Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
“Mental illness is like air. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is all around us.”
-Katelyn Baker (Co-Founder of Attitudes In Reverse)
After several emails back and forth, SPN Survivors was excited to meet Attitudes In Reverse (AIR) at the Supernatural convention in Washington DC this summer. We both had tables in the vendors room promoting suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and our efforts to make a difference and save lives. Sadly, we’ve both lost a loved one to suicide. We’ve also taken our loss, our pain, and channeled it into “Helping People, Saving Lives, The Family Business”, the SPN Survivors motto.
On Saturday, Nov 14, 2015, SPN Survivors had the privilege of attending the special presentation of AIR’s West Coast Chapter in Pasadena, California. It was an evening of education, reflection, and hope as we experienced the IN THEIR SHOES traveling exhibit (featuring shoes donated by Supernatural’s Gil McKinney, Jared Padalecki, Travis Aaron Wade, and Rob Benedict), enjoyed live music by the Architects of Jazz, remembered our loved ones with a Memorial Candle Lighting Ceremony, and listened to guest speakers Nina Gutin (Clinical Psychologist from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services), Tricia Baker (AIR Co-Founder), Jane Hightower (AIR West Coast Chapter Coordinator), Shauna Moses (Associate Director of New Jersey Mental Health & Addiction Agencies and AIR Board Member) and Jared Padalecki (creator of the Always Keep Fighting movement).
Words cannot express how touched I was that Jared came and spoke at this special event!
Now we need YOU to join us in cultivating a loving and supportive atmosphere by starting LOTS of
Conversations about Good Mental Health!
Did you know that 50% of all mental illness develops by the age of 14, when a young person is starting high school?And that 75% of all mental illness develops by the age of 24? Mental illness does not discriminate and affects every school and every neighborhood across the country. In fact, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness during the time they are preparing for college, moving away from home, joining the military, or attending college, and it often goes undiagnosed for years.
The good news is that mental illness is a health disorder that IS treatable. Education and awareness are essential in early detection, seeking help and realizing “You are NOT alone!” This is why organizations like Attitudes In Reverse are SO important. They go into our middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities (talking to students from age 10 to 24) to start conversations and create community awareness about the importance of good mental health. The goal is to put an end to the stigma attached to mental illness and advocate for treatment and recovery.
In an effort to “Start The Conversation, Reverse An Attitude, Save A Life!” (AIR’s motto), SPN Survivors recently asked Tricia Baker, Co-Founder of Attitudes In Reverse (AIR), to share with us her story, her passion, and her family’s dedication to Always Keep Fighting.
“From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story.” – Fr. Craig Scott
SPN Survivors: Tell us the story behind Attitudes In Reverse. How did it get started?
Tricia: The words Attitudes In Reverse (AIR) was coined by my daughter Katelyn, after the loss of her brother, and the discrimination she had to battle due to her brother’s illness and death.
Her brother, Kenny, lived for over 3 years with a mental health disorder. Katelyn watched Kenny being judged and criticized by people who had no understanding of his illness. Before his first break, Kenny was an honor student, a star swimmer, a life guard, a friend to many, a kind brother, and a loving son. He had the world at his feet, until the age of 15 when his illness hit.
It was difficult to find him help. He was at the highest level of state care but we could not get help. Many at the school thought he was not really sick, after all mental health disorders are invisible illnesses. People at the school, both students and educators called him lazy and judged and criticized him without understanding what depression and other mental health disorders are and the impact they have on the human body.
We believe, if only people were kinder to him, were more compassionate, more understanding and educated, there would have been a good chance he would still be alive today.
AIR was born out of the most horrific loss, the loss of a son. The loss of a brother. We vowed as a family that no child should have to struggle with an illness, and battle the stigma of that illness. We have vowed to educate youth so that no one is ever embarrassed or afraid to seek treatment. Attitudes In Reverse educates youth so they know there is hope for healing.
Jared Padalecki’s Always Keep Fighting movement embodies what the Baker family has lived for the past 10 years. First, it was fighting to keep a child alive. Then it was fighting to keep a second child healthy and in school. We didn’t know that the high school was going to let Katelyn graduate until 12 hours prior to graduation. Finally, Attitudes In Reverse fights daily to get into schools, battling stigma, to save young lives.
