Finding Your Community

By : John Eichler – Sean’s House Peer Support Specialist

When it comes to the intersection of mental health and the LGBTQIA+ community, their overlap is marked by chilling statistics on the collective mental wellbeing of queer people worldwide.  

Seeing these high rates of mental illness in the community, especially for youth, Black, and Indigenous people of color, and transgender and gender non-conforming people should serve as a reminder to us all how important Pride month is, now more than ever. Amazing strides have been made in society as a whole, but now it is time to address the mental health pandemic that has plagued and continues to plague this community.

Community and a sense of belonging are needed to thrive in our world.   With the label of “community” attached to queer identity, one would think that this feeling of belonging is everpresent amongst its members. However, this is not the case for many whose identities are categorized within the LGBTQ+ community.  I know that it was not the case for me and it took coming to college to finally meet and connect with other queer people. The main thing we relate to is the fact of how isolating it has felt growing up queer in our hometowns, with families and friends that may not understand us, the fear of being in spaces of predominantly people not like us, and how all of these issues continue to persist. These feelings of loneliness, confusion, and feeling utterly lost may easily lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other mental illnesses.

However, through reflecting on my own queer identity, relationships, and the ups and downs of my own mental health journey I realized that there is a much more positive link between mental health and the LGBTQIA+ community beyond pain and that is the feeling of support and connection.

The queer community originated and reinforces the idea of “chosen” family. We as human beings have the power to pick and choose who we love, are vulnerable with, and give and receive support from. When members of the LBTQIA+ community face violence and persecution, it was the support built within the community that led to its perseverance and survival.

Going through life and trying to confront all of its many obstacles was not meant to be done alone. All people, regardless of sexuality and gender identity and any other identity marker should be able to find strong support systems. These people in your corner should support you and let you be authentically yourself in every manner and you should not feel afraid or ashamed to do so. Being LGBTQIA+ is beautiful and is not a mental illness. Being alone and afraid to express and explore your true self is what causes these issues, and at Sean’s House we want to offer all people a chance to come and find support through their peers to finally be in a safe space and be seen and truly, deeply accepted for who they are. Because at Sean’s House, we are proud of you for just being you and showing up to take a step forward in your own wellness.

This June, and every other month before and after it, take PRIDE in who you are, who you want to be, and how far you have made it.

Statistics- Retrieved from the Trevor Project 2020 National Survey of LGBTQIA+ youth

40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide

68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth

48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60%of transgender and nonbinary youth

46% of LGBTQ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months

10% of LGBTQ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18

29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away

1 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ identity

61% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being prevented or discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity

86% of LGBTQ youth said that recent politics have negatively impacted their well-being

Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected

“Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQIA+ kid attempting suicide by 40% “

LGBTQ+ Resources-

Trevor Project Phone Line 1-866-488- 7386

Trevor Project Text Line- Text START to 678-678

Join or Start a Gender and Sexualities Alliance in your school today with the help of GLSEN

Find out more at

Sean’s House is open 8 am to 8 pm for anyone aged 14-24 to speak with peer supporters, and 24/7 to speak with a staff member

Father’s Day – Listen To Your Kids

“No Excuses”

“Rub Some Dirt On It”

“You’re Fine”

If we all had a nickel for any time a dad said one of those sayings, we, and future generations, would be rich for a long, long time. 

10 years ago last month, I became a dad for the first time. It’s an emotional time and you’re filled with a new love and excitement that is impossible to put into words, but in the coming days, you’ll start to worry about the responsibilities that come with being a father.

How do you keep them safe?

How do you pay for everything they need?

How do you balance work and being a dad?

All those emotions, worries, anxiety build up, but there’s no excuses, right? We’ll be fine, right? 

As I walk through my mental health journey and have become more and more outspoken about it, it’s hit me even further about the stigma surrounding males and their mental health. We’re supposed to be tough, we’re supposed to just get over things, but how do we rub dirt on depression? How do we just shake off our anxiety?

It took me hitting absolute rock bottom and sitting on a cold garage floor with a rope to realize I needed to truly seek help. I was less than 10 minutes away from no longer being a dad. 

I nearly threw away the opportunity to ever watch my daughter dance in a recital. I nearly threw away the opportunity to watch my son win an art contest. I nearly threw away the opportunity to have a catch with my kids. Why? Because for so long, I kept telling myself I was making excuses for the way I felt inside. I wasn’t being tough enough. 

But you know the funny thing I’ve learned over this journey? Being tough isn’t about shaking things off or rubbing dirt on it. It’s about showing true vulnerability. It’s about sharing your real, raw emotions and feelings. 

I’ve been blessed to be a dad for 10 years to three amazing kids. I’ve seen trophies won, awards handed out, accomplishments completed, but one of the greatest moments of pride came in the past two months when my 10-year-old son felt comfortable enough to talk to my wife and I about his true emotions and feelings. 

It took me over 30 years to realize how to deal with some of the emotions he was now opening up about at the age of 10. 

My hope is that those types of conversations become even more common in our society. That fathers all over the world ask how their children are doing and sit back and intently listen to the real answers, as hard as it may be to hear at times. 

So this weekend, I encourage all fathers to sit down and listen to their kids. Listen to their real emotions and don’t be afraid to share yours too, you never know how much it’ll help not only your own child, but more importantly, yourself. 

What Is Mindfulness And How Do I Do It?

My name is Michael Szczechowski. I’m a peer leader and resident knucklehead at Sean’s House. When I’m not supporting our peers, you can most likely find me unsuccessfully trying to whip something up in the kitchen here at 136 W. Main.

