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College is always an emotionally charged time. It is four years of self-development, from deciding your major to finding your home away from home. Some days you could feel unstoppable—you get a great grade on a paper, the cafeteria has your favorite meal, and you got a full night's rest. Other days, you bomb an exam, the coffee machine is broken, and your roommates kept you up all night. For some, it's hard to pick yourself up after a bad day, to quiet the voice in your head kicking you when you're down, saying, "If only you studied more..." or "I'll never be successful this semester." It's hard to keep your head up in the face of defeat, to keep on when the course gets tough, but know it takes more than just dedication: It also takes proper mental health.
National Depression Screening Day is today, October 8—a good time to take advantage of Kappa Alpha Theta's online mental health screening programs. Taking this free, anonymous screening can help you or a friend recognize signs of depression and provide avenues to productively treat depression early on. Please take a few minutes and go to www.SistersSupportingSisters.org to start living better.
During the month of October, we are asking Thetas everywhere to participate in the Love is Louder social media movement to show our love and support to all of our sisters—in Theta, in Panhellenic, in life—and let them know that LOVE IS LOUDER than depression (and anxiety, and self-doubt: We need your help to fill in the blank). Last year, we started to make waves on social media bringing awareness to this issue and supporting our friends (see a sample post in the image above). In 2015, with your help, we hope to make an even bigger impact. Have a conversation at your chapter meeting and share the resources on the Sisters Supporting Sisters web page. Share your photos on social media and tag Kappa Alpha Theta in your post (@kappa_alpha_theta on Instagram, @BettieLocke on Twitter, and tagging @Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity on Facebook). You may also send photos to socialmedia@KappaAlphaTheta.org.
Love is Louder was started by The Jed Foundation, MTV, and Brittany Snow to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood, or alone. You can participate by taking a photo of your hand with "Love is Louder" or "Theta Love is Louder" written on your palm. Please join us in this campaign by sharing your photos answering this statement: "Theta Love is Louder than _____." Tag your photos on social media with the following hashtags: #LoveIsLouder and #ThetaLoveIsLouder. Let Theta love be felt everywhere.
One answer is surprisingly simple: Be there.
A sense of isolation is a risk factor for suicide, and research has shown a strong correlation between social support and decreased likelihood of a lifetime suicide attempt. By living the motto We'll see you tomorrow through lending a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, an empathetic word, or a gesture of support, you are participating in truly meaningful prevention and acting as a part of our mission for the widest influence for good. You're showing those you care about that their presence is valued, their daily struggles are understood, that there is hope for better days ahead, and that you want to share in their story. It sounds a lot like true sisterhood, doesn't it?
Our fraternity was founded on the effort to develop sisterhood and meaningful social support during a time when women were a minority on college campuses and faced discrimination and a distinct lack of support from their male peers and often their academic institutions. Our founders used the bonds of Theta to disempower their loneliness, and we can do the same, not through sisterhood in the colloquial sense—although engaging in new, exciting experiences and creating fun memories also has its place here—but by nurturing the lifelong friendships we have developed with women we know we can count on. For Theta women, We'll see you tomorrow means living our values.
While our bond can be an important contributor to prevention, it is not enough to prevent suicide in the demanding college environment. It does, however, mean that we are often the first to notice when one of our sisters is struggling. If you believe that you or someone you know is facing depression or thoughts of suicide, please visit the Sisters Supporting Sisters website for the resource and webinar on Depression & Suicide Awareness. You can also call the free Talk One-2-One hotline, open 24 hours a day, to speak with a trained counselor about any problem large or small, at 1-800-756-3124.
To become involved with TWLOHA or to learn how you can promote suicide prevention through social media, please visit the TWLOHA website.
And to our Kappa Alpha Theta sisters: You are appreciated, you are loved, and you are a meaningful contribution to the identity of our proud fraternity. To each of you on campuses everywhere, We'll see you tomorrow.
After his high school years, as he started college, he began a battle with depression, and it often reared its ugly head and interfered with his lifetime dream of being a nurse. He struggled to complete classes even though he was more than capable. However, he finally achieved this goal and graduated from University of Nebraska Medical Center with honors. He also found a beautiful and caring girl he wanted to marry and was soon to be engaged. We were so very happy to see him achieve some of his major goals, and actually felt a sense of relief that he "conquered" depression and not the reverse. However, this disease is sneaky and often silent. It is most difficult to understand.
Adam described himself as "trying" to be happy like the people he saw around him. Sometimes it was situational, sometimes not...he just couldn't find relief from this chronic, horrid plague. Even though he achieved the exact job he desired at Bryan Health's cardiac ICU and was successful in his position... Even though he was respected by other staff and frequently requested by patients because he was strong, trusting, and intelligent... Even though he knew beyond all doubt that he was greatly loved by his family, his brothers and sisters, mom and dad, and seven nieces and nephews... He was bound by the ever-tightening ropes of depression, and it caused him to take his life on April 16, 2010. He lost his battle.
It's a stark reality our family faces, not only on special days but every day. Family gatherings are just not the same. We all miss him so very much. We continue to ask the question, "Is there something we missed? Something more we could have done?" We are thankful. Thankful for the 33 years we had together and thankful for the memories. Thankful that God continues to carry us through each day and gives us opportunities to reach out and help others who may themselves struggle with depression, know of someone who struggles with depression, or who have lost a loved one to suicide because of depression.
Depression is a disease with a stigma. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, a time to promote awareness of suicide prevention and to encourage others to seek help. I recently read a study that stated less than 20 percent of college students who struggle with depression seek help. This stigma often prevents people from seeking help or following recommendations. It often is a quiet disease and can be well hidden. Or not. It has many faces. Some faces are not able to get out of bed. Other faces may be that roommate or sorority sister or classmate you never would have suspected. These faces are male, female, young, old, of higher or lower economic status, higher or lower intellectual abilities, educated, not educated, successful or struggling to become successful.
Through our loss of Adam, the Run to Overcome was born. Our family met and partnered with Bryan Health so that more people can be reached and become aware of the huge numbers of individuals who are affected by this disease in some way, so that somehow the stigma may begin to fade and lives are saved. We work hard at bringing something positive from this huge loss.
The 4th Annual Run to Overcome will be held at Lincoln Southwest High School (Lincoln, Neb.) on September 28. This event is most certainly not a day of doom and gloom, but a day that families, individuals, and groups come out to show support and celebrate life. Our goal is to increase registrations and reach a goal of 2,000. For more information and to register, visit the Bryan Health website.