"Stomp Out Stigma" Mental Health Awareness Walk
by Abbi Hicks

Good afternoon.  It’s an honor to be speaking here today.  Thank you for participating in “Stomp Out Stigma” Mental Health Awareness Walk hosted by Sauk Prairie Wellness Alliance.  For those who are unfamiliar with Sauk Prairie Wellness Alliance, we are a coalition of students, staff, and community members that are trying to improve the wellbeing of the community  The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the prevalence of mental illness in our community.  Today marks the beginning of change.  The beginning of hope for those in need.   

First, I wanna talk about why we are here.  I think the main thing is to show that we are willing and ready to do whatever it takes to help students and adults who have mental illness on their path to wellness.   For those who have a mental illness or have been affected by mental illness whether among family or friends, I want to emphasize that we are not oblivious to suffering.  

Many of us, including me, know what it’s like to be in the throes of depression, the constant, endless stream of thoughts of anxiety, the overthinking and overanalyzing of every little irrelevant thing.  I know what it’s like to self harm, to want to kill myself; to hate myself so much that all I can think about is how much of a disappointment I am to myself and the rest of humanity.  I know what it’s like to have true despair, the complete and utter lack of hope that entraps my mind and leaves me exhausted and weak.  I want you to truly hear what I am saying.  People care.  Just look around you.

I know that when I’m really depressed, I don’t care what people think of me.  On the contrary, I think that people don’t even know I exist.  That I’m invisible, a waste of space, and a disease to the human race that needs to be cured.  Sometimes, when we aren’t strong enough to take care of ourselves, we need others to help fight for us.  It took me a long time to learn that and to know that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  There was a point when I thought I wouldn’t make it.  But I fought, and I won.  I’m happy, and alive, and thankful for every morning that I get to wake up again.

I have experienced recovery.  And let me tell you, it feels pretty good.  You know that sip of cold water as it slips down your throat on the hottest day of the summer?  That’s what recovery feels like.  So clear and refreshing.  Even that doesn’t give it justice.  Let that give you hope.  Let that give you courage.  Let that knowledge light the little flame that is inside each and every one of you and let it shine for all to see.  Don’t tear yourself down.  Don’t tear others down.  Don’t let others tear you down.  Instead, build each other up.

Second, I wanna talk about hope. Society is currently facing a very deadly crisis.  Every time we turn on the news, read the newspaper, or scroll through Facebook, there are countless stories about shootings, bullying, and abuse.  That’s all mental health. There is help available.  I know it’s hard to believe when state facilities are overflowing and there are waiting lists for inpatient hospitals and psychiatrists and therapists schedule months in advance.  It’s frustrating and exhausting trying to maneuver your way through the labyrinth of webs created by insurance companies and legal issues.  I alone can’t change that.  It’s going to take time.   

We’ve run into a wall built by these things.  So what do we do about it?  We can break the wall down, tear it apart brick by brick.  It’s going to be a long and hard fight, but we’re ready for it. 

It’s easy to talk about change.  But actually doing it is hard.  Change is a process.  We need soldiers, knowledge, and patience.  Things aren’t going to happen overnight, but we can take the first step now.  We need to create an army fueled by the hope for a better tomorrow.  When we see positive results and feel the support pouring in from all sides, we get excited and push harder and further.  This is what fuels change.  

I’m by no means cured, and maybe I never will be; but I don’t think that being cured is the answer.  I believe the answer is hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow, even when it feels like the nightmare will never end.  Hope that one day, each and every one of us will be accepted for who we are.  

I say to those who are currently suffering- keep fighting.  Keep hoping hope will come, and I guarantee you, it will. You are not alone.  To those who have survived- please don’t be silent.  Spread the hope of recovery.  The only way stigma can release it’s grip on society is for society to stand up, face to face, and fight it.  Talk about the importance of mental health for EVERYONE, not just for those who have a severe, disabling mental illness.  It’s not just for those who have depression or anxiety.  It’s for me, for you, your children, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins.  Young and old alike. 

When I was younger, mental health wasn’t something that we talked about.  Let’s change that.  Now, I don’t think a day goes by without thinking about my own wellbeing or that of someone else. I challenge you to do the same.
We can’t wait to want to.  Just wanting change won’t change anything.  We have to DO something.  And that’s why we’re here today.  

Lastly, I wanna thank every single one of you who took the time out of your day and came to support us.  Thank you for being here.  To me, your presence means I am not alone.  Let’s do this for our ourselves, our friends, family, and humanity.  Thank you. 

Get Connected:


National Suicide Prevention Hotline - Call and talk when in crisis 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Trevor Project - Can call, text, or chat for help

HOPES - Helping Others Prevent and Educate about Suicide

Prevent Suicide WI - Help and resources for WI

SAVE - Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Guide for Suicide Prevention - Warning signs, Prevention, Get Help, and Awareness & Assistance resources.

Youth Suicide Prevention Program-Warning signs and resources for those in need

Teen Line - Teens helping other teens, video clip

Self-Care Printable - Everything is Aweful and I'm Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up

Camp HOPE - Weekend Camp for Grieving Children & Teenagers. 

Understanding Suicide Prevention - A comprehensive Guide. 

A Parents' Guide to Suicide Prevention - How to Support your High School or College Student

The Recovery Village - Personalized Addiction Treatment

Better Addiction Care - Suicide Prevention Help & Resources

Suicide Prevention 
Domestic Abuse Hotline
Eating disorder Hotline
Sexual Abuse Hotline
GLBT Youth Support Line
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline
Suicide Prevention: 
Text "hopeline" to 741741

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