I recently graduated with a degree in philosophy and neuroscience from the University of Delaware. Somewhat recently I decided to commit to practicing mindfulness regularly, which was something that came up here or there in both my philosophy and neuroscience classes. You have likely heard of mindfulness, maybe from advertisements for apps or from its use in clinical treatments such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). There is also a multitude of cultural and philosophical background to meditation in general; that much I know from reading about it in classes, but up until recently, I had not given meditating a try, as it was something I was unsure about and didn’t know how much I would benefit from it.

First, what is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a specific kind of meditation. Much like practicing the guitar or shooting a basketball, it is a skill and the ultimate goal of each session is to simply improve. 

There are many different ways to meditate, depending on the goal of the meditator and their prior experience with meditating. There is clearly a difference between a Hindu monk who has spent their life in an ashram to learn and practice bhakti yoga, and an American that joins in on their weekly mindfulness session at the local gym. 

Anyone can practice mindfulness meditation if they like. There are no cultural, religious, or experiential qualifications to begin practicing. There are no expectations to be a certain kind of person, to be a part of a specific group, or anything like that. You just have to be willing to give it a go.

What is the goal of mindfulness?

In this context, I’m going to claim that it is not about becoming enlightened or developing one’s mental prowess.  It’s also not about practicing to relax yourself on command,  or to fully overcome and eradicate mental demons. 

To be mindful is just to have an awareness. I will say that mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening in this present moment, right now. 

If you are like me, my initial reaction to reading that might be that it sounds cryptic or condescending, but like most of us, we are consumed with thoughts of the things that you did, the things that need to be done, daydreams, hopes, desires, and all other kinds of past and future-oriented thoughts that you often fail to occupy your mind with the actual present moment, your current state of awareness.

To realize the benefit of being in the present, I’ll go back to my knucklehead status here at the house. 

There have been several situations where I might ask a question or might make a small mistake that my coworkers make a joke about and we share a laugh and move on. Or so we think. 

But an hour later, two hours, the next day, and the day after those situations,  I find myself replaying them in my head. 

“What the hell is wrong with me, why am I such a moron?” 

Those are the thoughts that take over my mind. They come spontaneously – often I’m not trying to think about the scenarios, I’m not trying to put myself into a bad mood, but they just come to mind, completely out of the blue.  How many times do these types of minor situations take over our thoughts, minds, actions and attitude?

Perhaps, it is fine to feel a little foolish after making a small mistake, so that we remember to not make the same mistake again. But afterwards, what good does it do to ruminate and think about it? But I remember it, and it causes me some further mental pain. 

Now, those are all small trivial examples, but imagine applying it to other things – trauma, abuse, thoughts of suicide and of extreme low self-esteem, stress. The suffering that follows from reflecting ruminating and thinking conceptually about the past, or worrying and muddling in our head our anxieties about the future and what could be, in many ways we create for ourselves. If I was aware that I was having those thoughts about the minor mistakes when they popped into my mind, I could say,

“Aha. There is a thought – that was in the past, and this is now.” 

And indeed, the thought would pass. It would. But instead, I thought about it more and more, I followed after those thoughts, so to speak. 

I know that mindfulness is a spectrum and that I am just beginning my journey. Now, I am certainly not an expert. But I hope that in reading this, you might consider how mindfulness could be a good thing to try; I am confident from my few experiences practicing that it is very worthwhile, and I am just a beginner myself. 

I hope that you consider starting, picking back up, or supporting your own mindfulness journey with us at Sean’s House.  We will be running our first mindfulness session at 136 West Main Street from 4-5 p.m. at Sean’s House this Sunday, June 13th 

With open arms, I invite you to join. 

A Holistic Guide to Wellness For a New You in a New Year

A Holistic Guide to Wellness For a New You in a New Year

Darian Elmendorf

At the beginning of the year, I attended a “2020 Vision” workshop. A group of individuals gathered together for dinner and discussed our current situation, where we wanted to be by the end of 2020, and what goals we wanted to set for ourselves to reach that better version of ourselves. We listed out accomplishments and failures from last year and set goals we wanted to accomplish by the end of the new year. I took a look at that list recently and realized that I didn’t accomplish anything I originally planned to. This had nothing to do with lack of motivation or even the pandemic–it was because the goals I set couldn’t keep me engaged. They lacked specificity to the things that really mattered in my life. They lacked context and they were unrealistically manifested from the motivation I felt from hearing the stories of the other workshop members (most who were older and more experienced than I was).

At the time of the first lockdown in March, I was working with the State of Delaware as a Peer Support Specialist and with the University of Delaware. The shift to working from home triggered a lot of new emotions and feelings, but I was thankful that I still had a job and I was motivated to work hard. Every day I would wake up at 9 am and go straight to work until about 9 or 10pm, only taking breaks to get some exercise, eat, and shower. In my head I was thinking “everything is shut down, so I might as well just work”. I soon realized the hard way that I was neglecting the one thing that needed my attention the most: my health and wellness. After a few months of non-stop work, I was burnt out. My body was tired and stiff, my mind was foggy, I was easily irritated, and I was living paycheck to paycheck, which just made me feel like my work was all for nothing. I couldn’t focus and actually enjoy the work the way I had before. I decided, finally, to take a break and figure out what was going on. As a Peer Specialist, my role is to advocate for the wellness of my peers, and at the time, I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I started to browse through some resources that were created by other peer advocates and use them to take a look at my own life. The result of these actions changed the way I approach goal setting, wellness, and my work in Peer Support forever.

