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‘A Mile in My Boots: Combating the Camouflage of Mental Illness’

by Isabella Cenatiempo

Bryan Adams, Assistant Director of Veteran and Military Services for the Rutgers University system, came to Central Connecticut State University to share his personal experiences as a combat veteran and as a college student.

The event took place in the Constitution Room in Memorial Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

Adams is an Active Minds speaker; Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students. All the members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau are trained to educate, entertain and inspire audiences through compelling mental health presentations and personal story telling. Each speaker’s story is unique and sheds light on a range of topics related to mental health.

Through award-winning programs and services, Active Minds empowers the new generation to speak openly, act courageously and change the conversation about mental health for everyone.

Adams’ mental health story began in Tikrit, Iraq in 2004 when he was shot twice during an ambush. He spoke about overcoming depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. After returning home, Adams was awarded the Purple Heart.

Adams was not prepared for how challenging the transition to a college campus would be, he told the crowd.

“It really blows my mind, traveling across the country, at the magnitude of mental health issues in the United States. The statistic our organization uses is that one in four college-aged adults have some type of diagnosed mental health disorder,” Adams said. “That’s a huge issue and it’s something you don’t see a lot of people talking about. It’s very uncomfortable [to talk about] but the only way it’s going to change is if you’re open to talk about it [and] if you try to tear down those stigmas.”

Kate Ayotte, Wellness Program Administrator for Suicide Prevention, spoke at the event about the resources available to students regarding suicide awareness and counseling.

“I just want to highlight our Veteran’s Affairs Office on campus that veterans can utilize. Also, that Student Wellness Services has free confidential counseling, and there is also a veteran’s counseling group that Dr. Jonathan Pohl runs; they meet Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in Vance Hall,” Ayotte said.

At the event, it was stated that suicide is the most preventable death, and CCSU takes pride in training the Central community in “question, persuade and refer,” or QPR. Over two thirds of CCSU athletic coaches, trainers and staff act as QPR gate keepers, as stated at the event.

Signs that a friend could be struggling include: depressed mood, change in sleep or appetite, feeling like a burden, difficulty concentrating, increased risky behavior, isolation from friends and family, self-harm and more, as stated at the event.

Resources at CCSU include Student Wellness Services located in the Marcus White Annex and Victim Advocacy located in Carroll Hall, room 248.

Some off-campus resources include the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 800-273-8255. The crisis text line is 741741. The Wheeler Clinic’s number is 860-747-8484 and the National Hope’s number is 860-784-2458. The Sexual Assault Crisis line is 860-223-1787 and the Trevor Project’s (LGBTQ) phone number is 866-488-7388.

“You can always affect change; don’t ever think that you can’t. If you’re determined enough and you’re organized enough, you can really get a lot of stuff done,” Adams said.