I Care, Let's Talk

Mental Health Speaker Inspires Students to Put Mental Health First

The room is packed full of students at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night- so full that extra chairs need to be brought in. They are here in support of Mental Health Awareness Month to listen to Dennis Gillan, mental health speaker and suicide prevention advocate, speak about his mental health journey and inspire people to put their mental health first.
 
Dennis Gillan spent years of his life in a downward spiral after losing both his brothers to suicide at a very young age. It wasn’t until 2010 that he finally decided to break his silence and tell his story. “I was asked to speak at a fundraiser for five minutes and I barely got through it and walked offstage when this woman pointed at me and said, ‘you need to tell that story more often’.” So, he did.
 
He talked about losing his older brother Mark in his junior year of college. And then losing his younger brother Matthew 11 years later. “I was so used to just locking my brothers up into a box and never talking about it.” After accidentally sending a mass email to over 1,000 people talking about the loss of his brothers, Dennis unknowingly started a movement that would change his life forever. “That email ended up connecting me to people in ways I’d never imagined it would.” Thus began his journey as a mental health speaker.
 
Dennis has spoken across colleges, churches, homeless shelters, and businesses all across the country all with the purpose of defeating mental health stigma and inspiring people to get comfortable talking about difficult issues such as mental health and suicide prevention. “Your generation will be the ones to talk about it,” Dennis says, as he addressed Pitt students in the audience. “Being a college student gives you access to all kinds of resources. If you have the tools, use them!”
 
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, the University Counseling Center, located in the Wellness Center in Nordenberg Hall, offers a 24-hour counseling line at 412-648-7930. Other options, such as resolve Crisis Services and Lifeline Chat, are available by UPMC and the National Suicide Prevention Line as resources for emotional support.
 
By: Mehaa Shah