In Jenna’s own words:
Peyton Heart Project Ambassador Essay: By Jenna Kennally
Personally, I have not been bullied in a long time. I can remember being in preschool and being made fun of on the playground because I was chunky when I was younger. I have witnessed bullying. My brother was bullied for being overweight and quiet. He was quiet because of anxiety and depression; he would write on the bathroom mirror “I want to die”. I also have witnessed bullying in the summer camp I work at. I work in the nurse’s office and many times kids will come in with complaints of a headache or stomach ache and want to go home. After talking to them for a few minutes, we can usually find out that kids have actually been bullying them in their groups and different activities that they go to. I am a crisis counselor for crisis textline and have talked to many texters who were being bullied daily by classmates and had no one to turn to.
I have always felt that everyone deserves to be who they are and do what they want without having to worry about people judging them and bullying them because of it, so for that reason I have not ever bullied anyone. I believe that I have always been very open to anyone, no matter how they look, what they liked/disliked, how they dressed, sexual orientation, religious views, etc.
I personally have self-harmed in the past. I used to cut my ankles and burn my hand and wrists with matches. I have struggled with anxiety and depression as long as I can remember and I was numb, I felt nothing. I have scratched my arms up and snapped my hair elastic against my wrist so many times that it opened the skin. At the time, self-harm was the only way I felt I was able to feel anything at all and I struggled with it for a few years. I have not cut or burned myself in five years, although I do still find myself snapping my hair elastic and even digging my nails into my skin when I am feeling anxious. I have had many friends who have self-harmed, usually with cutting or burning. As a crisis counselor, I talk to many texters who use self-harm as a coping tool for anxiety and depression.
I have never attempted suicide or even been at imminent risk for suicide, but I have had suicidal thoughts in the past. I had no one who I trusted at the time, so I went through those thoughts on my own and no one should ever have to feel that way. To this day, only two people in my life know that I have ever had suicidal thoughts.
As mentioned above, my brother was suicidal in the past, although I was too young at the time to know what to do to help him. I have two very close friends in my life who have made attempts, both survivors and I have a distant-removed cousin who made an attempt and survived. I reach out to all my friends, whether I know they are struggling or not and try to give them the support they need. I want everyone, friend or not, to feel that they have someone who cares and that is what I love most about CTL, I am that person who cares when someone may feel they have no one else; I get to help someone who is similar to how I was in my past so that they hopefully never feel like I ever did, like no one cared.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. At first, I didn’t know that it was anxiety and depression, no counselor ever used those words when talking to me. It wasn’t until years later that a counselor mentioned the names anxiety and depression when talking to me. I have been seeing a counselor since the first grade (14+ years), mostly on and off. Mental illness is in my family. My grandmother is bipolar, my mother has anxiety, depression and is an addict. My father struggles with anxiety and my step-mom struggles with depression, anxiety and alcoholism. My uncle and his wife struggled with mental illness and heroin use, my uncle struggles with bipolar disorder, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction. Many of my friends struggle with anxiety and another handful depression and a few bipolar disorder. I find it important that we all talk about it. The stigma around mental illness has made it so that no one wants to mention that they have a mental illness and suicide isn’t talked about, but I believe it is important that we talk about these things as families and friends. We are a support system for each other and as hard as it is to talk about at times, many of us go through the same thing as the other.
I heard about the Peyton Heart Project on Facebook. I came across the Facebook page and thought that it would be an excellent project to bring to my college community.
To me, the Peyton Heart Project means support. Leaving the hearts with positive quotes and a link to let people know that they aren’t alone is exactly what someone may need in their time of need. Letting someone know that they aren’t alone and that there are support systems for them may be what saves them and everyone deserves to feel that they have someone there for them.
I want to be a Peyton Heart Ambassador to help those around me. So many college students silently struggle with mental illness and are afraid to reach out for support. By spreading the hearts, I hope to be able to save someone, have someone feel supported and maybe even give them the confidence to feel that they are able to reach out for the help they need. I want to end the stigma around mental illness and I want to be able to support my community as we all work to move away from the stigma.
I have the idea to bring the Peyton Heart Project to my college campus (UMass Dartmouth). There, I plan to partner with my school’s chapter of Active Minds and Youths Partnering in Recovery and with those organizations and at their different events on campus, spread the hearts and what the Peyton Heart Project is about to students on my campus. I also would inquire about leaving some hearts in the Student Counseling Center, as well as in other locations around campus, for students to take if they need a positive quote and a heart. By being at different events with other organizations focused on mental illness, I hope to help raise awareness of bullying and mental illness and help to erase the stigma and the silence about these issues that is present in our society.