Max Schachter co-founder of Safe Schools for Alex and a parent who lost a child at the Parkland shooting, asked me to join him last night for a virtual presentation to an AEPi fraternity at a university. The fraternity requested a presentation on mental health in addition to his, so Max reached out to me for the mental health presentation since I am a mental health speaker for universities and schools.
This fraternity has embraced Safe Schools for Alex as a cause and supports the nonprofit with a fundraiser. Both of us made presentations, each on our respective topics–Max on school safety and I did the mental health presentation. It’s called, Diary of a Broken Mind and it’s named after one of the rap songs my son wrote when he was struggling with depression.
Both Max and I have lost a child in a horrific way
Not that there is a “good way” to lose a child. I’m the first to say that losing a child to murder or suicide doesn’t hurt more, because it cannot hurt more, but it’s often more complicated.
Max lost his son Alex to the Parkland School Shooting and I lost my son Charles to suicide. In Max’s case, he had to grieve so publicly with constant media attention. And now that he is often in the spotlight, he gets threats for his own safety. I’ve had my share of threats and trolls but not as many overtly aggressive threats as he’s received.
Mental health is definitely an underlying factor in both suicides and mass shootings
And in self-harm, eating disorders, addiction, and more. We can spot those at risk of acting out against others, themselves, or both if people know what to look for. We can intervene early so I’m always inserting upstream coping skills and empowering young people with strategies to help themselves and others. Max has taken another approach (among many) with his safe schools reporting dashboard, and advocacy work at the government level. A multi-faceted approach is always best and partnership is key to going upstream for preventing the untimely death of our children.
As Max said, “If you see something, say something….”
In my mental health presentations, I took a self-care step
After such an emotionally charged presentation, I feel a bit empty so I request that attendees of my mental health presentations tell me one thing they learned.
In a virtual environment, this is in the chat (in-person this is by index card) and this feedback fills me back up and inspires me. It’s a way for me to take a piece of my audience with me.
Yes, I tell my story but I also offer my audience simple strategies for coping and lessening suffering. Because if they are gracing me with their attention, they deserve solid takeaways they can start using right away.
I was pretty thrilled to get such robust participation. Comments from the AEPi fraternity brothers are below.