe’s Prep, Joe Walsh, Savage created the Come To Me Campaign to illuminate the depth and breadth of the support network that college students have if they are anxious or depressed. Members of the school community were given orange bracelets with “Come To Me” on the outside and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the inside. If a student was feeling alone or in distress, he or she could easily identify someone ready and willing to offer support. In its first year, Come To Me distributed over 7,000 wristbands on the Vanderbilt University campus, and inspired Come To Me programs at eight other universities, engaging nearly 25,000 students, faculty, and visiting parents.

This year, Come To Me Campaign has launched its own website and prepared a challenge in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Month (September 2017). Individuals and groups can order bracelets through September 15 and create an awareness campaign to distribute them on school campuses or through community organizations. Please visit the Come To Me Campaign website for more information and to order your bracelets today.

“13 Reasons Why” Recommended Resources

The Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” has been a popular topic of conversation among adolescents, teens, and their parents both in person and all over social media.

The series has been praised by some for raising the issue of teenage suicide and providing a starting point for parents and children to have some important conversations. In contrast, it has been criticized by some mental health advocates and groups that it may glamorize “revenge suicide” and does not address the mental health component that is present in 90% of suicides.

Individuals who choose to watch this show should do so with the full understanding that it is a work of fiction. Throughout the process, parents and adults should have open conversation and honest discussions with adolescents and teens about the realities of suicide and mental health. These discussions should not be limited to this series and should continue on a regular basis.

Please use the link below to access articles recommended by Minding Your Mind:

What Viewers Should Consider, Victor Schwartz, MD

Talking Points for Viewing and Discussing “13 Reasons Why” , JED Foundation and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

“13 Reasons Why” Should Parents Be Concerned About This Netflix Series?, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

“13 Reasons Why” Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators, National Association of School Psychologists

For Families of Teens at Suicide Risk, “13 Reasons” Raises Concerns, New York Times

Please share the following information on websites, social media, and in communications with members of your community, and encourage parents to enter the numbers into all family cell phones:


If you or someone you know is in crisis or is feeling suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline  800-273-TALK (8255) . Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day to speak with and provide support.

or

Crisis Text Line: Text “Start” to 741-741

Free, 24/7 confidential support provided by trained volunteers.