Sallie Gucwa - 2018 Blessons Scholarship Award Recipient & Survivor of Abuse

I currently live in Hammond, IN. I am divorced and re-married. I have two daughters, ages 15 and 2. I am currently attending a 4 year University pursuing my Bachelors in Business Management. I am the Classifieds Front-Line Floater for the NWI Times Newspaper (processing obituaries, legal notices, and classified ads). My career goal is to move into a management position that allows me the ability to help others. I want to be an active advocate for mental health awareness and work toward ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.

I had first attended Loyola University right after high school and lived on campus. My college career was interrupted in 2001, when I attempted suicide during my second year. The following year I took a few classes part time at a local junior college, but was unsuccessful. Later on in life I entered into a marriage which was emotionally abusive. I have been living away from him for over 10 years.  I spent some time in therapy and distanced myself from that life. Now, it is 17 years later and I am taking online courses part time while working. I am committed to finishing my education.

With mental illness, staying positive is a daily challenge. Often times mental wellness ebbs and flows, which can be difficult to overcome. What keeps me going is knowing that this will pass and I will be stronger for it. I appreciate the happiness more and feel a great sense of pride in my accomplishments.  

Last year (2017) was when I first felt well enough to go back to school. Exercise was a very important aspect of my improved mental health. At the time, I would run 5 days a week as well as do some weight lifting and yoga at home. Not only did running improve my mental and physical health, it also gave me a sense of pride. Being able to run a 5k was an amazing accomplishment for me.

In addition to exercise, I have also been more open about my mental illness on social media and with my co-workers and family. I decided that I cannot be a good mental health advocate if I was too embarrassed to share my own issues. My hope is that opening up in this way will work toward ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as normalize the issue a little bit.   Being open, asking for help, sharing my story, these things not only help me, but I hope that they will also help someone else.