Minding Your Mind with Jordan Burnham

This Wednesday we had the absolute pleasure to host mental health speaker Jordan Burnham. Burnham is a man who does not shy away from telling his own personal struggles, and as a result, his presentation was filled with real sincerity.

Burnham carries with him an extensive resume. He’s been featured on ESPN and nominated for an Emmy. He’s been on NBC, addressed Congress, spoken with Dr. Phil, and been featured in documentaries. What resonates most in the hearts of high schoolers, though, is the fact that Burnham is here to tell his story after surviving a suicide attempt out of his 9th-story bedroom window.

Burnham’s deepest struggles with depression occurred during the time all of us are going through right now – high school. These aren’t problems that presented themselves on a mature, weathered mind. He suffered through depression as a kid, the same age as us. His struggle is something that we can therefore relate to, even if we’re fortunate enough not to suffer from mental health disorders.

And it’s very obvious that students could relate. Burnham opened an online Q&A and received 56 heartfelt responses, most of which were from students going through their own mental health issues. Other students mentioned that they knew somebody close to them who was and was asking for them. Such a response was surprising and emotional.

So many anonymous students found a voice through this system. The Q&A shed light on just how many students mental health issues affect. There’s always a lot of talk on how education and support for mental health issues needs improvement – but it’s hard to grasp until listening to Burnham’s incredible story and having the opportunity to see how many students could very deeply relate to it. Burnham’s story is real, and it happens to people everywhere, in every community.

If Burnham had succeeded in taking his life, he wouldn’t be here today to help us. And the life of every person who struggles with depression is worth just as much. The sooner we learn how to reach out, the sooner tragedy can be prevented.

Many students asked questions at the end of the assembly, but Jordan did not have enough time to answer all of them. Here are responses to those unanswered questions

Seeking Help for Yourself: Student Questions
How can you talk to someone if you aren’t 100% sure what’s wrong?
What if you have mental health problems once in a while and you feel like that’s not enough to get a therapist?
I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety; I’ve found it hard to talk to therapists because they are, in a sense, strangers. How do I get over this?
Would you recommend getting a therapist even if you don’t know what’s making you depressed?
What if you’re terrified of talking to a therapist?
What should you do if you can’t afford a therapist?
I’ve suffered with my sexuality for many years now and still do. Should I see a therapist for my feelings?
I’m scared of myself sometimes, I want to reach out and talk about it but I’m afraid that people will judge me.

Response
You don’t need to know “what’s wrong” to start talking to someone about it. The important thing is to talk to someone. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. If speaking face to face feels too hard right now, you can text or email someone. You can choose who the right person is, whether a family member, teacher, friend, school counselor etc. Here are some examples of ways to start the conversation. Remember, the person you are talking to will respond and help the conversation move forward.
Here are some ways to start a conversation:
I’m having a hard time and I need support
I don’t know if what I’m doing/feeling/thinking is good for me
I feel sad/ worried a lot of the time
I don’t feel good, but I don’t know why
I am worried about my friend/parent/etc.
I feel alone

Dealing with Parents/Family: Student Questions
I’m scared to tell my family about my problems. What do I do?
What should I do with a parent who seems to hate me and yells at me?
Who do you talk to about your mental health problems etc. when your family is part of the cause? How do you get help?
Any tips for talking to your parents, I find it hard to tell them how I’m feeling because I don’t want them to feel as if they somehow failed in parenting me.
How does one go about asking their parents to maybe start going to therapy for their serious problems?

Response
Many students worry before talking to their parents because they don’t know how their parents will respond. If you think it will be challenging to get your parents to take you to therapy, if you feel that your parents are a part of the reason you need to talk to someone, or if you think your parents will feel overwhelmed, angry, or dismissive during the conversation, there are adults at school that can help with this process. You can ask your school counselor, social worker, psychologist or any supportive adult to help you open up to your family.

Helping Others: Student Questions
My best friend has panic attacks sometimes. How can I help her feel okay in the moment?
If I know someone with depression, what is the best thing I can do to help them?
What should you do if you think your friend has an eating disorder, but aren’t sure if they do or how to confront them?
A friend of mine has been put in the hospital for mental issues, what should I expect when they get out?
My father was diagnosed with depression. How do I support him without an outrage and progressing into a fight?

Response
Be a good listener, and remind the person that you care about them. Often, being a supportive friend means just being there and sitting by someone’s side during a hard time. It can also be supportive to explain why you are worried and share your own feelings. But, sometimes, problems are bigger than you on your own can handle. If you are worried that your friend or family member does not have the level of support they need, it is important to reach out to someone who can help provide a higher level of support. Your teachers, school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists can help with this.

Suicide and Prevention: Student Questions
How do you keep the feeling of suicide out?
I have had a suicidal attempt and started to think about it again. I want to tell someone about it but I don’t know what to do.
I am bullied a lot and have a lot of suicidal thoughts but I’m scared to talk about it. What do I do?
What do I do if my good friend talks to me about suicide often?
I have had suicidal thoughts before and I don’t like talking about it. What do I do?
How can I can convince someone not to attempt suicide if I know they have had thoughts of it?

Response
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255. No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the Lifeline. People call to talk about lots of things: substance abuse, sexual identity, concerned about a friend or family member, relationships, depression, and loneliness, to name a few.

You can also call these numbers.
Crisis Intervention Services
Dial 2-1-1
National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide Crisis Line
800-237-8255
Trevor Project: LGBTQ Crisis Line
866–488–7386
Or Text the Crisis Text Line from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis.
Text START to 741741

Substance Use: Student Questions
I am 17 days clean. I’m afraid to relapse. Should I be afraid to get help?
I can’t stop vaping. I’m addicted, but when I do it, it makes me depressed because I spend all my money.

Response
Examples of why teenagers use substances (i.e. drugs, alcohol, vaping): to forget their problems
to feel better
to experiment
they feel bored and don’t know how to get “un-bored”
they have trouble relaxing around people
their friends use substances, and they want to feel like they belong in the group
they don’t know of any other ways to deal with negative emotions like anxiety, grief or depression

The goal is to feel better or fit in, but using substances as a coping strategy does not work in the long run. Marijuana, nicotine, and alcohol can negatively affect your brain functioning and lead to issues like long-term anxiety, memory loss and diminished executive functioning (ability to make good decisions). Vaping can lead to respiratory ailments among other lung related health issues.

There are many different options including individual therapy, family therapy, support groups, and treatment centers. Talk to a parent or family member, or an adult at school, and let them know you need support.

For immediate support Dial 2-1-1 → Crisis Intervention Services

Or Text START to 741741 → Crisis Text Line

For more information or resources call 877–726–4727 → SAMHSA

Special thanks to our school psychology intern, Danielle Lee, for helping with these answers.