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CAST Seminar - “Minding Your Mind” Public Education Program

KING OF PRUSSIA, PA, November 23, 2009 - Ross Szabo is handsome, charismatic and popular. “I was captain of the high school basketball team, invited to all of the parties and had a lot of friends. What people didn’t know is that I cried when I was alone, drank until I passed out and wanted to kill myself.” Diagnosed with “bipolar disorder with anger control problems and psychotic features,” Ross recently shared his personal struggles with Upper Merion students at a special assembly and later that evening to a near capacity crowd of community members. Sponsored by Upper Merion Area School District and CAST (Community Alliance for a Safer Tomorrow), Ross was the featured speaker as a part of the national “Minding Your Mind” public education program of the Minding Your Mind Foundation and the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign. The goal of this prevention program is to advocate the early detection and intervention of youth with mental health issues.

Ross shared that 66% of young people don’t get the help they need and asked audience members, “why?” Answers ranged from the stigma associated with mental health, denial, not knowing whom to turn to for help, and not wanting to embarrass their family as some of the major roadblocks to seeking help. He then went on to describe the profound impact of watching his father cry as they drove to visit his older brother in the mental ward of a local hospital. At the time, a physics major at the University of Pennsylvania, his brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “My brother was able to do OK because he was hospitalized immediately and got help right away, my father’s health insurance covered my brother’s treatments, and my brother accepted his bipolar disorder. He didn’t do drugs or alcohol to deal with his bipolar. Those three factors were the key to my brother’s success.”

After a long and difficult struggle that lasted years, Ross has also achieved success and is now the Director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign and a much sought after speaker of The Heard, a group of dynamic young speakers who have experienced some type of mental health issue. Speakers from The Heard encourage others to seek help and share their experiences to erase the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourage young people and their parents to seek help.

With 80-90% of people who get help experiencing significant improvement, students getting help will do better in school, be more confident, and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. If you are a parent, student or anyone else with questions or concerns, many resources are available to you. Visit the Minding Your Mind website at, talk to your school counselor, clergy, medical doctor, visit the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign website at, call the Parents Involved Network at 800-688-4226 Ext. 513 or visit their website at, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.


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This website was developed,  in part, under a grant number SP 14395-07 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ONDCP, SAMHSA or HHS.