this interview with you all, I have been writing How the TV Show Supernatural
is more than a TV show to me. This is an organization that one of the actors of
the show has supported himself, as well as some of his fellow cast mates. Jared
Padalecki’s (Sam Winchester) Campaign Always Keep Fighting had teamed up with
Attitudes in Reverse® (AIR™) as they would be stronger together. I have
recently interview Kat who is now in charge of the Phoenix Arizona AIR™ Chapter and what she is doing in support of
interviewing Tricia, she is one of the founders of Attitudes In Reverse®, will
be talking about the organization, how it is making a difference and how you
too can help. One of her quotes “In helping others, we help ourselves” she
believes that the mission of AIR™ saves
her life everyday. She believes that all people who struggle should do their
best to find the time and energy to volunteer. As she says when we help other
people we feel good about ourselves. This is one of the longest interviews I
have done to date, but also one that is very rewarding and glad I get to be a
part of and share here on the website.
tragic loss of your son due to depression, anxiety and suicide in 2009. How has
this fueled the mission of AIR since its inception in 2010?
his illness, telling all of his peers that he had mononucleosis for over
three years. He was judged and criticized because of his illness. After
his death, there was discrimination. The school administration wanted to
sticker over Kenny’s yearbook photo, erasing his existence, and mental
illness from the blue ribbon school. As a family, we knew this was wrong
and decided that no child should ever be embarrassed by their biological
illness, and by pretending as if mental illness does not exist, only
perpetuates stigma. We established Attitudes In Reverse®, or AIR™, mental
illness is like air, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t
there, it is all around us. Our goal is to start conversations with youth,
giving them permission to ask for help. My hope, is to share with every student
across the country, AIR’s™ message of hope and healing.
about the In Their Shoes™ exhibit?
ended their life by suicide. Each pair has a tag on it, the tags represents
a thought that a young person might be struggling with in
silence. If we increase understanding we increase empathy and
kindness. As we became more involved in mental health advocacy, we were faced
with the issue- how do we educate those, who have no idea how hard it is to
live with a mental health disorder, to know that it is not something that you
choose and not something that you just ‘snap out of’? So the In Their
Shoes ™ exhibit was created to preach beyond the choir box, to increase
understanding, empathy and kindness towards those who struggle.
the In Their Shoes™ exhibit, is that it
let’s people who struggle, know that they are not alone. There are others out
there who are dealing with the same difficult issues that they are. All of the
quotes on the shoes are real, many were things that were told to me by Kenny,
or other students.
chapter consists of an In Their Shoes™ exhibit. If we increase understanding we
increase empathy and kindness. We are excited about the Phoenix launch on
Saturday June 11th at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel, the event will begin at
approximately 6:00 PM and run through 7:30pm. (This event is not affiliated with
(Minneapolis Minnesota Chapter) is looking for donations of gently worn
shoes to include in the exhibit, for a chapter hoping to be launched in August.
If so inclined, people can include short thoughts of their personal struggles.
Sadly, we need more young men’s shoes than women’s shoes, as young men die by
suicide 4 times more often than females. We work hard to get the shoe exhibit
to reflect the statistics from the state.
exhibit is known to be powerful & breathtaking, how do you handle an
exhibit that expresses loss and feelings of those that walked in the shoes?
powerful exhibit, understand that each pair of shoes, represents a young life
lost, and this can be overwhelming to some, especially if they have a loved one
who is struggling or who lost the battle. I have had people stop, not able to
complete viewing the exhibit, as it is too painful for them. I always have
tissues handy. If we are at a college or school, we always recommend that the
school provide a counselor to talk to students, and to observe those who might
be struggling. It is important that resources are available, as people will
reach out for help. We have print flyers available with local
resources that people can reach out for help.
dogs present, when possible, at the In Their Shoes™ exhibit, to help people
cope with the overwhelming feelings. Petting a dog releases Oxytocin, Dopamine,
Serotonin and lowers Cortisol, our stress hormone.
shoes from Cast on the show how has this helped?
Family, we have been inspired to build a VIP shoe exhibit, where each pair
hosts a short inspirational saying. This VIP exhibit will travel to places of
upbeat atmospheres. Often AIR™ is
invited places but the shoe exhibit is not invited along, as some feel it is
too depressing. The message of the In Their Shoes™ is a tough one, but it is reality. Our goal
for the VIP exhibit is to provide messages of hope, and to have 100 pairs of
VIP shoes by September 2016, International Suicide Prevention Awareness
Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Gil McKinney, Rob Benedict, Travis Aaron Wade,
Mithcell Kosterman, and Christpher
Schmecke’s shoes. Several other Supernatural VIP’s have offered to donate
shoes. I joke and say that Jared’s shoes are our secret weapon. No one wants to
come up to the mental health/suicide table at health fairs, but students will
come to see Jared’s shoes. Then they tell their friends about the shoes, and we
have a consistent line of people at our table, talking about good mental
health; the Power of Padalecki! The more openly we talk about mental health
disorders, the more we bust the stigma surrounding them.
co founder of AIR™ said “Mental
illness is like air. Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t
there. It’s all around us.” How is AIR™ trying to bring more awareness to the
difference of what we can see vs. what we can’t see?
