Jenna Martorana, 23, a Peyton Heart Project Ambassador for Wyomissing, PA
Jenna is from Wyomissing, PA. She will be a Peyton Heart Project ambassador until March 16, 2020. In Jenna’s own words:
I remember being bullied as early as elementary school because I was so small. Back then I would stand up for myself but that changed as I got older and people got meaner. In middle school I remember my teammates in baton would make fun of me behind my back worsening my self-esteem. [In] high school I dealt with bullying the worst. I was still small and skinny and there was a teammate in color guard who would make fun of me saying I was anorexic, which I wasn’t.
My ex-best friend was the worst bully I had ever faced and it makes it even worse when they were your best friend before because they can use all your weaknesses and insecurities against you. My senior year of high school was [a] living nightmare. She was constantly talking about me behind my back, spreading rumors and turning friends and teammates against me. It was basically half of the color guard on her side and half on mine causing a lot of tension. [She] and my abusive ex-boyfriend would stand by my car after band practice and make fun of me to each other. I tried to take my own life multiple times that year because between the bullying, my mental [health issues] and home life issues it was just too much. Unfortunately, we went to the same college where we did color guard and similar behaviors continued. There was a breakthrough point one season where our coach tried to get us to hash things out and I learned that she basically thought I was doing the same things she was except I wasn’t.
My brother was also bullied very badly in early elementary school leading to PTSD. I have witnessed bullying as well when I worked at a daycare, when I interned with a school counselor and as a playground leader. I have dealt with self-harm myself back in high school and middle school except I didn’t know that [what] I was doing was considered self-harm. I have reported some teammates to the counselors back in high school because I was worried about them continuing to self-harm. I have tried to die by suicide 5 times in my life, all by overdosing. I probably never took enough pills for it to work but the intention was still there. The last time I tried to was my sophomore year of college where I was struggling in all aspects of my life especially with my mental health. This was the only time I had to go to a hospital because a friend reported it to the RA who then had to get the police involved. I am grateful for that experience though because I truly realized how badly our society views suicide. I was treated like a criminal, threatened it would go on my record by police if I did not go to the hospital, left stranded at the hospital and had my ID taken from me not allowing me back into my dorm or able to get food from the dining halls until I met with a counselor which was not until the next day. I am trying to change how people see mental [health issues] through my advocacy work to show people that someone with a mental [health issue] is just like them, not a criminal.
I am diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD. I was diagnosed in high school after my one teacher told my mom I was showing up to class crying every morning. I did not really understand what my illnesses were at the time since we did not have a lot of education about them in school. I started medication in high school as well which at the time I was against but now I understand it is no different than someone who is diabetic needing insulin. I am a local titleholder within the Miss America Organization. Each contestant competes on a platform/critical issue of their choice. I knew as soon as I decided to compete that my platform would be directed towards ending stigma of mental [health issues]. Through working with my platform I made a connection with NAMI Bucks County and started working with them. I changed my platform to #CureStigma to continue working with them and other chapters of NAMI including being the Vice President of my college’s NAMI club. Through working with NAMI Bucks County I came into contact with The Peyton Heart Project. I was walking with them at the Out of the Darkness walk in Philly where The Peyton Heart Project had a booth set up.
To me, The Peyton Heart Project means raising awareness for bullying, suicide and mental [health issues] because they are so prevalent while giving some hope to those who need it. I was watching Suicide: The Ripple Effect when the girl behind me got up to leave part way through because she was so upset and I reached into my crown box and pulled out a heart to give her just to make sure she knew she wasn’t alone.
I want to be a Peyton Heart Project ambassador because I have seen how something so small can change someone’s day. It allows me to continue spreading awareness for mental [health issues] by also providing resources on the tag to those who might need it.
I have already started spreading hearts around Berks County whenever I am out and about and by leaving some at local businesses who support the mental health community in Berks County. Once school starts back up I would like to take some hearts to my undergraduate school and my graduate school’s counseling centers to leave for students who might need a little bit of extra hope. I will continue to spread hearts around my county and the counties that I visit so that hopefully someone who needs a heart will find one.