by Sophia Contreras
Central Connecticut students and faculty listened in on motivational speaker Dennis Gillan, who shared his personal experience with mental health and suicide, hoping to remove the stigma of publicly discussing mental health.
CCSU fraternity Phi Delta Theta and the Student Government Association sponsored the “Dennis Gillian On Suicide” event on Monday, April 2.
Gillan lost two brothers to suicide and suffered through his own mental health issues. In his introduction, Gillian was described as a person who “kind of recovered from mental health.” Gillan said he used the words “kind of” because he recognizes that mental health is not an issue that goes away; instead, it is an issue that people must consistently work on to avoid falling into a dark mental state.
“Everyone in this room is recovering from something,” Gillan said.
Gillan then went on to discuss the importance of examining one’s mental health, as well as one’s personal coping methods and warning signs.
Gillan lost his older brother Mark to suicide in 1983, at the time Gillan was a junior at West Virginia College. Gillan said that he wishes that he had visited his school’s mental wellness office.
After the loss of his older brother, Gillan and his younger brother, Matt, became close and the two began to excessively drink together. Matt took his life in 1994, 11 years after Mark.
Gillan began to tear up while he recounted the story of losing his two brothers. Gillan wished he knew about the warning signs of suicide earlier because he realized his brothers were showing warning signs.
The day after his younger brother’s wake, Gillan made a promise to himself to stay sober.
“I am 8,657 days sober. If you’re going through something, I want you to go through it sober,” Gillan said. “I know I can’t tell you not to drink, I get it. But if you’re going through something, get sober and get in front of that wellness center [for a clear mind and recovery].”
After losing his brothers, Gillan became an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness and began to volunteer for the suicide hotline in Chicago. Gillan shared his experience while at the hotline and commended rapper Logic for his song “1-800-273-8255.”
“If you’re living in a dorm with roommates, you might not want them hearing what you’re going through, but now you can text TALK to 741741, [which is the suicide hotline],” Gillan said.
Gillan listed signs of suicide during his presentation, some of which included sleeping too little or too much, talking about feeling hopeless, feeling withdrawn or isolated, having extreme mood swings, an increased use of drugs or alcohol and behaving recklessly.
“What I hope [students] took away from tonight are the warning signs, as Dennis said, they are easy to point out and [addressing them] could change the course of someone’s life,” Albert Yaldeh, president of Phi Delta Theta, said.
On-site counseling was available during and after the event for students who might have felt distressed during the discussion.