Shelby Mineweaser applied to be an MHA volunteer in Fall 2022. She is a student at UNC Charlotte studying Psychology and first got involved in MHA’s Compeer program to help plan social events for adults living with chronic mental health concerns to reduce isolation and loneliness. Shelby then became an MHA Storyteller to share her own journey with mental health challenges, to end stigma and keep others from feeling alone. In Fall 2023, Shelby completed the QPR Instructor course and is now certified to train alongside MHA Educators.
When I was between the ages of 15-18, I was experiencing suicidal ideation. By the time I was 16, like many teenagers, I got into my parents’ alcohol. At the time, it was mostly peer pressure or feeling like I had to drink to have fun. However, also like many teens, I started experiencing depression and loneliness. What I didn’t know at the time was that alcohol enhanced these feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation. I was terrified of death and knew my main supporter, my mother, would be heartbroken if I died. I never attempted suicide, I just wished someone else would do it for me. Or that the empty pit in me would cease to exist. What I know now is that this is something millions of people experience.
Drowning myself in things that made things worse was barely a temporary release from my pain. Something that no one really talks about is just how depression actually feels mentally and physically. Not only can it be an invisible struggle, but symptoms vary in frequency and severity from person to person. Suicide Prevention Training, QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), is a course I strongly think should be mandatory in schools. I wasn’t educated when I was a teenager and didn’t understand that others felt the same or different ways I could help myself.
QPR teaches numerous ways to cope with these feelings yourself while teaching you how to help others. Recognizing symptoms and what steps to follow next saves lives. Asking uncomfortable and direct questions like, “are you thinking about taking your own life?” Learning how to listen nonjudgmentally and not jump to offering advice or talking about yourself are all skills everyone needs to know and I am so proud that a program like this exists to emphasize self-care, identify and act to help others, knowing resources, and overall spreading awareness, education, and destigmatizing suicide.