One resource that I would recommend to everyone, and I do mean everyone, is The Eight Dimensions of Wellness by Peggy Swarbrick and Jay Yudof. This resource helped me understand which aspects of my life were causing me stress and gave me the direction I needed to set realistic goals that would improve my own health and wellness. I firmly believe it is a necessity that all young people set a strong foundation in each of the dimensions of wellness to improve their quality of life and prepare for any challenges they might face. In this two-part blog entry, I want to break down each of these dimensions, share some of my personal thoughts, and provide actionable steps to set goals and form healthier habits. For Part One, I will focus on the four internally- or individually-focused dimensions that Swarbrick and Yudof cover, and in Part Two I will share my thoughts on the remaining externally-focused ones.

Physical Wellness – Activity, diet & nutrition, and sleep

There are thousands of scientific studies which show that the quality of exercise, nutrition, and sleep we get is greatly impactful on our stress levels and other aspects of daily wellbeing. We are surrounded by distractions and we constantly trick ourselves into giving up healthier activities for the “easy way out.” I could talk about this topic for hours and discuss all the things that work for me, but I encourage you to build habits that are enjoyable to you and fit with your lifestyle. Educating yourself about all the benefits of nutrition, how to get healthy amounts of exercise, and how to improve the quality of your sleep is necessary for managing stress and leading a balanced life. These factors also play a major role in battling mental health challenges. I personally use a mix of YouTube videos, podcasts, and books to get information about these three subjects (some of my favorite experts are Andrew Huberman, David Goggins, Dave Asprey, Pavel Tsatsouline, and Aubrey Marcus) and, the more I learn, the more I realize they are all closely connected and work better when practiced simultaneously. I will tell you from personal experience that having a consistent routine that addresses each of these three subjects daily will greatly improve your mood, energy, focus, and ability to think clearly and work more efficiently.

Emotional Wellness – Developing control over how you feel in your everyday life to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others

When we feel good, we love to experience and share these feelings with whoever we can, but it’s often not the same when we feel bad. If you do not allow yourself to feel and be vulnerable when you aren’t feeling well, then you will have a much harder time engaging in the process of managing your emotions. To develop emotional clarity, I recommend making it a goal to take note of who or what triggers negative emotions in your life. I like to set daily goals as feelings I want to experience and think about what activities I need to do and what level of energy I need to bring to reach my goal by the end of the day. Expressing both positive and negative emotions  is an important habit for building emotional wellness. People who genuinely care about you will want you to be honest with them about how you are feeling. Many times we try to keep our feelings bottled from fear that they will have a negative effect on others or how others may perceive us. This does not hold true when communicating with people who want to see you thrive and discussing your difficult feelings with them is not a sign of weakness.

Intellectual Wellness – Learning your creative abilities and expanding your pursuit of knowledge and skill

Throughout life we all make important decisions about what we want to learn in life and how we can best absorb the information, but how many of us are asking why? If you believe that being smart will help you become wealthy then you need to dig deeper and learn about things that you actually know you will love to do. Otherwise, you’ll spend a tremendous amount of time and energy dedicating your life’s work towards a profession that doesn’t make you happy. We need to focus on learning skills that allow us to push our creative abilities and satisfy our personal urge to acquire new information. We live in an information age, where everything is competing for your attention. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to learn and how it can bring value in your life then you might end up feeding your head with useless knowledge. The intersection between creativity and expertise is where the real magic happens. When the experience of learning raises curiosity, brings joy, and creates satisfaction in an individual’s life they become exceptional in what they do and fall in love with every minute of the process. I always say the most important thing you can study is yourself. Learn about YOU, learn about things that make you happy and allow you to grow personally and professionally. Pretty soon the acquisition of knowledge will feel natural and authentic to yourself because you start to learn for yourself and not for anyone or anything else. For me, this means learning everything I can about things I know would keep me healthy, focused, and performing well with my professional endeavors. I enjoy learning about peer support, finance, nutrition & exercise, business, and music. These subjects are important to my wellness, they allow me to improve performance in my work, and they help express myself creatively all at the same time.

Spiritual Wellness – Understanding your purpose and creating your own meaning of life

For me, this is the most important dimension in the whole list. Growing up, I constantly felt like my life lacked purpose and meaning. The pressure I put on myself to figure my life out was wearing down my outlook. I didn’t have any faith or gratitude, and this soon led me to feel like there was nothing to live for. This hopelessness was at the core of my depression and it created a deep resentment for the world inside of me. This sort of feeling is why “Purpose” is one of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s four pillars of recovery. Everyone needs something in their life that helps them understand their place in the world. Whether it’s family, religion, fulfilling work, school, nature, or other daily activities that help someone find their place in the world, everyone needs something that sets their soul on fire and drives their creativity and energy. Being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be religious or meditate all the time. Instead, it is the feeling we receive when we connect with something greater than ourselves, and develop a strong set of values, principles, and beliefs that bring meaning into our lives and guide our everyday actions. I recommend thinking deeply about these subjects and writing them down somewhere that you can easily see them and remember to practice them in your everyday life.

I consider these four dimensions to be internal, because practicing them will directly promote your health and your ability to build self-worth and personal satisfaction. There’s a well known expression that you can’t save the world unless you save yourself first. It may sound cliché, but it’s very true and very important if you want to lead a life or practice a profession that involves leading or supporting others. By focussing on these dimensions of wellness, you will set a strong foundation for yourself and will soon have the ability to serve as a role model for others who want to feel happy, healthy, and inspired by how they choose to spend their time and energy.

Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic and A Boy Named Dylan

Chris Locke

Last week, Christmas Magic came to Sean’s House via a 5th grader from St. John the Beloved named Dylan.

Dylan had an idea this Christmas season, he wanted to be a Santa to someone this year. He wanted to show his generosity just like Santa does to all the little children around the world. Dylan decided that he wanted to be Santa to Sean’s House this year.

I had the pleasure and honor to greet Dylan at Sean’s House last Thursday. He was waiting there with his Mom, wearing his UD sweatshirt. He was a little nervous at first, as was I. As all of us are a little nervous, when you meet a new person for the first time.

But just like the story “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, I knew I had nothing to worry. Dylan had a twinkle in his eye and a smile so nice, I knew in a moment that the Magic of Christmas was all around us.

Dylan, like Santa, brought gifts to Sean’s House. Each of his gifts had a special meaning.

He brought a Christmas ornament of a basketball and a Santa hat to hang on our tree. It reminded me of Sean and his love of wearing Santa’s hat during the Christmas season. The ornament will always hang on Sean’s House tree, front and center because on the reverse side it says, “Dylan 2020”. Dylan also brought us a soap dispenser shaped in a basketball, so that we may clean our hands from the days hard work.

Dylan also gave us little candles with lights to put in the windows at Sean’s House, so that people can see the light and let the light help lead the way for people to get the help they need at Sean’s House.

Dylan donated $136.00 which represents the address at Sean’s House, 136 West Main Street. When I asked Dylan, how he raised this money. His response brought me to tears. He said, “I didn’t raise it, this is my Birthday money and I want you to have it to help people”.

Lastly, Dylan brought beautiful new comfy blankets that we can give to our guests. With each blanket, a handwritten note from Dylan, with a simple but eloquent message,

“You are Loved.”


Christmas is all about love. God loved us so much that he gave us his only begotten son on Christmas morning.

2020 has been a very unusual year. Most of us are looking forward to seeing this year come to an end. I must admit, I was not feeling a lot of Christmas spirit this year. That is, until I met a boy named Dylan. This ten-year-old boy brought the magic of Christmas back to me this year. He represents all that is great about Christmas; Hope, Faith and Love.

This Christmas I hope each of you feel the warmth of the hugs of your family, like Dylan’s warm blankets. And always remember:


Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Chris Locke


SL24 Board Members

SL24 Board Members

Carl Georigi

Carl joined the board because he wanted to help erase the stigma of mental illness and start the process of saving lives by raising awareness, generating dialogue and finding solutions to all phases of mental illness, depression and suicide. He said “when Chris asked me to be on the board, it was an immediate yes!” Carl writes, “seeing the impact we are having on our youth, our schools, our sports teams and our community brings me light. The day we open Sean’s House will be the greatest day of all.”

Carl Georigi

Founder/CEO Platinum Dining Group
Cyndi McLaughlin

Cyndi works full-time as a Business Administrator in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UD. She is a lifelong Delawarean who is passionate about mental health because her family has been personally affected by suicide. She writes that, “while national change is important prevention work, my goal was to become engaged with an organization making a significant and sustainable impact in Delaware. SL24 is making that impact.”

Cyndi McLaughlin

University of Delaware Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Business Administer
Thomas J. Hanna “TJ”

TJ works primarily in commercial/industrial real estate but having known Chris Locke for many years, he jumped at the invitation to join SL24. TJ writes, “I am a father of three boys. I’m also a member of the Delaware Community. While deeply saddened by the circumstances surrounding the launch of the SL24, I’m inspired by the Locke family, and I am energized to help change lives in honor of Sean Locke.”

Thomas J. Hanna “TJ”

President of Harvey, Hanna, & Associates, Inc.
Kat Locke-Jones

Kat Locke is a Baltimore City Public School Model teacher who is lucky enough to spend her days teaching 7th grade English and Social Studies. The oldest of the Locke siblings. Kat writes, “I hope to make my little brother, Sean, proud by making sure his light continues to shine. I am passionate about supporting and assisting Delaware students.”

Kat Locke-Jones

Baltimore City Public School Teacher
Steve Wheat

Steve Wheat is the owner of High 5 Hospitality, owning and operating 11 restaurants in Delaware that include Buffalo Wild Wings, Stone Balloon, Limestone BBQ and Bourbon, and Eggspectations. With regards to his inspiration for joining the board, he writes “I have known the Locke family since 2005 and was honored to assist in the SL24 initiative. I got involved because I know our efforts can help bring awareness, break the stigma of depression, and ultimately save lives.”

Steve Wheat

Owner of High 5 Hospitality
Steven Hyde

Steve is the President of HFM Investment Advisors and chairman of the board of St. Mark’s high school. With regards to his motivation for joining the SL24 team, he writes, “I got involved with SL 24 through my friendship with Chris, but I have been involved in CYO sports for over 20 years so I was aware of the issues that young people face when it comes to depression. SL24 addresses a huge need in our society when it comes to our children.”

Steven Hyde

President of HFM Investment Advisors
Allison Short

Allison’s spends her time as a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room at Christiana Hospital. She joined the foundation because she was a close friend of Sean’s and was inspired to take action in his memory. She writes, “through the passing of my friend, Sean, I knew I wanted to do more to help others who may be struggling with their mental health. One of the many areas that bring me light regarding the foundation is seeing the impact SL24 school presentations have made on students in our community.”

