Stand-up to Mental Health

Stand-up to Mental Health

Michelle Brodsky, News Editor

While Iowa State is certainly known for their sports teams, the administration has recently taken steps to also be known for their mental health advocacy. This past Monday, September 16th, former Iowa State basketball player Jake Sullivan spoke about his battle with mental illness. The speech was given at seven o’clock in the South Ballroom of the Memorial Union. Each year, the school schedules a “hope and healing” session, but this year’s event had a much larger turnout than expected.

Sullivan played basketball at Iowa State from 2000 to 2004 and was a three-time All-Big 12 selection, three-time Academic All-American and was voted to the Iowa State All-Century Team. He was also the top free-throw shooter in Iowa State, with an almost ninety percent accuracy from the line.

While Sullivan might have appeared to be cheery from a distance, his accomplishments were coupled with constant mental health struggles. He silently battled both depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder for several years and now wants to be a resource for others. He discussed the steps he took to navigate his challenges and the importance of seeking help and recognizing the symptoms and prevalence of such ailments.

Since graduating from college, Sullivan has become a devout Christian, serving as the pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The formerly suicidal young adult is now a fully functioning father of six. He stated multiple times that if it weren’t for therapy, religion, and constant support he would not be here today.

In 2008, Sullivan and his wife adopted a child from Ghana and soon traveled to Africa in search of ministry opportunities. There he was truly able to grow and embark on his journey to self-discovery. Sullivan believes that there are three components people who suffer from mental illness need to focus on-acceptance, not treating their disease as a curse, and healing. “I just want to show others that it is okay to accept who you are, and that you can think about (mental health) in different lights,” he said.

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from mental illness, and roughly two to three million Americans have been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. An hour prior to Sullivan’s speech, a mental health resource fair was held on the campus in order to educate students and provide resources.

Representatives from ISU Police Department and Student Health Wellness were available to answer questions or to make referrals. The lecture was co-sponsored by Story County Mental Health Expo, the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus and the Committee on Lectures.