Education! AIR™ has educated hundreds of
thousands through their programs below:
Up for AIR program™ – volunteers go into schools and educate
students about good mental health and suicide prevention. We have presented to
over 30,000 students in just over five years. The program talks about all of
the successful famous people in history who have struggled or are currently
struggling with mental health disorders, Jared Padalecki is on our
for young people to know that mental health disorders are a result of a genetic
component and trigger, and that it is treatable. Too many think that it is not
treatable, so therefore they do not seek treatment. Mental health disorders are
70-90% treatable and the earlier they seek treatment, the more likely the
success of the treatment.
Wristbands™ – Given out to students at presentations or at outreach
awareness events. The colors are green, which represents
mental health, and white which represents hope that one day stigma will be
gone and no one will ever be afraid to ask for help for a biological brain
based illness. When these are given to students we ask that they wear
them, they make a promise to their friends, that they are approachable, without judgment
and criticism, and they will find a trusted adult to help. I have had students,
who self-mutilate, tell me that they look down at the wristband, and find the
courage to not hurt themselves. It is the amazing the power that a silicone wristband
and the Middle-School™ – a program that talks to middle schoolers
about stress. What is it? What is healthy stress vs. unhealthy stress? What are
some coping methods in dealing with stress? 50% of all mental health
disorders present by age 14, so it is critical that we talk to students and
educate them while they are young, before onset of symptoms.
Paws for Minds™ – Certified AIR™ Dogs attend school programs to help
students de-stress. In addition, AIR volunteers find dogs in need of homes and
place them as emotional support dogs. AIR has placed 10 ES dogs and 1 working
Service Dog. Gil McKinney was involved in our Service Dog Graduation. Video Attached
high stress times. We visit colleges during mid-terms and finals weeks. We
visit high schools during AP weeks. Most recently, therapy dog teams visited at
a local middle school who lost a 14 year old student to suicide.
Mental Health First AID Instructors™ – AIR™ Volunteers have been certified to teach
adults, who work with students, about the signs and symptoms of mental health
disorders. This program, like the Red Cross First AID, should be taken by every
parent and adult who spends time around students.
4 Winter™ – During the holiday times, AIR™ volunteers collect socks, gloves, beanies to
deliver to patients in mental health hospitals. 70 percent of people in mental
health hospitals NEVER get a visitor. AIR™ wants to change that, so on
Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, AIR™ volunteers visit patients with therapy
dogs, delivering gifts to keep them warm, and letting patients know that
there are people who do care.
T-shirt Design/Concept Contest™ – We pick first and second place winners and
the designs are placed on the t-shirt.
First prize winner receives a IPad. We produce approximately
1,000 t-shirts annually, and all AIR™ volunteers receive a green and white t-shirt.
Not only does the t-shirt give us the ability to thank our volunteers, but it
also allows the volunteer to talk about mental heath. People say,
“Hey, I like your shirt”, and it start one-on-one
conversations about good mental health.
Attitudes In Reverse® volunteers attend many different types of events to
help start conversations about good mental health. These can be college health fairs, local
community events, state mental health conferences and Supernatural
conventions. Since therapy dogs are involved in our non-profit, we often
find ourselves at dog events, where people normally do not talk about
mental health or suicide. AIR™ has informational materials that we
share for free at all out reach events. These flyers include information on
Being a Mentally Healthy Teen, Eating Disorders, Signs & Symptoms of
at AIR send them and AIR Hero package, consisting of an AIR™ Hero tag, AIR™
wristband and other AIR™ merchandise.
