Written by Jacob Riceman Chappell
Hello, My name is Jacob. I’m a senior in Math at UW, and I’m writing this for the sake of myself, and for those who I hope may gain reassurance or empathy from it.
I was raised alongside an older brother and sister. My brother, eight years older than me, committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 20. My sister spiraled into mental illness, and was diagnosed with anorexia among a host of other co-diagnoses. After years of varying treatment and stages of recovery, she committed suicide in 2017. She was 21.
I am now 23, older than both of my siblings at the time of their deaths. As you might expect, I have been personally dealing with the struggles of mental illness for the last decade. After a significant amount of time in various modes of therapy and repeatedly experiencing the grief process, I’ve been given, among many other things, unique insight into the effects and causes of suicide.
To the loved ones of those who are struggling, I’ve found that what they need the most are close, loving relationships with other people. Although I don’t want to understate the benefits that professional treatment can have; it isn’t a replacement for interpersonal connection. In order for you to support them, they need to want your support. They must feel safe when you’re around and know that coming to you won’t risk a negative outcome. If you are not able to provide this for them, which can happen for any multitude of reasons that are not necessarily your fault, try to find them someone who can.
To those struggling themselves, you have probably heard every uplifting cliché so many times that they start to lose all meaning; most of which can be summarized by “it will get better.” I don’t think the passage of time always heals absolutely. I will always have scars. But the message I want to get through is that your struggles are surmountable. There are unlimited possibilities for joyous things in the future that you can find if you seek them out, and there are people that are counting on you to bring them the same. Death would be a great disservice to you, and to them. I am proud of you for being here.
Thank you for reading, Jacob Riceman Chappell
Andy Katz: NCAA Reporter/Analyst/Host, Marathon Runner, and Mental Health Advocate
Andy reached out to NAMI-UW in preparation for his most recent marathon, the Chicago Marathon, completed on October 8th, 2023. In combination with his passion for sports and community outreach, Andy has become increasingly passionate about mental health in recent years, prompting his drive to partner with NAMI-UW and our Green Bandana Project.
With his partnership, Katz promised to run his race with a green bandana tied to his running belt in support of UW/s Green Bandana Project. The Green Bandana Project is a wonderful tribute to those at any step in their own mental health journeys, a sign that no one is ever alone in their experiences. By tying a bandana to their backpacks, students aim to spread awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding anxiety and other mental health issues.
In looking towards Andy’s story, he shared with us that his first experience with severe anxiety began around 1995, approximately five years following his graduation from UW-Madison. For over four years, he found himself in and out of doctors’ offices, thinking his symptoms and thoughts of mortality were associated with a potential heart or brain issue. He went through a number of MRIs, CAT scans, even wearing a heart monitor under his shirt while covering a game, checking with the team’s Atlethic Trainer at half time to see if where was anything wrong. But alas, his physical health was perfectly fine. Everything Andy had been experiencing had been panic related.
While Andy shared that his experience with anxiety began primarily in his 20s, he has witnessed friends and family experience its effects for decades, explaining that “It’s time to normalize the condition”. In seeing that the reduction of stigma has come a long way, Andy is the first to recognize that there is a long way to go— especially in the world of sports— “In my sports world, it’s common to say a player has a sprained ankle, but we don’t say player X had to miss a practice or a game due to anxiety or any other mental health crisis — be it long term or acute”. There is such a discrepancy between what is seen as an ‘acceptable’ reason for missing any sort of sports performance, and Andy hopes to be a part of the group to change that.
“The pandemic created a full blown crisis and schools desperately need to hire mental health professionals in droves at all institutions” Andy shared. “We need to be each other’s ally and try to de-stress the world around us”.
Our world is one of many problems, big or small as they may be. While a perfect world may relieve each and every one of us from these stressors, a more appropriate reality is to learn how to communicate about and cope with them in our own time. Each of us has our own path to follow, and with support systems along the way those stepping stones may appear to be even just a bit more attainable. You are appreciated, you are worthy, and you are loved— remember that. Thank you for being here.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.