Ross Szabo to Speak About Mental Illnesses Oct. 1

Photo of Ross Szabo

Ross Szabo, director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, will speak at Southeast Missouri State University Oct. 1 in connection with Alcohol Awareness Week activities.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Sept. 11, 2007 – Ross Szabo, director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, will speak at Southeast Missouri State University Oct. 1 in connection with Alcohol Awareness Week activities.

Szabo is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. in the Show Me Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Over the past five years, he has spoken to more than half a million young people about mental health issues. Szabo, who graduated with honors and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from American University, has reached millions more through features in Parade and Seventeen magazines and with appearances on CNN, MTV and CBS. His presentation was turned into a television program titled, “What’s On Your Mind?” by PBS.

Szabo looks fairly normal at first glanceᾰhe seems to have everything going for him. But, between work, extracurricular activities, and the pressures that come with being young, he has been dealing with something bigger. At 16, Szabo was diagnosed “bipolar with anger control problems and psychotic features.”

Szabo brings a new approach to speaking about mental illnesses and related problems with his experience, energy and youth.

“When I speak, I am not speaking only about meᾰI am speaking about a generation. The older generation was quiet about mental illness. It is time for us to stop losing to old ways of dealing with mental health issues and start winning the battle,” Szabo says.

He maintains that communication must come first, and, more specifically, communication about the stereotypes that society places on mental illness as well as the expression of thoughts, feelings and emotions.

“Stereotypes are doing a lot of damage to people of our generation and we are losing the battle each time we lose a life needlessly,” Szabo says. “Stereotypes prevented me from telling people that I was having trouble. I wanted to fit in as a teenager and I felt that people would view me as weird or weak if I admitted that I could not deal with my problems. Thinking like this almost killed me.”

Szabo’s personal story is both powerful and educational. His candid conversation frames mental health in real life language and examples and leaves participants with a genuine understanding of a day in the life of a person living with a mental disorder. The program is a valuable tool for students looking to better understand their friends who are facing depression or mental health issues. Szabo covers warning signs that can be seen in friends or family members as well as options and resources to turn to when a friend needs help. His program is valuable for the millions that will face some type of change, loss or transition in their young lives. 

Released in August 2007, Szabo has now published a book titled, Behind Happy Faces: Taking Charge of Your Mental Health a Guide for Young Adults. The book serves as a natural companion and an extension of Szabo’s popular live presentations. Also in 2007, Szabo was named “Best Male Performer of the Year” by Campus Activities magazine.