The package is shipped to the youth at no cost to them, to let them know that
there are others who care about them and their lives all have value.
fan of Supernatural and how has the show and fandom family impacted your life?
was the original fan and she got the rest of the family hooked. How many things
can an adult child and mother share in common? I will always be grateful to all
involved in the show for that. I had always liked the show, but when I attended
my first convention in May 2012, that is when I realized how kind, caring and
generous all of the actors are. I was so impressed by the philanthropy of the
Katelyn and I had so
much fun at the New Jersey Convention in 2014, that we decided to travel to a
convention. Life is too short, not too be adventurous! We looked at her college
scheduled and found out the she would be off during the San Francisco Convention
2015, so only about two weeks before the convention, we decided to go. To our
amazement tickets were available, in addition, Jared’s meet & greet was
also available for a reasonable price. We thought it would be a wonderful once
in a lifetime experience.
meet & greet was the amazing thing. Someone asked Jared about his
interaction with media, and Jared started to share about the loss of his double
and good friend to suicide. As this was before Always Keep Fighting, Jared
talked about how he wanted to help people. So I raised my hand and told him
about AIR™, and what we do, and he said, “I want to help you”. As he
got up to leave the meet & greet, he turned to Katelyn and I and said
again, “I want to help you”. Later at the autograph session, he said
it to us again, “I want to help you”. One month later, he stayed true
to his word. You can imagine the shock I was in as I picked up the phone to
hear the words, “Hello, this is Jared Padalecki”. Jared made a
generous donation to AIR™ through his
Always Keep Fighting campaign. He continues to support us in other ways, he
also tweets helping us raise funds for AIR™.
endorsements, we decided to start exhibiting at Supernatural Conventions,
starting conversations about good mental health. We have been embraced by
the SPNFamily. People come to our table, and feel safe to share their personal
stories. Some people share for the very first time in their lives, never
believing that it was ok to talk about their struggles. There are tears, hugs,
smiles, thank you’s. Each day AIR™ exhibits at a SPN con it is extremely
emotional but extremely rewarding.
a pledge board, “We pledge to empathize with others who experience
mental health struggles, to provide understanding and support, to
share knowledge and resources, to ensure they get the necessary
help to save their lives”. We give away over 1,000 AIR™ wristbands at each
convention. This number continues to increase as more and more people become
aware of Attitudes In Reverse®.
possibly be reading this and battling depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide
anything of that nature, what words would you have for them?
people who have attempted but did not die by suicide. The theme that goes
through all of their minds is that the world, their friends and family, would
all be better off without them. I can tell you that is not true. I believe that
Kenny died because he thought our lives would be easier without him, without
his illness. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, that I don’t
miss him with my whole heart and soul. People have to know that there are
others who truly care about them. It may be or it not be family, but family
goes deeper than blood. What has so impressed me about the SPN Family, is the
capacity to accept and love each other, without judgment.
Depression, and even suicide are topics that people shy away from, how has the
Supernatural fandom family and celebrity backing help open the lines of
did not know where our journey would take us. My belief all along has been,
that we need to educate every student across the country. How crazy is that
thought. With Jared’s support, that crazy thought is beginning to become a
reality. Through Supernatural Family, other volunteers have found AIR™, and
believe in the mission of educating youth. They are willing to make the
necessary sacrifices to bring out programs across the US.
out about Always Keep Fighting, he has opened up the door for conversations
about good mental health. Jared’s message is perfectly in line with AIR’s
message- To start conversations about good mental health and suicide
prevention, so no one is ever embarrassed or afraid to ask for help for a
biological brain illness.
|Actor Gil McKinney Wearing an AIR™ wristband|
actor on the show and also on AIR’s advisory board has also been a big support.
He has spoken about Attitudes In Reverse® during several of his panels, letting
people know that they are not alone, if they are in a crisis, and that there
are people in the world who advocate and care. Gil brought attention to our
2015 Annual Fund-Raising event when he attended, spoke and
performed. Thanks to Jared and Gil’s focus on AIR™, other members of the
SPN Family have stepped forward offering to help.
|Jared Padalecki Wearing the AIR Wristband|
It will be the
connections and support through Jared, Gil, and SPN Family, that will allow us
to reach across the country and talk to every youth, to save lives. I am
eternally grateful for that. I am grateful to each and every person who comes
up to visit the AIR™ table at SPN
Conventions, people who thank us for what AIR™ does. People who need someone to
talk to, perhaps have NEVER spoken of their disorder before, but Attitudes In
Reverse® volunteers provides a safe
place for people to share. I talk to many moms, who have children struggling
with depression, and they are willing to do anything to help their child,
including bringing them to meet Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
pain, remembering the three years, that I would have done almost anything to
help make my Kenny happy. These moms cry on my shoulder because I know their
pain. I have experienced their pain. Too often we cannot share our child’s
mental health struggles due to stigma. Mental health disorders are NOT
casserole illnesses. I have spoken to young people who have lost a close family
member to suicide, a father, a brother, a mother, a sister. I know their pain.
I understand, and can offer some small comfort in that moment. It is a
challenge for AIR™ volunteers to get to
SPN Cons, but we feel it is important to be there.
the Jared Padalecki, Gil McKinney, and the remainder of the SPN Cast and SPN Family.
