October 7, 2014
Dani Brewster read aloud a passage written by someone deeply hurt and sad, someone who was struggling to see any value in herself and any hope in her future.
“No one wants to be where I am, so why should I stay . . .” she read and then looked up to the 20 students of the Central Valley High School psychology class. “This is an example of something I’ve written when I’ve been depressed and thought about hurting myself.”
Brewster, a well known community educator who works for Women’s Health Specialists and Inter-Tribal Council of California, went on to explain that many people didn’t believe she was suffering from depression because of her outgoing, fun-loving personality.
She as well as 15-year-old resident Sam Hewitt spoke to the class about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts as young people as part of the Brave Faces project, which seeks to reduce stigma and shame associated with mental illness and suicide. Both Dani and Sam told the students to seek help if they start feeling depressed or hopeless.
Dani explained that many traumas throughout her life piled up and created a depression over time. She was bullied at school due to her dark skin and Native American heritage, her sister was killed by a drunk driver when Dani was 12, and she suffered a great deal of rejection from those she loved when she came out at 19 as Two Spirit (a Native American term for someone who is gay, lesbian, transgender or gender variant).
Eventually a caring doctor connected her with a therapist who helped her get on the healing path.
“I always thought counselors were only for crazy people,” she said. “That was the stigma. But it was the counselor who helped me to start to move forward.”
Sam followed Dani and shared how her friend Josh’s suicide death two years ago caused her to feel deeply depressed and suicidal. She said she started cutting because “when there’s pain on the outside, you don’t focus on the inside.”
Sam explained that she missed a lot of school, struggled to find the right balance of medications and didn’t connect with the counselors who tried to help her. Things started getting better when she met her therapist Amy Brom at the Redding Rancheria Tribal Clinic, who, Sam said, would have real conversations with her and encourage her to think about other people’s feelings and views.
Both Sam and Dani discussed the difference between clinical depression and regular sadness, and encouraged students to be there to listen to their friends without judgment and even offer to go with them to seek help if necessary.
“If you or someone is dealing with depression it’s not a joke,” Sam said. “I’m living proof it gets better, but you can’t just wait it out. You need to get help.”
To have a Brave Faces speaker come share with your school or staff meeting, contact Christopher Diamond at (530) 229-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn to recognize the signs someone may be thinking about suicide, go to Know the Signs.