Allison Short

Christiana Care Operating Room Nurse
William A. Bathon

William’s inspiration for being involved in SL24 occurred several years ago, when personal tragedy struck his family. He writes, “I witnessed first-hand how devastating suicide is to the surviving members of those that suffered. Mental illness is a growing medical issue that can affect those of all types. I believe that the strongest we can ever be, is when we are asking for help. The goal of SL24 speaks to opening up lines of communication and being an avenue of connection for those that are suffering. This is truly a special organization.”

William A. Bathon

Vice President of Bay Country Landscape
Emma Grey

Emma was asked to join the board in order to provide the mental health resources that a health care professional can contribute to the foundation. She writes that “what is most humbling about this experience is traveling to schools to speak with students and parents about my relationship with Sean and our time together throughout high school and college. Sharing his story has impacted so many young students in ways I never imagined. I look forward to continuing to share his story in the hopes that it reaches anyone looking for help or support.”

Emma Grey

Registered Nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Kevin Healy

Kevin’s motivation for joining the board was a personal one. He writes, “watching Sean grow up I assumed all was right in his world. Sean’s experience made me realize how important it is for those suffering with depression and/or other mental health issues, to feel safe about sharing what burdens them with family, friends and professionals.”

Kevin Healy

Attorney for Morris James LLP
Michele Whetzel

Michele spends her time engaged in improving the Delaware community. She has led two statewide nonprofit organizations and served as treasurer, governance chair, and grant chair on a number of other boards. Michele is the author of So, You Want to Start a Nonprofit, Now What?: How to Start and Run a Successful 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization. Her motivation for joining the board is that Chris Locke has been a close friend since high school. She writes, “my heart ached for him and his family when they lost Sean, and I was inspired by the way they chose to help others and serve the public in Sean’s memory. I have a lot of nonprofit board experience, so I chose to share my knowledge and skills with this very worthwhile endeavor.”

Michele Whetzel

President of Revise, LLC
Trevor Cooney

Trevor was a close friend of Sean and knowing him is what inspired him to be involved with the SL24 Foundation. Trevor writes, “it hurts to have known him and not realize what he was going through, and if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone. That’s why it is so important to get the right information out and to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Everyone needs to know it is okay to have these thoughts and feelings and if you are struggling and need help please reach out for him, because it can save lives.”

Trevor Cooney

Director of Events & Programs BPG Sports at 76ers Field House
Michael Igo

Michael is a Commercial Banker for WSFS Bank. He got involved in the SL24 Foundation to help carry on the legacy of Sean Locke, one of his dearest friends. He writes, “I am excited for Sean’s House to open at 136 West Main Street and to see the impact it has on the community. 136 West Main Street will forever be a reminder of our friendship and the many good times we enjoyed together in college.”

Michael Igo

Commercial Banker for WSFS Bank
Barnett Harris

Barnett is a third year at Georgetown Law. Barnett was inspired to get involved with the organization in part from playing with Sean on the UD Men’s Basketball team for three years. The other part came from when Sean’s dad explained the mission of the group to him. Barnett writes, “I was immediately drawn to get involved and help anyway I can. The idea of helping young people talk about a topic that is of such importance and can change their outlook on life is what brings me light with the work we are doing.”

Barnett Harris

Georgetown Law Student
Chris Locke

Chris Locke is a General Counsel/Sr.VP Lang Development Group “Sean was the least likely person you would expect to be suffering from depression. The tragedy of losing my son Sean, has shown me that mental illness and specifically depression is an indiscriminate disease. We must do everything possible to remove the stigma of mental illness by educating, assisting and supporting those with mental illness so people like Sean do not suffer in silence anymore.”

Chris Locke

General Counsel/Sr.VP Lang Development Group
Jeff Lang

Jeff Lang is a real estate developer working for Lang Development Group in Newark, Delaware. He was inspired to join the board because of his close relationship with the Locke family over the years. Jeff writes, “I was directly involved with Sean’s passing being at the site within hours of the event and have known Sean since he was a little boy. We shared many many great memories together and mourn his death like family, so I am motivated to help the SL24 cause in any way I can and look forward to helping others that are struggling with his same terrible disease.”

Jeff Lang

Real Estate Developer for Lang Development Group
Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams

Assistant Professor, Sport Management, University of Delaware
Dennis Fish

Dennis leads the direct marketing strategy firm IM Group Marketing. As members of the Saint Mark’s community, our family was devastated at the news of Sean’s passing. In the last few years, we have had friends lose children to depression, and one of our children has lost a friend to this disease. We understand the importance of a place like Sean’s House in the community, and how critical it is for our youth to know it is OK to go there and talk. Seeing how the Locke family turned an unthinkable tragedy into such a powerful resource has been an inspiration. It is my great honor to help this mission in any way that I can.

Dennis Fish

Partner/COO at IM Group Marketing
Martha Cunningham

I have been a registered nurse for 27 years, having lived and worked in northern Delaware for my entire career. My nursing experience took me to some very challenging and interesting places, including caring for teens and young adults after failed suicide attempts. In Fall of 2016, I began teaching entry level nursing at the high school level. I presently am a Nurse Technology Instructor at St. Georges. As fate would have it, I found myself at the first SL24 basketball tournament in February of 2019. I had not heard of the organization prior to the tournament. I was instantly intrigued. I am proud to say that St. Georges is the first school to adopt the SL24 student group and is serving as a model for other schools.

Martha Cunningham

Nurse Technology Instructor
Debbie Horn

Debbie Horn

Partner at Maillie Accountant & Advisors

How Did This Happen?

