Supernatural More than a TV Show: Part 3

I am so excited to share 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 AIR™

On this post I am 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.

AIR™ came about with the 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?

Kenny was embarrassed by 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. 

Can you tell us a bit about the In Their Shoes™ exhibit?
The In Their Shoes™ exhibit represents youth who lost hope, and 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 second purpose of 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. 

Each launch of an AIR™ 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 Creation Entertainment).

Melissa Knight (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. 

The In Their Shoes™ 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?
It is an extremely 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. 

I like to have therapy 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. 

I always see pictures of shoes from Cast on the show how has this helped?

Thanks to the SPN 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 Day. 

Currently, we have Jared 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. 

Your daughter Katelyn a 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?
The key word is Education! AIR™  has educated hundreds of thousands through their programs below:

1. The Coming 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 list. 

It is so important 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. 

2. AIR 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 can have. 

3. Mindfulness 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. 

4. AIR™ Dogs: 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
AIR™  Dogs visit with students during 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. 

5. Youth 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. 

6. Warm AIR™ 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. 

7. AIR™ 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. 

8. Outreach™ - 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 Suicide, etc. 

9. AIR Hero™  – Often students reach out for support and we 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.

How long have you been a fan of Supernatural and how has the show and fandom family impacted your life?
Katelyn (my daughter) 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 cast. 

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.  

What happened at the 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™.

After Jared's 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.  

We ask attendees to sign 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®.

For someone that could possibly be reading this and battling depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide anything of that nature, what words would you have for them?
I have talked to many 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. 

Mental Health, 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 communication?
When we started AIR™, we 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.  

Since Jared has spoken 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 
Gil McKinney another 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.

I can relate to their 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.

Greatly appreciative of 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.”

What have been some obstacles that face AIR™ and what have you done to overcome them?
One of the biggest 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.

Funding is another obstacle. Attitudes In Reverse® is 100% 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.

My heart has been 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. 

AIR Hero Kat Loveland (left) with Tricia
Who are some AIR Heroes™ and what can others do to support AIR™ and become one?
Since AIR™ is all 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.

Thank Jared Padaleckci for his support of 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.

Follow us on any or all social media pages including our Twitter and Facebook pages for each Chapter to keep up to date on events.

Volunteer If you live near one of the locations, consider donating your time, if you have contacts at schools, universities or colleges, reach out and plan an AIR™ program.

Shop on our Etsy store, you can show your 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.

Sponsor an AIR Hero™. $50.00 donation, allows AIR™ to ship packages to youth around the world.

For more ways on how you can 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
Attitudes In Reverse® 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.

Tricia can you share a bit more about the Supernatural Fandom movie?
Attitudes In Reverse® 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

We at AIR™, will be 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.
Mark Pellegrino with Tricia, Kurt & AIR™ Volunteers 
At the SPN Fandom movie 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 struggling.  
Tricia and I at the SPN Movie Premiere L.A.
Thank you Tricia for 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.

Be sure to follow Attitudes In Reverse® on all their Social Media Pages
Website / Twitter / FacebookIn Their Shoes™ Video / Shop / SPN Fan Movie

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