SPN Survivors: Your website states, “The mission of AIR Attitudes In Reverse is to educate society about mental health.” Tell us about AIR’s programs and projects and how you are accomplishing this goal.
– Coming Up For AIR Student Presentation Program
The AIR student presentation is mental health education geared towards middle school, high school and college aged students. It is a peer-led multimodal presentation: powerpoint, video, interactive discussion. It can be 45 to 60 minutes, depending upon class length, and can be offered during Physical Education, Health, Science, Studies/Humanities classes.
- What is a mental illness? What is not?
- Stereotypes about mental illness
- The prevalence of mental illness
- Possible warning signs
- Possible effects of improperly-treated mental illness.
- One or two short stories of families affected by mental illness and/or suicide.
- Warning signs of suicide and statistics.
- Myths vs. Facts regarding suicide
In just under 5 years, Attitudes In Reverse® has educated over 22,000 students, in three states, NJ, NY and VT. AIR™’s Coming Up for AIR program educates students so that they know there is no shame in asking for help, and that there is hope for healing.
– AIR ™Attitudes In Reverse® Wristbands
Our latex wristbands colors are Green, signifying Children’s Mental Health, and WHITE, representing HOPE that one day stigma will be gone. On the outside of the wristband are the words: AIR AttitudesInReverse.org. Anyone who wears the wristbands, gives a visual cue to ALL that they are approachable, and will not judge or criticize. They will listen and assist in however they can.
At DC Con in July, we gave away over 500 wristbands and now we give away approximately 1,000 wristbands at every Supernatural convention we attend. We are also starting many conversations about good mental health.
– AIR™ Attitudes In Reverse® T-shirts
Our annual high school and college age student t-shirt design contest is going on NOW. First prize is an iPad. Winning design is produced. All AIR™ volunteers get a FREE AIR Shirt in appreciation of their work and efforts of starting the many conversations that the best suicide prevention plan is a good mental health awareness program.
In 2014, our second place winner was a young person who entered the contest while in a residential treatment facility. She came to our event to receive her prize, and saw over 600 people wearing her design on their t-shirts. She was overwhelmed to tears, as she had never won anything before in her life.
AIR’s T-shirts have not only traveled across the US but have traveled across the globe to Australia, England, and Saudi Arabia.
– IN THEIR SHOES™ Traveling Exhibit
– Youth Mental Health First AID (New for AIR™ in 2015)
Instruction for parents, teachers or any adult who works with children, to help identify early warning signs of mental health disorders in our youth. This national program, developed in Australia, is endorsed by President and Michelle Obama.
– Annual Scholarships
Two annual scholarships are given to a graduating seniors. One at our local high school, for their bravery in making societal change. The second is given to a Senior swimmer on Kenny’s former swim team to the swimmer who has overcome significant challenges.
AIR is a small army of passionate people, who truly believe that we can make a difference in the world. We are ALL volunteers, and all Attitudes In Reverse work is done in our “spare time”.
SPN Survivors: Over the past couple of months we have been helping someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety and other “invisible illnesses” find a service dog, so I am especially interested in your Paws for Minds Program. Please tell us more about how this program is changing people’s lives for the better.
~ AIR Dogs: Paws For Minds Program People Saving Dogs. Dogs Saving People TM
In 2012, AIR™ began its program providing emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs to people in need; AIR Dogs: Paws for Minds. Our hope is to locate really great dogs in shelters and match them up with a human partner who suffers from some mental health issue. To date we have placed 10 Emotional Support Dogs and 1 working service dog. AIR Dogs pays for any shipping costs of the animal, provides financial support to the foster family, pays for veterinarian and grooming expenses and assists the owner financially with training. AIR Dogs will pay for 1 year of training to have the dog certified as an emotional support dog. We placed a working service dog to a young woman for no cost.
Our hope is to also be able to provide foster care to AIR Dog owners, should they require long term residential treatment. One little dog spent 8 months with a foster mom, while his real mom was getting well. Knowing that this little dog was waiting for her when she got home, inspired her to work harder at getting well.
AIR Dogs: Paws for Minds Program has been involved with Rutgers University in a study showing the healing affects that therapy dogs have on children with autism. http://ruffloveus.wordpress.com/
SPN Survivors: Are there any special events or fundraisers coming up you’d like to tell us about to help spread the word about Attitudes In Reverse?