How Did This Happen?

Scott Day

**Trigger Warning**

This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country. For the United States, the numbers are as follows:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7

How did that happen?

That’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times over the past two years or so. It’s a question that many people ask, but not many know the answer to.

To understand where that question stirs from, I’ll have to tell you a little bit about my story.

It was March of 2018; I was sitting on an Amtrak train heading back to be with my wife and three kids back in Richmond. I was three months into my job as the Assistant AD for PR and Communications at the University of Delaware after spending the previous 13+ years in the city of Richmond. For the first six months, I traveled back and forth on every open weekend to see my wife and kids, who were finishing up the school year before joining me in Delaware, the home state of both my wife and I.

As I sat on the train, I made a decision to open up and tell my story of what had happened to me over the past five years. A very small handful knew some of the struggles I had faced, but no one knew the depths of my battle with depression. So, I turned to what I had always done, I wrote out my feelings.

I won’t tell the whole story again, but if anyone is interested, here’s the full link.

I tell that background because that became my outlet to finally be open about what I had been through and still was facing. I was back home in my home state and I was facing an opportunity to reset my life in almost every facet.

Over the course of the next two-plus years, I became so much more mindful of my daily emotions and feelings. I became much more routine oriented. I put my health, both physical and mental, at the top of my priority list, alongside my faith.

One of those routines was a morning walk that I try to do 4-5 times a week starting at 5:30 and goes for about two hours. And that’s when the question comes up…. “How did that happen?”

You see, I grew up in the suburbs, my parents worked their tails off to provide for my two brothers and I, I was very involved at my church growing up, my daily struggles weren’t anything compared to some of what my teammates or classmates faced throughout my high school or college career. I went on to play college baseball and was always surrounded by friends and family. I married my high school sweetheart and at the age of 26 was the youngest Division I communications director in the country.

So I have found myself asking, how did that happen?

How did I end up sitting in a garage holding a rope and standing next to a ladder? How did I find myself staring off the bridge into the James River in Richmond? How did I end up there?

You see, depression and mental health affects EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter what color, gender, occupation, age, background or faith you are. It hits everyone. You know the old cliché saying of “you never know what someone’s going through”, that’s not cliché. It’s reality.

I’ve had so many people, former colleagues, close friends, and others, whom I spent a lot of time with say to me, “I had no idea you were going through that”. I’m a pretty open individual, I don’t hide my feelings or emotions well, but I did in my darkest moments. Imagine those individuals who aren’t comfortable being open with their thoughts and emotions, imagine how they feel. That’s why it’s so crucial to be REAL and show people you care through your actions, not just your words. Even if it’s not an in-depth conversation, maybe a friend just needs someone to be in the same room as them.

Each and every person who have struggled with their mental health journey has a different path and a different story. There’s no clear cut, concrete answer for every single person. There’s no answer on Wikipedia or Google. Hell, even Amazon doesn’t have a solution for this one. The only solution I know is the support of incredible doctors, family, friends and a faithful God.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have several days where I get upset with myself for not being tougher or not being stronger to avoid putting myself, my family and my friends what I put them through. But I also know that I was put through those struggles because it has allowed me to impact others in a way I couldn’t have even imagined.

For much of my career, I’ve dedicated my daily occupation to impacting the lives of thousands of student-athletes at four different institutions through my work in communications, whether that be social media or a website or telling their story to the media. That’s what I had focused everything on.

A month ago, that all changed when my job was eliminated at Delaware. So, I was faced with another challenge. And because of the support system that has surrounded me since I opened up with my story, I know that another chapter of my book is coming and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

I don’t know what’s next just yet, but I do know that I will continue to use my story and my voice to be a mental health advocate.

Throughout my life, I had several people close to me succumb to their battle with mental health and depression. I’ve seen the pain that suicide has caused and is causing at an increasingly alarming rate, so my hope is that my story can try and help others from having to look back and answer the question, “How did that happen?”

Grief During The Holidays

Grief and the Holidays

Catherine Hogan

I am at the mall with my friend days before Halloween. Music tinkles through the speakers. “You guys are already playing Christmas music?” he asks one of the saleswomen. “Yes, well the store manager gave us a playlist and here it is. We’re surprised too!” she replied. I laughed, then paused. Thinking about the holidays used to make me so excited as a kid. The anticipation in the air as I looked forward to seeing my family, especially my favorite cousin, and opening gifts on the morning of Christmas Eve with the scent of pine trees in the air. There’s something magical about the holiday season, but when I lost my father freshman year of high school and my brother at the end of senior year, the season became more dreadful than anticipated.

When you lose someone, it is a form of trauma. In my favorite John Green novel Looking for Alaska, he states ““That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.” In this case, you have lost someone important to your life. I lost my two favorite people within a span of 4 years.

My family and I settled from a state of shock into a state of numbness during these losses. The holidays became the motions that we went through, something that normal and happy people around us celebrated but was turned into an old and tired routine for us. You never stop noticing the empty spot at the dinner table, or the quiet that fills the room where your loved one would have otherwise filled it. You think of things you want to tell him or her, like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” and “I miss you and wish you were here to celebrate with me.”

I have been able to survive these difficult holidays with the support of family and friends. They make me feel supported and loved, and I never realized how strong they were until we faced these times together. Often, we take those we love for granted, but having my family and friends by my side has helped me tremendously.

