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Ross Szabo

THE #1 Mental Health Speaker in the Nation. He was Voted Campus Activities Magazine's "Best Male Performer" in 2007

Ross Szabo is the CEO of the Human Power Project. He is an award winning speaker, writer, trainer and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Ross has spoken to more than 1 million students about the importance of mental health and provided a positive example to empower them to seek help. He received the 2010 Didi Hirsch…

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Ross Szabo is the CEO of the Human Power Project. He is an award winning speaker, writer, trainer and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Ross has spoken to more than 1 million students about the importance of mental health and provided a positive example to empower them to seek help.

He received the 2010 Didi Hirsch Removing the Stigma Leadership Award, 2012 Changing Minds Award and had his advocacy work entered into the Congressional Record. He is the co-author of Behind Happy Faces; Taking Charge of Your Mental Health and a blogger for The Huffington Post.

Ross turned a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 16 into an opportunity to educate others. His natural ability to make difficult topics comfortable for large groups of people has led to countless media appearances and articles. He pioneered a movement of youth mental health advocacy and has created trainings to assist new speakers to reach their full potential.

Ross enjoys running and living in the Los Angeles area.

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Behind Happy Faces: Talking About Mental Health
When Ross was a freshman in college, everything on the surface seemed to be fine. He was making friends, getting good grades and had a fun social life. However, no one could have imagined how many emotions he was suppressing. Ross was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 16, was hospitalized for attempting to take his own life during his senior year of high school, and like so many other freshman, just wanted to fit in. He tried to hide what he was feeling to convince everyone that everything was ok, but that can only last for so long. Ross’s story resonates with the millions of college students who are putting on a happy face to hide their true emotions.

Mental health challenges are the largest problems facing colleges today. Twenty-five percent of college students experience a mental health disorder. Outside of diagnosable disorders students are dealing with lack of sleep, stress, and substance abuse. While 85% of colleges have reported drastic increases in the amount of young people seeking mental health counseling, understanding and awareness about the issue are still lacking. During these difficult times, it is imperative for young people to express what they are going through, know that they are not alone, and feel comfortable while seeking help.

Ross teaches students about the complexities of mental health issues and empowers them to seek help or help their friends seek help.  Most mental health challenges are highly treatable, but too often remain hidden in silence preventing people from achieving the recovery they are capable of.

The program focuses specifically on how students can achieve positive mental health by learning about their coping mechanisms. Ross uses tasteful humor and insights to help participants understand common mental health conditions and individual differences.  He also covers warning signs that students can look for in their friends and peers, as well as resources that can provide guidance in these sensitive situations.

Mixed Drinks, Mixed Emotions: Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health
How many times have you seen a friend openly discuss all of their emotions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and never talk about it again? Sometimes they forget what they have said. Other times they are too afraid to deal with it. A lot of times people are more comfortable addressing their emotions while they are inebriated.  Self-medication has been one way college students have coped with difficult situations for many years, but it doesn’t have to continue.

Forty-eight percent of young people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue. It is important to address the reasons why students may be binge-drinking, abusing substances, driving under the influence and engaging in negative behavior. The average college student today is facing overwhelming amounts of stress, workloads, transition, pressure and mental health problems. Often times they suffer in silence, hiding their fears until they become too large to deal with. This program addresses the ties between substance abuse and mental health. The goals are to break down the stereotypes surrounding expression of emotion in order to help young people function at their highest level and teach students effective coping mechanisms.

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Ross Szabo at 2016 Peace of Mind Storytellers

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