– Join The AIR Revolution Event(s)
AIR launched their West Coast Chapter in Pasadena, CA in November 2015 and we are very thankful to all those who attended. Annually California loses 452 young people, ages 10-24, and 354 of these are young men. The need is great to Start The Conversation, Reverse An Attitude, Save A Life!
I am currently discussing new chapters in Minneapolis, Western PA, and Phoenix, AZ thanks to the SPN Family and the Always Keep Fighting campaign.
You can email [email protected] if you would like to help.
– Annual Miki & Friends: Walk/Run for AIR
A Day Celebrating How Dogs are Good For Our Mental Health is always celebrated the third Saturday in May. The purpose is to reach the 75% of the population who have no idea how difficult it can be to live with a mental health issue. Education will lead to understanding, kindness and empathy. We reach this part of society through their dogs. This event is an awareness event, and a fund-raising event.
– Warm AIR for Winter
In late November/early December we will be hosting Warm AIR for Winter. It has become our new holiday tradition to collect socks, and other warm items, and deliver them to patients in mental health facilities so no one feels alone through the holidays. Sadly, 70% of people in psychiatric hospitals never get a visitor.
For Christmas of 2014, we collected over 600 pairs of socks in only three weeks. My husband, Kurt, and I took therapy dogs and on Christmas Eve, we visited the people at the Eating Disorder Unit at a hospital, delivering socks. On Christmas Day, we delivered over 500 pairs to patients at the local mental health hospital. We also collected sweatshirts, hats and gloves, and some of the people in these facilities are homeless. Our therapy dogs Miki and Luna brought smiles to so many on Christmas Day.
Moving forward, we are not only looking for donations (especially men’s socks) but encouraging others to search out their local psychiatric hospital to run their own collection. I would LOVE if we could make this a national program reaching as many people in hospitals as possible.
If you would like to donate or help Attitudes In Reverse in any way, please visit their website for more information.
Original photo courtesy of www.mattcohen4real.com
My first introduction to Matt Cohen was as young John Winchester on the CW’s TV show Supernatural. My second introduction was at a Creation Entertainment Salute to Supernatural convention in Chicago. It was a Friday night, Matt was dressed as a carrot, and he joined me in the audience to sing part of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” during Dick & Matt’s fabulous Karaoke Party. That weekend, Matt made a lasting impression on me, to say the least, but it is his #you campaign on Instagram and Twitter (@mattcohen4real) that has had a tremendous influence on my life, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Some of the quotes and sayings that Matt has shared via #you have encouraged me, made me laugh, made me cry, and inspired me to be brave and to keep moving forward during difficult times. Because of this, I started to wonder what inspired Matt to start his #you campaign and so . . . I asked him.
SPN Survivors: From my perspective, #you puts a smile on thousands of faces around the globe on a regular basis and inspires them to be better people. Could you please tell me the story behind the ”#you campaign” with your Instagram and Twitter accounts? How did it get started? What inspired you to start helping and inspiring others with something as simple as #you?
Matt: As I tell many of the fandom members the #YOU campaign is far more selfish than it comes off to be. It started with me talking to myself. I would get sad or depressed or discouraged and I would find a quote that was inspiring or uplifting and I would post it to #you, being me. It was and continues to be my way of self motivation and self happiness. I am now to the point where I see how many people I help with the #you posts and I need it! I need it for my own happiness, for my own well being! Everyday I awake I feel a huge urge to help someone so that I can help myself. A lot of my strength and positivity comes directly from the fans. By me inspiring them, they are unknowingly inspiring me.
SPN Survivors: Tell me about #You Day. What was your motivation to create this day? Was it “a call to action” for your fans? A way to bring all those quotes and sayings to life? I thought your birthday was an interesting choice. A day that is normally a celebration of YOU and YOUR life was turned into a celebration of #You. Was that your point? Do you plan to do it again?
Matt: I cannot take any credit for the #you day idea. I was on twitter and I saw a fan made a really cool piece of artwork featuring me and the #you tag. It was their unique post that inspired me to do a day of good deeds on a day that is all about self. The post had my birthday on it so I just helped promote the fans idea of having a #YOU DAY on September 28th! I plan on doing it every year. It was an amazing experience.