I used to think that ringing in a new year meant leaving my father and brother further in the past, but I realized how much love there still is in my family. Talking to a therapist and psychiatrist have been helpful as well. There are always steps you can take to get closer to healing. People are always willing to listen to you. I love hearing stories about my brother and father during the holidays, because I have wonderful memories with them and talking about them allows me to keep them alive. I know now that my father and brother will forever be in my heart.

I’ve also realized that the love you have for those you have lost can carry you far. It drives you to be your best self, to carry on the memory that was left behind. You’re allowed to be sad during the holidays. I’m not saying that sadness and longing are prohibited. Of course, you will reminiscence about the past years when things were good, but you also must realize that things will still be good, now and in the future. You’re allowed to let yourself be happy, even if people in your life are missing. They would simply want you to be happy. Keep your friends and family close this holiday season. Remember that you are loved, and you are fortunate enough to always have your loved one in your heart and by your side.

Embrace The Journey

Embrace The Journey

Chris Ianni


**Trigger Warning**

This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country. For the United States, the numbers are as follows:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7.

  “Too Much” – a Drake song that always reminds me of Sean. “Don’t think about it too much” if only I could brush it off so easily…

Before I speak about my personal experience, I want to say thank you to both the Locke family and the boys of 136 for creating this platform and allowing me the opportunity to speak about my ongoing battle with my mental health. I was hesitant about writing this because, quite honestly, I don’t like drawing attention to myself; it enhances my anxiety. Nevertheless, sharing this is important to me. As scary as it is, I hope that writing this can help me heal. 

I went through a battle with Lymes Disease six years ago, one that affected me physically and emotionally. On top of the constant feeling of anxiety and wondering if I would ever feel better, I was slowly slipping into depression. I was too sick to do anything. I spent my days sleeping, trying to eat anything I could to keep from losing more weight, and hoping that one day I would simply wake up feeling normal.

 I missed so many things. It forced me to miss a semester of school, but I missed more than just my classes. I missed out on valuable time with my friends, and being isolated was the most challenging part. As years passed, I began to recover physically, but mentally I was falling into a sinking hole. I was frustrated, lost, and confused. I felt empty. I often wondered if my mind would ever rest. If this is how it was going to be forever, I didn’t want to do this. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I felt because it didn’t seem fair to burden other people with my problems. 

The feeling of desolation became the norm. I simply just learned to live with it. I was never truly myself. I felt like I could never shake that permanent feeling of brain fog. Sure, I had days where my energy felt good, but at all times, I had a ticking time bomb in the back of my head of panic and anxiety, ready to explode at any moment. At times I didn’t even feel comfortable leaving the house; I was so content just being alone sleeping all day. It was where I felt safe. But it was only making things worse. I was stuck. I began thinking about ways to better myself. I saw a therapist, but to me, that wasn’t going to be enough. I started working out pretty regularly; it was my getaway, where I could clear my mind. It felt like a positive step because at least I was trying. 

Little did I know my biggest test was yet to come, moving across the country. I needed a fresh start; it was necessary for my growth. My family and almost all my friends were still back in Delaware. What if something happened? That fear always filled my thoughts. As more and more time passed, I felt like I still couldn’t get over that hump. The constant feeling of anxiety with the daily waves of depression were taking over my mind. I felt lost that I was just going through the motions of this meaningless life. I felt like I had nothing that I was simply just there. Dark thoughts of do I even belong here, mixed with does anybody even care? Where do I go from here? I knew I couldn’t live like this long term. It wasn’t sustainable. 

I’ve never been an expressive person, speaking on how I truly feel. I never felt comfortable doing so. I’ve been so used to holding in all these thoughts and emotions; it became the norm just to bottle them in. Being consumed by and suppressing my  thoughts was beginning to take over my everyday life. I felt like I wasn’t able to entirely focus on things that mattered most to me, and that genuinely hurt me.

That leads me to this very moment today. I had to sit down and do some self-reflection. Days filled with frustration, sadness, tears, sleepless nights, all of which felt uncontrollable. I can’t live like this. I know deep down inside of me that this energetic, caring kid wants the best for not only himself, but for others as well. I took some time to myself to contemplate what kind of man I aspire to be. How can I grow from this and become that person, but also be there and support others going through similar situations at the same time.

The truth of the matter is, I am still struggling this present day. I am still searching for the best ways to overcome this, but that’s ok. I am learning to embrace the journey. I am becoming deeply invested and committed to helping myself. I’m trying to focus my attention on things that will help me grow and be a better person for myself. Nothing is accomplished overnight. Success is a series of small victories. Do you live in the past on certain things which then allow them to dictate your future? Maybe I have been letting my emotions get the best of me. At times my mind wanders and I can’t help it.  All these years of built up anger and frustration inside me, I’ve been letting them control me. But it’s time I take control before things escalate further. We weren’t raised in a culture where it is okay to not be okay. But, you have to be willing to understand that you’re allowed to feel that way! You must live your truth. That includes not hiding if you are feeling a certain way and want to speak up. At first, nervousness and anxiety filled my brain as I thought about this change and entering upon a new journey to find peace.  This is all new and fresh to me, I truly have never just set the time aside for myself to work on self-love. As scared as I am, I’m incredibly excited to learn about my emotions and thoughts. I’m looking forward to embracing this feeling of uncertainty and getting to that place of being comfortable and content with my thoughts and emotions.

I read a quote the other day by Bob Dylan that stood out to me that said, “Destiny is a feeling that you know something about that nobody else does. The picture you have in your mind of what you’re about will come true.” It is ourselves who are in control of our own emotions. Be that person you want to be and start living by that. 

