“X” Marks the Spot for Mental Health

September 5, 2023

Brandarius Johnson knows the importance of mental health, especially among students. The Fort Lewis College alum visited Durango School District 9-R before the start of the school year to discuss how to talk to students - especially pre-teens and teens - about mental health. Johnson, a published author, runs several programs through his organization Day 1 Ambition. By Hannah Robertson and Connor Shreve. This story is sponsored by Tafoya Barrett and Associates and Happy Pappy’s Pizza & Wings

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The topic of mental health and mental health awareness is ever evolving, but the importance of talking about the best ways to approach it cannot be understated. In preparation for the 2023-24 school year, Durango School District Nine, our staff and teachers gathered for a presentation by Fort Lewis College alum, Brandarius Johnson, on the importance of mental health. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Tafoya Barrett and Associates and Happy Pappy's Pizza N Wings. I'm Connor Shreve.

Before my senior season here at Fort Lewis, June 27th of 2014, I lost a very close friend to suicide. And in that moment I made decision to speak and advocate for mental health and suicide for the duration of my life. And, you know, I develop a personal philosophy in that moment that every day was day one, because yesterday was gone and tomorrow was a mystery for me. So every day I pick myself up with the concept that every day is day one, which means I would give everything I had in the moment.

On the football team at Fort Lewis College, Johnson had practiced talking to his teammates before and after games and was familiar with the challenges of being a student athlete. After the loss of a friend, Johnson began sharing his everyday is day one mentality with friends and family, both in person and on social media and his mental health advocacy took off from there.

For me, personally, my goal is to help other people evolve. That's my acronym for HOPE. But in short, I like to live a life of contribution. I want to take the calling and serve and, you know, start the conversation in as many places as I can about mental health, perseverance, suicide prevention and personal development. That's how I plan to live my life.

Johnson, who graduated from FLC in 2015 with a degree in Sociology and Human Services, is now an accomplished speaker, mental health advocate and a published author. His nonprofit, Hope to Give, offers programs aimed towards teens and pre-teens and teaches resilient methods and encourages conversation around mental health.

Before I experienced suicide, it was just something that you heard of. When I experienced it, I realized that this is real. I also realized that I wasn't the first person to experience it, and I wouldn't be the last, but I would do anything and everything in my power to keep the conversation going. To speak to those who may be experiencing depression or anxiety, just to be a reminder to them that it's not the end. The story doesn't have to stop there.

About a year ago, Johnson created a new addition to his programs, EXHALE, as a different way to approach discussions surrounding mental health.

And the way my mind works, I went to E, like, evaluate. Evaluate where you are, evaluate who you are. And then I thought to myself, once you complete your evaluation, where are you trying to go? 'Cause I'm all about helping other people evolve and taking 'em from where they are to where they aspire to be. So X is, like, mark the spot. I need you to identify where you at and then identify where you need to be. And then for H, heart, I read once that courage is an extension of heart. So I know you got to be courageous to go for what you believe. You got to be courageous and you got to have heart to get up from that hard time. You got to have heart and courage to believe in yourself. The A, your attitude. I believe your attitude is one of the most important things that you have control over. That was a no-brainer for me. L is love 'cause I feel, like, you have to love yourself.

Johnson's books, programs, engagements and more are listed online and on his Instagram. You can find more information about this and other stories at durangolocal.news. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.


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