I met Eli Brown for the first time while attending Mindfulness Without Borders facilitator training. He was extremely friendly and personable. I later found out about his incredible life journey. Trained as a tennis player as young as 4 years old, Eli won a scholarship to attend university and a spot on the NCAA tennis team. However, he came across challenging moments as a teenager: after going through trauma at age 14 from sexual abuse, he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. Finally, he reached for help and now publicly he shares his story through his clothing brand “Shine The Light On” (STLO). His clothing brand provides a voice for young people to talk about mental health and to change the conversation from reducing stigma to acceptance. Here I catch up with him through a phone interview:
1. When did you first realize you were facing a mental health issue?
When I was 18, in my freshmen year at university, I noticed a drastic change in my lifestyle and interests. That was when I really began to notice the effects of mental health difficulties.
2. How did you finally get help?
After a suicide attempt, I received help from my parents and my family. I was neglecting my health. I was really struggling inside. Even with that experience, I didn’t know deep down I needed help. But they were the ones who got me back on the path. Through that experience, I built a support network – my parents, my brother, my sister, and a couple of good friends. So when I was ready to receive help, those were the people that I reached out to. I went to a 67-Day Wilderness Program in the United States to get help.
3. What does “mindfulness” mean to you?
Mindfulness means being in the present moment. That’s as simple as I can make it. It’s a crazy world we live in. A ton of stuff going on. For me, mindfulness is just bringing myself back to that moment, not thinking about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just being in the moment.
4. Do you practice “mindfulness” in your everyday life?
To the best of my ability, I do try to meditate every single day to help become present. With how busy life is, it is difficult not to think about what happened yesterday or couple of hours ago and what’s going to be happening tomorrow. I try when I see myself slipping.
5. Nowadays, when you feel stuck in a rut, what do you do to get out of it?
I always reach out to the support network that I’ve built and I share how I’m feeling with those people and work through what I’m going through.
6. Who’s your favourite author, podcaster, or blogger?
I really like listening to Tony Robbins. I find his work and all his stuff to be very motivational and very vibrant.
7. If you could send one message to someone else currently going through mental health issues, what would it be?
With persistence, our greatest challenges in life can become our greatest successes.
“Shine The Light On” clothing is now sold online and across hundreds of retail stores across North America. A portion of all sales go toward training and educational programs with Mindfulness Without Borders. To view Eli’s We (formerly Me-to-We) full speech, click on the image below:
Facts from CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada):
- In a study published in 2016, 1-in-3 Ontario high school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression.1
- 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence. 1
- Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada. 1
If you are in crisis, please connect with a friend, a loved one, or a 24-hour hotline. Someone is always available to listen:
Canada helplines: http://worldhelplines.org/canada.html
Other countries: http://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com/helpline
What are other ways to start a conversation on mental health? Please leave suggestions below:
1CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). (2018). Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_reporters/Pages/addictionmentalhealthstatistics.aspx
Eli Brown’s photo credit: Villagelivingmagazine.ca, Photographer: Andrew Fishman