I want people to know my story not because I’m searching for sympathy, rather because I know we are all battling something. It’s ok to be frustrated. But to not be discouraged, but embrace the position you’re in, and trust the process. It will not happen overnight, but that’s the beauty of it. All this time, I’ve been so focused on the future, thinking there was this imaginary timetable when things might be better, that I entirely forgot what matters most, the NOW. I’m learning to live in the moment and trying not to look too far ahead, for I’m causing self induced anxiety over something that has not even occurred yet. I’m learning about different ways to help cope with these emotions. I understand this is a long process that requires daily work, but I’m happy about breaking out of my comfort zone. 

I’m beginning to focus on my true passions and other ways that ease my mind, such as cooking and running. What do YOU love to do? Find joy in things you genuinely enjoy doing. I encourage you to speak out, do not hesitate to express your thoughts or ask for help. Be free with your mind. Do not be defined by the bad days.

Family, friends, humans, we must be conscious of others’ emotions and feelings. We must listen diligently to each other. We must grow together. Most importantly, we must be patient. I want you to know that you indeed are never alone. I understand the pain, the frustration, that feeling of no worth. 

I want to hear your story. I want to talk to you. Whether we know each other or not, I want you to know that I care about you. Please reach out to me at any time to talk about how we will get through this together. There is so much beauty in this life, so much to be happy about. This is only the beginning. There is so much that has yet to be written. I look forward to speaking with you and embracing the journey together. 

If you want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via phone at 302-367-9967. I know how good it feels to just have somebody to talk to about anything. I promise you this is a judgement free zone. We are living in unprecedented times right now, I understand that feeling of being overwhelmed. Be patient. Listen to yourself. Remember, you are loved. You are incredibly important to me and the world, and I’m both excited yet grateful to ride along with you to find our inner peace.

Say ‘i love you.’

Say 'I love you.'

Allison Burns

Alli Burns & Tara Lauderdale, Brendan Lauderdale's mother, at the annual #BE4B run in honor of Brendan

As a junior in high school, every little thing that happens seems to matter… a lot. Who you sit with at lunch, what you wear and every little grade you get seem to rock your world almost to the point where something happening that really matters seems like it would be too much…that is until something does happen that really matters.

“Brendan is gone”

My first thought after hearing those words, standing in my high school

hallway, was ‘did he transfer?’ … ‘where did he go?’” That is when, at age 17,

I found out that a family friend of 10 years had just taken his life. Brendan was 18, a month away from graduation and ready to go to his senior prom. He was part of a big group of friends, on the football and swim team, had a great family and was an IB student. I was never the closest to Brendan, but from where I stood, his life looked pretty nice.

The truth of the matter, and what I came to realize that day, was that I really had no idea what Brendan was going through, and neither did really anyone else. The week between that day and the funeral were the biggest blur but had an incredibly lasting impact. For a while I was sad, and only sad. It didn’t feel right being happy but at a certain point, I knew I had to do more than just be sad. From that moment I started taking action in my life.

In memory of Brendan Lauderdale 11/29/99-5/2/18

What was I going to do about the future? To start with, I was going to study psychology. If there was something that I could do to one day feel like I was giving back, I knew I was going to do it. So, I came to the University of Delaware and started studying psychology, which was great, but I knew I wanted to do something more. In February, one day between classes, I got an email about a volunteer opportunity for psychology majors. I looked into it and filled out the google form for Sean’s House… whatever that was. I sat on a zoom call with Chris Locke, Sean’s dad, when he explained his story and his missions. I knew that this was as much as sign as I would get in my life, so I decided to take action on it. In my interview to become a Peer Support Specialist at Sean’s House, I was asked what lived experience I had, and I said, “I don’t know if this ‘counts,’ but I lost a friend to suicide and I just need to do something.” I took an unbelievable amount of comfort from hearing that it did ‘count’, and I could start making the difference that I was hoping to. 

What was I going to do about my own mental health? Take action and break the stigma. After Brendan passed, my parents asked me to go to see a psychologist. Although I did say I would go, I told myself, and everyone else, that it was “just because of Brendan”. The stigma I was so adamant about taking action against was the same stigma that I was falling right back into in not being okay with saying I needed help. Moving forward, I was taking ownership my own self-care because it was a good thing! I had no need to be ashamed of going to see a psychologist because I was doing what I needed to do for me; and what I wish I could get the people I love to do for themselves, as well.

What was I going to do about the people in my life? Say ‘I love you’. One of the things all the people in my life know about me is that I always say, ‘I love you’. To some people, they know why it is so important to me, and to some, it’s just kind of what I do. I hope one day, that can be part of the legacy I might leave behind.  Something that I struggle with often is thinking that I know. I know what people are thinking, I know what someone meant when they said that, or I know what someone is going through. The truth that I have found in my life is that you can’t really ever know what someone else is experiencing. I also can never know who needs to hear ‘I love you’. I find myself taking comfort in ‘I love you’ because the thing about ‘I love you’ is that there are no questions asked…it never hurts, and it is never too often.

I didn’t know Sean, but I am beyond thankful for Sean’s House and the Locke family for providing the platform we have here to make a difference. You are all the leading force towards eliminating the stigma and making real change in the lives of so many people. You give so many people hope and the opportunity to recognize their worth, and for that I am so thankful… I love you all.

Photo Credits: Rich Condit
Allison Burns

Allison Burns

Alli Burns is a sophomore at the University of Delaware and a member of the varsity Women’s Rowing team. As a psychology and human services double major, she is passionate about finding ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.