Deanna

Deanna’s story begins in her junior year of high school, when she began struggling with her body image, depression, and overall feelings of inadequacy. Not knowing how to process these negative emotions, Deanna turned to food in an attempt to cope and eventually developed an eating disorder. What she tried to play off as “just a diet” eventually consumed her entire life. When she went away to college, her life became a cycle of restricting, bingeing, self-harming, and not sleeping. She reached a point where she couldn’t see past the darkness and attempted suicide.

After returning to treatment, she learned to challenge her negative thoughts and find healthier ways to cope. Once she discovered that the thoughts and feelings that led her down that path were not as uncommon as she thought, she was inspired to speak out about her experiences in the hope of showing students they are not alone and that help is out there. Deanna became involved with the National Eating Disorders Association, for which she has raised over $10,000 towards eating disorder prevention, treatment, and education. She also serves on the executive board of the Drexel University chapter of Active Minds, empowering other students to speak about mental health.

Deanna is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Evan

As a child, Evan was one of the best-performing students in his elementary school. He achieved one of the top scores in the state in a standardized math test, and was enthusiastic about his classes and learning. At the same time, he was experiencing panic attacks and generalized anxiety, but at this age, he didn’t know how to verbalize what he felt inside. The lack of being able to express his feelings, mixed with the fact that his anxiety was somewhat sporadic, led to him accepting these things as if they were just a part of his personality.

Once Evan entered his final year of middle school, things took a turn for the worse. His anxiety was no longer random, but rather an everyday battle. Still believing it was a personality trait that he just needed to learn to live with, he told nobody in his family about these feelings. The daily panic attacks and generalized anxiety would soon be followed by depression, and eventually problems with substance abuse. The combination of all of these things created a life where he felt he had no control. Still, he never asked for help. Eventually, Evan transformed from someone who had once been a friendly, hardworking student into a person who treated others poorly, all while treating himself even worse.

About two and a half weeks into his senior year of high school, Evan found himself in a situation he couldn’t have ever imagined; he was arrested, kicked out of his high school, and spent his 18th birthday on house arrest. Mentally, he was at his lowest point and truly thought this was the beginning of the end. After one particularly combative interaction with a friend, Evan had what he calls his “ah-hah!” moment. It was the first time he became aware of how his actions were affecting those around him, as well as himself. That day, Evan made a commitment to himself to get through his problems no matter what, and he never looked back. He rediscovered his enthusiasm about learning and his work ethic, putting them to use in modifying his lifestyle and creating a positive mindset. Evan was able to completely turn around his situation and his prospects for the future.

Today, Evan has found his passion in functional health care, and encourages others to combine lifestyle changes with traditional treatments in order to have the best chance at seeing optimal results, both in their physical and mental health. By sharing his story, Evan hopes to spark the “ah-hah” moment for others who are suffering, inspiring them to speak up and ask for help.

Evan is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Emma

Since she was nine years old, Emma has felt the weight of anxiety – even without having a name to call what she was feeling. Her parents set expectations for her to succeed academically and personally. She became a high-achiever in an attempt to fulfill these expectations and hide the growing symptoms of her anxiety. The recognition she received for her achievements made her a prime target for bullying, both in school and on her track team.

Trying to remain “the girl who can do it all” added depression to her anxiety, leading to panic attacks. She didn’t have a name for what she was feeling so she didn’t know she could ask for help. She saw many doctors for the physical manifestations of her mental health issues, all of who told her, “No, there’s nothing wrong.” She knew that wasn’t the case and kept searching for answers. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder that Emma felt freed from the weight of not knowing what was going on inside her head. Emma’s story is one of self-advocacy: when the world is telling you you’re wrong, you have to fight to find someone who will give you the right answers.

After transferring universities and moving back in with her family for additional support, Emma has developed healthy coping mechanisms to prevent her bipolar disorder from ever having total control over her life again. She has found writing to be a healthy and supportive outlet to express her feelings. Through her writing, she can monitor any new developments and consider what actions will have a positive impact in processing what it is that she’s experiencing. Emma has found essential oils help keep her balanced and a favorite weighted blanket can provide extra comfort when she feels in need. She shares her story of recovery to inspire other people to advocate for themselves and find their own path through recovery.

Through all of her struggles, Emma has learned that the most important thing to remember is that “crazy,” a word so many people throw around when talking about mental health, is just a concept. She believes that no mental health issue can have power over you if you take the right steps to develop coping mechanisms that work for your individual needs.

Emma is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Kristen

As a child, Kristen experienced significant trauma, including her mother attempting and completing suicide.