SPN Survivors: Ralph Waldo Emerson states, ”It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Do you feel this is true? Has #you proven it to be true? I never knew how true that statement was until I created SPN Survivors and find myself amazed by this “beautiful compensation”. How would you describe “this compensation”?
Matt: I have to refer to my answer [from the 1st question]: Everyday I awake I feel a huge urge to help someone so that I can help myself. A lot of my strength and positivity comes directly from the fans. By me inspiring them, they are unknowingly inspiring me.
It wasn’t until my deep involvement with the SPN fandom that I was able to figure out what I am and what I am here for. It also wasn’t until I was about 28 or 30. Over the past few years being hands on with a fandom that accepts me for me, has given me all the happiness in both my professional and personal life. I have come to realize that establishing a voice thru the entertainment industry I can, in turn, have a voice to inspire and uplift thousands of other people. We are all here to teach, help, and care for one another and now I know that.
SPN Survivors: “Family don’t end with blood” and #SPNFamily are fan favorite motto’s. What do they mean to you? Has your definition of family changed or broadened since becoming a member of the SPN Family? ~ And speaking of family, how exciting to be expecting your first child!! Congratulations!
Matt: Yes, I come from a very broken home and really have no blood family left outside my dad and half bro and half sis. That being said, I am as rich as a man can be with family. Blood means nothing to me. The people I love and would do anything for are immense in numbers now. SPN has given me friends and family that will grow old with me and that is a beautiful feeling. I am excited to be welcoming my son into this lovely and caring world of unique and passionate people that I call family.
SPN Survivors: I have seen and heard stories, on numerous occasions, of how Supernatural (the show/the fandom) has saved a fan’s life, changed their life for the better, or in my case, helped them through a very difficult time. How do these stories impact you? Are there any that have really resonated with you that you would like to share?
Matt: The show has proven to bring people together and make new friends. That being said, I think it is wonderful to meet and hear the stories of the friends that have become roommates and co-workers from all over the world. I’ve shared stories with suicidal folks and cutters etc. and we try and find a way to heal together. It is not always easy and I may not have any effect on the people I talk to, but I have to try. There are many stories of success that I have heard from fans helping each other and that really makes SPN something special because at the end of the day it’s SPN that brought us all into each other’s lives.
SPN Survivors: The SPN Family frequently rallies behind causes and charities that the cast and crew support. I plan to list these charities and events on the SPN Survivors website to help with awareness, to inspire others to get involved, and to encourage the SPN Family to support one another. I’d like to spotlight a different charity each month. Are there any organizations or charities that you would like to spotlight and promote?
Matt: I help Random Acts anytime I can. Misha is a great guy and I love what he does there.
SPN Survivors: I couldn’t agree more about Misha being a great guy. Random Acts is doing wonderful things at www.randomacts.org as they pursue their “mission to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time”.
And finally, I wanted to bring the interview full circle and ask: Are there any quotes or sayings that really speak to you, Matt, when you are struggling?
Matt: There is only one:
Follow Your Destiny, Wherever It Leads You
There comes a time in your life when you realise that if you stand still, you will remain at this point forever. You realise that if you fall and stay down, life will pass you by.
Life’s circumstances are not always what you might wish them to be. The pattern of life does not necessarily go as you plan. Beyond any understanding, you may at times be led in different directions that you never imagined, dreamed, or designed. Yet if you had never put any effort into choosing a path or tried to carry out your dream, then perhaps you would have no direction at all.
Rather than wondering about or questioning the direction your life has taken, accept the fact that there is a path before you now. Shake off the “whys” and “what ifs” and rid yourself of confusion. Whatever was – is in the past. Whatever is – is what’s important. The past is a brief reflection. The future is yet to be realised. Today is here.
Walk your path one step at a time – with courage, faith and determination. Keep your head up and cast your dreams to the stars. Soon your steps will become firm and your footing will be solid again. A path that you never imagined will become the most comfortable direction you could have ever hoped to follow.
Keep your belief in yourself and walk into your new journey. You will find it magnificent, spectacular, and beyond your wildest imaginings.
by Vicki Silvers
SPN Survivors: As I’ve said before, #You has helped keep me motivated to bring SPN Survivors to life, even though doing so can sometimes be emotionally overwhelming. Thank you, Matt, for supporting me! Your kindness is greatly appreciated. But most of all . . . Thank #You for being YOU!!!