(reflective music) - When I was little, I genuinely thought that I would not make it past the age of 16.
And then, when I got to 16, I was like, oh, my god.
I actually made it to this age.
I'm kind of like, well, where is this gonna go?
'Cause I'm happy and excited to see my future.
(reflective music) - We're here to get to the hope and healing of it all, but if you're at home, watching, I want you to take care.
If you are considering suicide or if you or someone you know is in an emotional crisis, please call or text 988.
Before we get started, I wanted to ask you all, who still struggles to feel balanced and healthy at times?
I think everybody, everybody struggles with balance.
I don't think balance is a real thing.
I mean as much as we strive for it and everybody tries for it, there's gonna be ups, there's gonna be downs, and we're just on a rollercoaster.
- I look at balance as movement.
So one of the things that I love to do to move my energy around is dance.
So if I'm sad- - Physically moving.
- Physically moving.
That's how I sort of ebb and flow with my moods.
- Makes me think about when I got into music.
It was just depression.
It was something that I would do, and then it would just take my mind off of it.
When I'm working on music, I'm not thinking about the past.
I'm not really thinking about some event that's causing me to feel down.
So I think finding a positive outlet, whether it is something creative, whether it is maybe a sport, maybe it's exercise, I think is incredibly important.
- And a lot of people say it in psychology classes, as well, 'cause I'm a psychology major, how progress and healing and all of those, growth, is not linear.
It can always go in different directions.
You can also take steps back.
No direction or steps are wrong.
You just go through them and it's okay if it goes a different direction than you thought it would.
But it's still some form of progress.
- Yeah, I feel like, as an individual with mental health problems, it is a constant balancing act, essentially.
You just kinda get better at it as you go.
I believe that there's learning to live with yourself in a positive way and being able to accept yourself.
And I'm still absolutely working through some of these, like the PTSD and the flashbacks, anxiety attacks.
At a very, very early age, around the age of six, I started being sexually harassed by a family member of mine.
I didn't say anything until I was around eight.
It impacted me heavily.
After I was eight, I started to develop depression, too little to realize it at the time.
And then, kind of when I got to middle school, that's when sexual assault happened with someone who I genuinely thought loved me.
It affected me cognitively, like in my personal cognitive development.
For example, in middle school, I also developed an eating disorder.
Nobody took that seriously.
Nobody took my PTSD seriously.
And I was kind of disregarded, so I just had this feeling of being put off to the side and kind of being worthless, that not a whole lot of people cared that I was struggling.
First time I was hospitalized, I was 12.
Second time, I think I was 14, and that was a serious attempt, and then I realized that I should definitely, absolutely, get help.
Once I got more into dialectical behavioral therapy, it saved my life, 'cause you're learning all of these skills to help manage day-to-day things, especially with managing symptoms, too, 'cause a lot of the times it can get really overwhelming and almost debilitating.
(reflective music) I've been through a lot of therapy, and I've learned throughout the years how to balance these emotions and how to kind of process through my day-to-day life and being able to identify different things that may impact me in different ways.
- So we've talked a lot about what we struggle with, those deep thoughts that evoke those deep emotions.
I wanted to change it up a bit.
What is a strength that you've learned about yourself through that?
- I wanna say resilience.
So the first time I've ever heard of the word was when my mom said it, and she gave me an analogy of a ball, where they drop, but they also come back up.
So the process of coming back up is the resilience part.
She also told me that people who go through those really, really hard things that maybe not everybody goes through, everybody has such a strong resilience that not many people even have the opportunity to even develop.
- I think a strength that I learned about myself is that I can be my best friend if I let her in.
Like if I stop focusing on the criticizing part of me, when I let that person in, she's really dope.
She is like my hype person.
If I feel like I'm down on myself, it is also that same self that can help me get through it.
- I think emotional intelligence is something that I gained from it, recognizing that sometimes my emotions don't always connect correctly with my thoughts.
Now when I'm able to recognize that, I can verbalize it and I know to ask for help, I need to see a therapist, I need to talk to somebody.
- For me, I've learned that all of these things and experiences that I've been through helps me read, recognize and help other individuals.
I like knowing how to read people and kind of pick on on other people's energies and things like that, which helps me bond with a lot more people pretty easily.
A majority of the time, when I share my story, it's through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
I am in the Ending the Silence program.
So I'll go to different high schools and present to various people, things like that.
One thing that I've really, really noticed that's the most impactful is when I do family-to-family sessions.
Family-to-family is essentially family members who are trying to understand their kid with mental illness.
They just don't understand and can't connect with it, but they wanna help.
And so when I tell my story, it brings up questions that are genuinely helpful for them to ask and kind of embody when interacting with this person to be helpful.
(reflective music) - Why do you share your story?
Why are you telling it?
- I wanna acknowledge the little Laurel who needed this, who needed representation, who needed to be heard and needed to have validation or someone to reach out and be like, I understand.
I get it and it's gonna be okay.
Even though I knew that I wasn't alone, I wasn't, it didn't hit me that I wasn't alone, 'cause you hear that all the time, when you have mental illness, that you're not alone.
It's like, okay, cool.
Heard it a thousand times.
Doesn't impact me.
But being able to recognize everything that little Laurel went through and knowing that I could help other individuals, that's what does it.
- I feel the same way.
I know there's a seven-year-old out there or 15-year-old queer kid who's Asian, and they are going through queer phobia in their community or they can't talk to their parents about it, or people who are going through things that I went through.
- I think it's 'cause part of us sees ourselves in other people, and so we all just assume that there is somebody out there that needs to hear the message.
- I think I share my story because it's important for people to see someone that looks like them, see someone who's been through what they've been through.
But also, it's important for people to see a professional be vulnerable, because there's a stigma around sort of the stoic, how does that make you feel?
And I'm here to destigmatize and root for people to go to therapy, to work through telling of their narrative.
But I am grateful for my adversity, because my adversity has made me who I am today, and without my adversity, I don't know who I'd be, and I like who I am.
I like who I am and I like living.
Is there any last words that you want to give to the people watching?
- I would say mental health is like driving a yacht, not a boat.
- When you're gonna turn, it takes a long time.
It's not always overnight.
- If you are watching this, you already took that first step.
- So I am just incredibly proud of whoever is watching, whether you are watching for yourself or for other people, for your loved ones.
You are already helping the society and the communities, breaking stigma and initiating the conversations and supporting and getting support.
- I'd like to say, whoever's watching this, is that it's hard to overcome stigma.
It's really hard, but knowing that you're valid and all of your emotions are valid and what your pain is going through is valid.
Don't compare yourself, your pain, to any other person's pain.
- Do I have any final words?
It's just show up authentically as you.
You, who is feeling sad, you, who is having suicidal thoughts, you, who is happy living your best life.
If everyone is okay, can we hold hands?
- Are you okay with touching?
- Are we going for this or are we doing this?
- Okay, this way?
- I wanted to say thank you so much for being here today and sharing your experiences and your story.
And guess what.
You are here today and you're alive.
I hope that you all can be proud and thankful for yourselves.
Thank you so much.
Sadly, the numbers tell us that suicide will most likely touch our lives in some way, whether that is through family, friends, coworker, and it can feel challenging, but we can't ignore it.
Just like any other form of illness, it needs care and attention and it can be managed with professional and preventative measures.
But that means we need to be talking about our mental health in the same way that we talk about heart disease or cancer, without judgment or shame.
Watch more of our discussions here on the PBS YouTube channel and watch the "Facing Suicide" documentary on pbs.org or the PBS Video App.