When she reached her preteen years, Kristen didn’t know how to manage what she was feeling and turned to alcohol, drugs, and self-harm to mask the pain that she so desperately wanted to keep locked away. The alternative was facing the issues related to her childhood trauma and she did not know how to do that. As a result of this she suffered with debilitating depression and anxiety that affected her in her everyday life. She continued these negative coping skills, including negative self-talk, which drove her down to a very dark place. Quickly, she arrived to a bottom she thought she would never leave.

After going to treatment, where she learned how to replace her negative coping skills with positive ones, she worked hard to incorporate those habits into her life. Kristen attended a recovery high school to finish her education and went on to college. She has many therapy experiences that have proven to be wildly successful, and attends support groups regularly to maintain her ongoing sobriety and abstinence from negative coping skills. Kristen, being a young person in recovery, proves it’s never too late or too early to get the help you need. She has spoken on panels and at board meetings to help educate others in an effective manner break the stigma around mental health and substance use disorder.

Kristen is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Kelly

Kelly was raised in a wonderful and loving family, however, something never felt right. She didn’t feel a-part-of or good enough growing up. The people she was surrounded by supported her and loved her unconditionally, yet her mind told her otherwise. Her feelings felt so big and her thoughts felt so loud that she began to feel entirely alone. In an attempt to gain others’ love and acceptance, she strived for absolute perfection in all of her endeavors. However, this created anxiety and a deep fear of failure.

All this negative energy and self-talk eventually fueled Kelly’s attempt to achieve “the perfect body.” She quickly found herself in the midst of an active eating disorder. Her binging, purging, and obsession with how she appeared drove her to a place of despair. In an attempt to escape her eating disorder, she began using drugs and alcohol while in middle school. Her attempt at escape only led to more bondage, as she became physically dependent on these substances. Her drug use led her to abandon all of the activities and relationships that she once loved. After being arrested multiple times and having her freedom at stake, she made the brave decision to seek help by attending a drug and alcohol treatment facility. During this time, she learned how to cope with her substance use disorder, her negative relationship with her body, as well as the anxiety and fear of failure she had experienced growing up.

Thanks to the dedication she shows to her active and ongoing recovery, Kelly now lives a positive life full of travel and adventure. She hopes to help other young people cope positively with their internal thoughts, making sure they reflect the unconditional love that is in the world.

Kelly is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Jordan

Jordan

Jordan is a public speaker who discusses the mental health issues and disorders that affect so many of us. He is a survivor of a suicide attempt during his senior year in high school and shares his powerful story of fighting depression and finding recovery.

Jordan is a nationally recognized mental health advocate. In 2008 he addressed a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. In 2010 he was chosen as one of the “Best of Philly” for his work in public speaking and advocacy. In 2012 he was honored with an Emerging Humanitarian Award from retired San Francisco 49ers player Nmadi (Nam-DEE) Asomugha (Awesome-Wah) and the Asomugha Foundation.

 

 

He has been featured in People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and USA Today. Jordan has appeared on ESPN’s E:60 and Outside the Lines, as well as Dr. Phil, The Ricki Lake Show, CNN, the Early Show and Good Morning America. He has been featured in three documentaries and his piece, “Unbreakable” with E:60 was nominated for an Emmy. Most recently, you might have seen Jordan at the White House for the National Conference on Mental Health, hosted by President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Jordan has been speaking on his story and mental health all over the country for the last 8 years. He’s spoken in 32 different states and 3 different countries. His presentation is meant to inspire, educate and allow others to know they’re not alone.

Jordan is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Katya

Katya

From a young age Katya struggled with anxiety and depression, but couldn’t make sense of what she was experiencing. A confluence of factors pushed her mental state into a negative place as Katya struggled to find her place in the world. katya

Katya was a “people-pleaser.” Her childhood was preoccupied with making her family proud. The daughter of parents who came from traditional ethnic cultures made her feel pressure to be the “all-American girl.” With her parents longing to assimilate to American culture, they put a great deal of importance on achieving The American Dream. As she struggled to develop meaningful family connections, she strived to be everything she thought her parents wanted. She couldn’t see that her parents were simply providing her with opportunities they never had, and only wanted her to be happy and healthy.

When she reached adolescence, she began to seek validation from her peers. The challenges of growing up in her small, affluent town were exacerbated by a genetic predisposition to mental illness, lack of understanding, and traumatic events.

When she was 15 years old, Katya was sexually assaulted, leading to a subsequent unhealthy relationship. Unable to process these experiences and feeling too ashamed to share her trauma with those around her, Katya sank deeply into depression, anxiety, and negative coping mechanisms. She pushed herself to maintain the image of being a good student and pretending to have it all together – she was on the school newspaper, honor roll, and the cheerleading team. She was a School Peer Leader, homecoming queen, and friendly to all. Katya feared being seen as “the sad girl” so she hid her depression out of fear of rejection.

