Active Minds speaker Maggie Bertram shares her journey through mental health stigma

“Every time we tell our stories we let other people know that it is okay to feel how they are feeling. Keep telling your stories because we all have one, and they are all important,” Maggie Bertram said.

Maggie Bertram is an anorexia survivor who lives with anxiety and depression. Despite these hardships, she incorporated humor and anecdotes into her speech about the importance of mental health through sharing her story with MU students on Nov. 4 in Stotler Lounge.

Active Minds Mizzou, an organization that strives to change the conversation about mental health, hosted the event.

"The fact that we had such a large and receptive audience is awesome and encouraging,” Active Minds Mizzou Vice President Anthony Orso said. “Maggie Bertram has such an incredible and authentic story, and having 175 people get to hear her speak is amazing. Although it was 175 people, this message will spread through a chain reaction because people know people who know people."

Bertram became involved with Active Minds during graduate school and is now a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. She seeks to educate college students on the prevalence of mental health issues and the negative impact of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I’ve been blessed to get to do work with Active Minds and to take a dark part of my life and do good for other people,” Bertram said. “I go out and share my story because I’m hoping when you all leave you will feel comfortable talking about some of the things you have felt or encountered.”

Bertram spoke about growing up in a small town in Central Illinois where people refrained from talking about the struggles that they may have been facing.

She explained the importance of speaking out, being there for one another, fighting the mental health stigma and seeking help when necessary.

“I think it was really cool how personable she was,” junior and Active Minds member Jessica Duncan said. “She shared so many aspects of her life, so she was able to connect with a majority of the audience.”

Duncan said that because Bertram shared other aspects of her life outside of her struggle with mental health, she showed that she did not define herself by her struggle.

Bertram incorporated anecdotes into her speech about her life as an achiever and her experiences with perfectionism, anxiety, depression, anorexia and coming out.

She also explained that just being there for someone who is struggling with a mental health issue regardless of how they may choose to handle the situation is often what that person needs.

“Although people struggle with how to respond to someone with a mental illness in a time of crisis or distress, the conversation is overwhelmingly positive, which is refreshing,” Orso said. “It gives me hope in spite of the social injustices that are going on on campus."

Bertram said that the sense of community is “phenomenal” when speaking of injustices.

“The things happening here are not happening everywhere, and I have complete faith that this community will be able to heal together,” Bertram said. "I am completely impressed, and I am honored to be here.”

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