One Busy Wednesday: Brave Faces Ask Two Institute of Technology Assemblies and a Youth Ministry to "Consider Their Minds"

 Brave Faces advocate Steve Keyser (above) etched a diamond on the white board with a green marker, and at each corner drew symbols: a W for wellness, a net for support, a dollar sign for money  and a simple one-story structure with a slanted roof for housing.

He turned to the assembly of nearly 60 Institute of Technology  (IOT) students and staff and explained the diagram represented his "quadrant of wellness."

"Maybe your jerk boyfriend or girlfriend dumps you, and your wellness is ruined. You're just mad," he said. "If life takes one of those away temporarily, but we have the rest, we can get by. But if we take two or more away, we're in trouble."

He went on to share with the students how he was often without many of his wellness quadrants because he struggled with Bipolar until he was diagnosed at 58. Because of his untreated symptoms, he lost many friends and jobs, including a position as a cardiopulmonary technician at an emergency room.

"I'm here to tell you not to wait to find out what's wrong until you're 58 like I did," he said. "If the stress of the job is getting to you, find out what your treatment is: maybe it's taking a walk in the rain or going for a swim. We need you to take care of yourselves."

Carrie1The Brave Faces presented to two classes at IOT, where students study to become nurses, pharmaceutical techs and other medical professionals. Redding resident and veteran Christopher Diamond spoke to the afternoon class about how she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar symptoms after coming home from serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her community activism, diving into school work and using therapy as well as medications ended up helping her learn to manage her problems.

She also talked about why she and perhaps others struggle with taking their medications consistently.

"One of the things about being bipolar is you think the medications are going to take away this creative kick you've got, or you're going to lose a part of yourself. Even though it wasn't really true for me, that was part of why it took awhile for me to be able to take my medications regularly and as directed."

Ripley Wolf spoke to the class about her experiences with depression, bipolar and PTSD as well as being a sexual assault survivor. At one point, she had a high powered position in public relations, but few would have been able to tell that internally she was struggling with mental illness and feeling suicidal.

Though she discussed some negative experiences she'd had with medical staff, she empowered the students to understand they could make a difference with people like her.

"You will face a lot of stress because you're going to be dealing with people who are very sick, but I want you to know that small acts of kindness on your part can save lives," she said. "There were times in my life when that was how I survived: from one small act of kindness to another."

Later that evening, Brave Faces advocate  Amanda Flowers Peterson to more than 50 youth at Influx, Redding First Church of the Nazarene's Youth ministry, about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, recovery and using the tools God gave them to fight for wellness. 

She explained how it wasn't until she was in college that she realized she needed to get help in order to process her abusive background and the loss of her best friend to suicide at the age of 13.

She told them: "We know not to neglect the spirit, we know what happens when we neglect the body, but can you do a sister a favor, can you consider your mind? The best way to be a good Christian is to be healthy."

After her talk, one of the teens approached Amanda and gave her a big hug. "I just wanted to thank you for coming. I have PTSD from my parents' divorce, and your talk meant a lot to me."

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To have a Brave Faces speaker come share with your school or staff meeting, contact Marc Dadigan at (530) 225-5970 or mdadigan@co.shasta.ca.us.

To learn to recognize the signs someone may be thinking about suicide, go to Know the Signs. 


Previous Brave Faces Blogs 

June 29, 2014 - "Work Helped Make Me Well" - Christopher Speaks to Shasta County Clerical Staff

Sept. 7, 2014 - "Do Not Judge or You Too Will Be Judged"  - Brave Faces Advocate Kimberly Davis Speaks to Burney Presbyterian

Sept. 25, 2014 - "Brave Faces Advocates Dani and Sam Tell Central Valley High Students "Depression is No Joke"