Eventually, she became lost in depression, anxiety and negative coping – not knowing herself or who she wanted to be. During a study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, Katya broke down, unable to function or continue her daily life. This pushed her to finally get the help she needed in therapy and began her journey of healing. Through talk therapy and art, Katya found positive ways to manage her mental health and connect with the people around her. She leaned on the people who truly care about her – her family. Now healthy and accepting of herself, Katya empowers students to make healthy choices and build their own identity.

Equipped with a degree in advertising, her passion to help others, and ongoing mental wellness, Katya travels the country to educate students and adults about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and healthy relationships, and helps them understand empathy, consent, self-care, and positive coping skills. Her goal is to help others express themselves, and inform students about the messages that they receive from society and media regarding their physical and mental well-being.

Katya is based in southern New Jersey. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Lucas

Lucas

When Lucas was in high school, he’d tell you he had a perfect life. He was known for his no-stress, go-with-the-flow attitude, and an unshakeable confidence in his ability to achieve anything he put his mind to. No one would have ever thought he’d struggle with depression, including Lucas himself.

In his junior year, he began to experience the early stages of depression. He was confused why his outside life didn’t match his inside feelings. He didn’t feel justified in feeling depressed because his outside circumstances were all great.

Because he didn’t know depression was an illness that could affect anyone, Lucas hid his silent battle through high school and into college. He thought graduation, an internship, a job, would bring relief or happiness. He received a dream internship in New Mexico and thought it would be a turning point for positive change. Instead, isolated from his friends, family, and support, his depression became much worse.

During his last semester at college, his depression became so severe he lost the ability to eat. He reached out to his family, and they helped him find a doctor to start the recovery process. As he learned about his depression and saw the progress he made in recovery, he came to wish that he had known the truth about it back when the feelings started.

Inspired to help other teens having the same experience, Lucas chose to go and share his story with his high school in order to raise awareness and normalize the conversation. Now, Lucas speaks out about his battle with depression to let others know there is always hope, and that there is a wonderful life on the other side of depression.

Lucas is based in Princeton, NJ. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Andrew

Andrew had it all entering his senior year at Muhlenberg College. He was a starting defensive back for the football team, named captain of the track and field team, and already had a full-time position upon graduation with a large accounting firm in Philadelphia. However, an injury in the first game of the season and increasing pressure to perform caused drastic changes for him. Andrew lost his identity and began deeply struggling. His issues started with insomnia with trouble concentrating in class and on the field. This led him to spiral into a deep, lonely hole. Andrew hid his struggles from family and friends as he pretended that everything was fine, until he experienced suicidal ideations and reached a point where he desperately needed help. After a visit to the ER, he was diagnosed with major clinical depression and severe anxiety, which was extremely difficult for him to accept.

With a strong support group behind him, Andrew and his family began taking the needed steps toward recovery. He took medication for his depression and anxiety and began both psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. It was difficult at first, but over time Andrew began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. He turned to exercise and positive coping skills to work through his inner anger and pain. As his life started to gradually improve, Andrew shared his story in spring of 2014 with many of his teammates, classmates, and friends in the hopes that it would help someone else. The overwhelmingly positive feedback he received inspired him to continue talking about mental health. Andrew’s goal in working with Minding Your Mind is to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issue, and help others who may be suffering to know that they are not alone and that it gets better.

Andrew is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

Scott

Scott

As a teenager entering high school, Scott knew his life was going to change – everyone goes through changes in high school, right? What he did not expect was that the change would come in the form of depression.

After being cut from his high school basketball team, Scott began to feel worthless and spent his days mentally abusing himself. It was also around this time that Scott developed severe acne that made him extremely self-conscious about his image. Throughout college, Scott struggled to pull himself out of the self-hatred and negativity that filled his mind, but the issues only grew.

Scott was able to turn his world around by incorporating positivity into his life. It was difficult at first, trying to put small points and acts of positivity into every day. Sticking with these efforts, the more Scott implemented different strategies focused on changing his mindset, the more he began to see his life drastically change. Scott learned how to achieve self-security regardless of what life threw his way. By harnessing the power of positive self-talk, Scott realized that thoughts are just as important as actions.

Scott has a passion for helping others; his goal is to help people overcome the everyday mental obstacles that hold them back in life. His story is powerful, relatable, and relevant to students, and will give parents a window into what their children may be thinking and feeling about themselves. Scott works to inspire others to climb out of the darkness and find the light in their lives.

Scott is based in Philadelphia, PA. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.