“If you’re lying day to day about a core part of who are you, extensive studies have shown that you are constantly in a fight or flight mode,” he said. “Meaning that you are more prone to anxiety and depression, you are virtually unable to pay attention and you feel like there’s this fog, this haze, this confusion that’s just around you all the time.”
After talking about his own experiences with mental health struggles, Anaxi explained that the WYBL program started in Canada when problems with drugs, alcohol, pregnancies and suicides were noticed in students (of all ages) and no one could figure out why. That’s when Anaxi started asking people what their lie was with an anonymous submission system, and he now travels all over doing the same thing.
“There’s a lot of silent suffering, and we see it all the way down from our kids to our elders,” he said.
He gave a brief overview with some statistics about college students, including that one out of 12 students make a suicide plan, that one out of four students have suicidal thoughts and that two out of three students need help but can’t or don’t know how to get it.
Then Anaxi asked everyone in the audience what their lie is and what was keeping them up at night, and those who chose to could submit answers completely anonymously through a text or online. After a few minutes, the submissions appeared on the screen and ranged from dealing with suicidal thoughts or anxiety to instances of sexual assault or abuse and self-harm.
Anaxi chose to address a few of the submissions and make an effort to validate the feelings that were expressed and provide comfort.
As there were many submissions about self-harm, the next question Anaxi asked was “When was the last time you had thoughts of self-harm?” Answers ranged from years ago to just moments before the presentation. For anyone who didn’t share, or didn’t have any such thoughts, Anaxi reminded the audience that everyone’s pain matters.
“All pain is relevant, and it’s all serious,” he said.
Then Anaxi invited students to join him on stage and share their story. Four students stood up to share their experiences, which included being bullied or abused and attempting suicide. Audience members used the anonymous submission system to share messages of support with whoever was sharing at the time, something Anaxi said had never happened before.
Anaxi concluded his presentation by reminding everyone that they are not alone, and the discussion had proved that. He said he hopes that those who attended continue the conversation.
“There’s a lot of different ways this can go, but my sincere hope is that maybe you feel a little bit more courage to speak up,” he said. “Next time you see someone whether its in your house, or on campus or wherever, when you see that someone may not be okay – say something, because you have the chance to.”