A humbling THANK YOU to the Nebraska Press Women for their strength, support and belief in me. Without them, my columns never would’ve made it to nationals. I also want to thank the HelpCare Clinic for honoring me with this press release. The board and the executive director have been my champions and cheerleaders for the last year.
I also want to say mental health is still clouded by judgement. Those who struggle with mental health like I have often feel alone and I want that to change. It must change!
And I think because of some big hitters in my community, the tide is turning. A few months ago before I left the news industry, I had the opportunity to talk with Scott Johnson about the McKenna’s Rae of Hope Foundation. One afternoon as he was leaving the store, without a thought, he said, “See you guys later, I’m going to counseling.” It shocked shoppers in his store but I fully value what he said next. “It should be as common and normal as saying, “I have a doctor’s appointment.”
Below is the press release and one of the columns that received third place in the nation. And if you want to read more, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PRESS WOMEN AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED (LOCAL WRITER RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL AWARD!)
The National Federation of Press Women selected Heather Riggleman as an award recipient at the 2017 NFPW Communication Contest Awards Banquet which is September 8th in Birmingham, Alabama at the organization’s annual Communications Conference.
KEARNEY: Heather Riggleman of Kearney, Nebraska received third place in the nation for her personal column People Who Need Help Sometimes Look Like People Who Don’t Need Help. She used her platform to talk about mental health and the stigma of depression. Her column received first place in the state of Nebraska before moving on to nationals.
Heather currently utilizes her writing and marketing skills as a Board Member of HelpCare Clinic (the free clinic providing medical and mental health care to uninsured, low income individuals). She left the news industry after five years and currently works at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in the Academic Success Office helping college students leverage their grit to pursue their educational goals.
“Speaking for Heather’s fellow employees here in the Disability Services for Students office at UNK, we are so proud of her and her accomplishment. Also I personally appreciate her expressing her story and know that voices like hers help our students see that there is hope and help through the resources at UNK,” said Dave Luker, Director of Academic Success Department.
“We are so thankful that Heather has joined the HelpCare Clinic Board of Directors! Heather not only has empathy for the clients but she uses her wonderful writing talents to help get our message out.” Cheryl Bressington, Executive Director stated. “Heather is an excellent champion for those dealing with mental health issues and we congratulate her on this prestigious award.”
Heather has three children, Cheyenne, Elijah and Tori-Grace. She is married to her husband Chris of 18 years. Heather firmly believes life should be inspiring. That’s her perspective as she uncovers the wonder of this messy, chaotic but beautiful life and it’s reflected in her writing and her passion for the HelpCare Clinic. She uses her voice to encourage readers to leave behind a fussy way of life for a more soulful way of living. She writes about motherhood, marriage, food, mental health and community. She is the author of “Mama Needs a Time Out”, “Let’s Talk About Prayer” and is currently working on her third book.
Readers can also read the column at www.helpcareclinic.org. For more information on HelpCare Clinic, contact Cheryl Bressington, Executive Director at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes People Who Need Help Look Like People Who Don’t Need Help
Black ink swirled on my arm as Scott’s tattoo gun engraved “Warr;or” into my skin.
I’m weird like that. I get tattoos to commemorate moments. Ink is my thing because it marks me for life.
Later, I posted a photo of my daughter and me soaking in the sun, my new tattoo on display. What I didn’t expect was the dozens of private messages from friends who experienced suicide via the loss of a family member or friend and those who had been in my shoes.
It wasn’t about the word but more about the meaning of a semicolon. When an author could’ve used a period to end a sentence but chose not to, the semicolon means to “continue.” It’s a symbol of Project Semicolon.
The black ink is a reminder of the dusty roads my feet traveled down — some longer and darker than others. Some of those days I was so tired, I couldn’t take another step. There were moments when I took it minute by minute, placing one shaky foot in front of the other.
Here’s the thing, I conquered the black hole of a suicide attempt in college after a series of well-timed events. Through the support of friends, family and a counselor, I fought to get healthy, but I kept silent because of the stigma. I kept it hidden because of the ignorance, criticism and rejection from those who didn’t understand or because their sudden loss was too fresh to bear.
When I talk about it, people act as if I have a case of the chickenpox or that a straight jacket with leggings should be a staple in my wardrobe.
Today, I’m talking about it because our family is reeling from two unexpected losses this week. I’m talking about it because I get it; it makes me sad that the vehicle of depression is picking us off one by one.
I get how afraid we are to say something and the shame that makes us cower in the darkness of our closets. When we hear about a loss, we’re afraid and sad, mostly afraid and shamed.
Nebraska had 220 suicides in 2013. That’s 220 too many. Our rate should be zero.
Nationally, it was the tenth-leading cause of death for all ages in 2013. That means there is one suicide in the nation every 13 minutes. Today it’s number two.
When I hear people talk about mental health, depression or suicide, conversation becomes taboo or the conversation focuses on how selfish that person was for taking the “easy way out.” Believe me, it’s not.
I want to interrupt the conversation and say, “But you don’t have any idea of the heaviness and darkness that weighs on a person. Do you have any idea how intense and destructive depression is? Do you have any idea how the darkness whispers that you deserve it or that it will end the torture?”
Now that I look back, those dusty roads and dark moments taught me I could get through starless nights because if I hung on long enough, I’d see the sunrise.
I rise up, wash my face, and put on my makeup with the message of “Warr;or” reflecting in the mirror. I got up from it and pray you or someone you know is willing to talk about it.