There is so much work to be done, and we must all work together to save lives. The
SPN Family has catapulted our mission forward and together, we will help save
lives! The hope of Attitudes In Reverse® “is to normalize all mental health
disorders, so no child is ever embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. The only
way we do that is to talk about it in public.”
obstacles that face AIR™ and what have you done to overcome them?
obstacles we face is the belief that if you talk to youth about suicide, you
put the idea into their heads. Modern research shows that suicide is a symptom
of an illness. If you talk to someone with a healthy brain about suicide you do
NOT put the thought into their heads. This is an obstacle to getting into
schools to talk to students.
volunteer 501c3 charity. Not one person receives a salary for the work we do.
Everything costs money. Most of the programs we do for students, we do for
free. We will never let a lack of funding prevent us from talking to students
about this important message. As I have mentioned, we
are all volunteers, so when we travel to a con, we have to take off from work,
and most of us don’t get paid. Then there is the financial challenge of just
being at the con itself. But the more cons that I attend as an AIR™ volunteer,
the more SPN Family that I meet, the more I believe that is where Attitudes In
Reverse® needs to be. There is a symbiotic relationship. I am there to help
provide support and comfort, and the SPN Family revitalizes me, and gives me
energy to keep moving forward with our mission.
energized by the love of the SPN Family, who want to support AIR’s efforts of
Education. People are giving of donations, artwork and clothing, all to be
auctioned off or sold to raise funds to bring Attitudes In Reverse® to new
cities. Attitudes In Revese® receives no government grant funding. Nothing
happens without money and the outpouring of love and the generosity of the SPN
Fandom is not matched anywhere.
and what can others do to support AIR™ and become one?
volunteer, it can be very draining and exhausting work. Often I am out to lunch
or dinner, and I get messages from moms with children in crisis, I cannot put
these requests on hold. We need more AIR Heroes™ like Kat Loveland and Melissa Knight who are
establishing AIR™ chapters in their
communities. We are also grateful to Jane Hightower who is responsible for
bringing AIR™ to the west coast, with our California launch this past November, she is also taking the exhibit to her local community colleges.
Attitudes In Reverse®. We are a small non-profit, and Jared took a leap of
faith, believing in us and supporting us through his Always Keep Fighting
campaign. He also made an appearance at one of our previously held In
Their Shoes™ exhibits, an said a few words that you can check out here.
including our Twitter and Facebook pages for each Chapter to keep up to date on
consider donating your time, if you have contacts at schools, universities or
colleges, reach out and plan an AIR™ program.
support of AIR™ by purchasing a T-shirt. Or purchase an adorable Moose or
Squirrel Plush. We even have Henry Pomchester Plush, a tribute to Gil McKinney.
All donations go directly into programs or outreach.
donation, allows AIR™ to ship packages to youth around the world.
become and AIR Hero™, help donate and support be sure to visit our website Attitudes
In Reverse.Org ®
|Tricia with AIR™ Volunteers & Producers of the SPN Fan Movie|
was also included in the Supernatural Fandom Episodes and Movie, which
consisted of interviews from the cast, crew and the fandom family. Aspects of
the show included conventions, fandom art, photo ops, con veterans, and the
fandom family in general.
was included in the Supernatural Fandom movie, thanks to Jared Padalecki first mentioning
us during his interview. After that I was then interviewed by Mitch Kosterman,
one of the producers of the Supernatural Fandom movie. AIR™ was featured in episode 6 online which can be
found at SPNFanMovie.Com
eternally grateful to all producers of the SPN Fandom movie, Jason Fischer, Mitch
Kosterman, his brother Clif Kosterman, who is also the bodyguard of Jared
Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, for including AIR in the final cut of the movie.
All of the producers understand the importance of talking openly about mental
health and suicide prevention. The exposure in both the online episode and the
movie has raised awareness of AIR™ across the globe. It has been this exposure
that resulted in many volunteers finding their way to AIR™, and we are willing
to start the conversations about good mental health in their states.
premiere in L.A. Mark Pellegrino connected with Tricia, Kurt and other
volunteers, and has offered to help AIR™ with their mission. Mark Pellegrino continues
his involvement in advocacy through his movie called The Last Train. This movie
raises awareness of suicide prevention and inspires hope among those who are
|Tricia and I at the SPN Movie Premiere L.A.|
your time and all that you are doing to make a difference in people’s lives. I
also had the pleasure of meeting Tricia in real life at the SPN Fandom movie
premiere in L.A. and was finally able to thank her in person not only for the
opportunity of sharing the mission of AIR™ here on the site, but the opportunity
to attend the SPN Fandom movie premiere in L.A. as well.