Break the Silence: A Presentation by JD Schramm




On Thursday, March 15, various organizations on FHSU’s campus and in the Hays community made it possible for JD Schramm, a Hays native, to speak about a topic that can make people uncomfortable: mental illness and suicide. Schramm traveled from California, where he is employed at Stanford University, to speak to FHSU students, faculty, staff, and community members about breaking the silence when it comes to mental illness and suicide prevention.

In his TED Talks, Schramm goes into detail about the night that changed his life forever. On June 11th, 2003, Schramm climbed onto the Manhattan Bridge and jumped into the waters below. It is only by a true miracle that he survived and now lives without any physical disabilities. During his recovery, Schramm realized that resources weren’t as available for people like him and so many others. Research shows that even though 19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide will fail; however, of those 19 people, they 37 times more likely to try again, and succeed.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental illness, it can be hard to understand what those thoughts or feelings are, but Schramm used an analogy that the people of Hays could understand: brush fires.

Schramm explained there are preconditions for brush fires, or in this case, a suicide attempt. Those preconditions may be addiction or a mental illness. He went on saying the only way for a brush fire to start is by a catalyst, and Schramm’s catalysts were his struggles with addiction to crack cocaine, he was behind on his mortgage payment, he had just gotten his third DUI, and the death of his mother. All of these things put together pushed Schramm into making his decision, which ended up being a turning point in his life.

For those struggling with mental illness and suicide, Schramm has five tips:

  1. Embrace vulnerability. Schramm says that being vulnerable can transform the way you live, and vulnerability “is the birthplace of love, joy, belonging, and empathy.” Schramm explains that it’s okay to worry what others think about you, but you have no reasons to obsess over that.
  2. Eliminate shame from your experience. After Schramm’s attempt, he immediately felt shameful that he failed, and he asked the hospital staff taking care of him to not contact his family. One important thing Schramm said was that “with guilt, we think we’ve done something bad, but with shame, we think that we ARE bad.” Schramm says that it is okay to feel guilty for a little while, but don’t let that guilt turn into shame.
  3. Spend your time with people who are winning. Schramm explains that it’s important to surround yourself with people who have what you want, even if those are not material things.
  4. Practice good mental hygiene. Schramm explained that to keep his mind at ease, he would often journal. But keeping a good mental hygiene can be done in various ways such as working out, doing yoga, reading, going for walks, journaling, and even meditation.
  5. Practice dialogue. Schramm says that it’s important to have those hard conversations, and it’s also important to have easy conversations. One thing that Schramm is an advocate for is breaking the silence on mental illness and suicide, and he hopes that one day we won’t even need people to come and speak on suicide awareness because the conversation will be had naturally.

When someone is experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts, it is easy for them to feel isolated from the world around them, and that is how Schramm felt at times in his life. Schramm explains that to help these feelings, he wished someone would have “looked me straight in the eye and told me that they’ve been there.”

Schramm says that it is important to “surrender,” and this does not mean surrender to the part of you that wants everything to end, but surrender to the people who are trying to help you. He encourages that we “look what we have in common,” rather than looking at our differences with one another.

Because of the lack of resources for suicide attempt survivors, Schramm made it especially important to give two websites to the audience: and Part of Schramm’s mission is to make talking about mental illness and suicide an easier conversation, and he is making sure to break the silence.

If you or anyone you know is experience depression and suicidal thoughts, help is always available.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Kelly Center: 1-785-628-4401
Crisis Textline: 741-741

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