Having gone to college in both rural Iowa and Texas, I understand how the feeling of isolation is compounded by the natural geography of the land. During school breaks when I couldn’t go home, or on extended weekends when the campus was empty, it quickly became lonely and depressing.
At school, we often joked that being polite in rural areas meant telling people you were fine when they asked, even if you were visibly struggling. I vividly remember the stigma surrounding students who used the therapy offered on campus and how others felt uncomfortable going to the therapist for fear of friends finding out. When a suicide did occur on campus, it was difficult to reconcile because the school prided itself on being a close-knit community.
I drew on my college experience while working on the suicide prevention story I wrote for this edition of the magazine (see page 10).
While it is a heavy subject that affects many, I have felt the heartbreaking reality of suicide. In high school, I lost a teammate to suicide and later felt the storm of emotions again when a close family member began to struggle with mental health and attempted to take their life.
Seeing a family member and so many others fight each day to receive mental health care fills me with hope and a sense of urgency.
My interview with Jeff Winton put much of what I experienced into perspective. He founded Rural Minds with a goal to end the stigma of mental health care. His knowledge gained from 10 years of dedication to ending the stigma of mental health struggles and his determination to create a platform for people to share their stories is inspiring.
Helping spread this story is something I’m proud of, but I know this can’t be the last time I get involved. I hope you are inspired to do your part as well. As Jeff told me, “The clock is ticking, and time is of the essence.”