Peer support: how ordinary Ohioans are helping others break mental health barriers

Four years ago, Rondye Brown reached “the darkest place” in his life. Feeling trapped in an endless cycle of crime, prison and substance abuse, Brown decided on what he believed to be his best solution. 

“I asked God to remove his hand from me, because I didn’t want to be in a conscious state of feeling,” he recalled. “When I said that to God, I knew that I was going to end my life.”

Alone in his room that night at a friend’s house in Southern Ohio, Brown grabbed a knife and stabbed himself in the chest. When he regained consciousness a few hours later, he looked down at a pool of blood. He also saw the knife and knew he needed to remove it. 

He called a couple of friends from church, and they drove him to the hospital.

Coming out while stuck inside: LGBTQ+ youth and young adults face unique mental health risks as pandemic rages on

When Tyler, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, started hormone replacement therapy two months before spring break, the last thing he expected was to spend the rest of the semester with his parents in Westbrook, New York. Tyler had been living with three other trans students he befriended through CSU’s LGBTQ+ Student Services before campus housing closed in mid-March. When Tyler moved in with his parents, they were still uncomfortable with his trans identity and were not using his preferred pronouns (he/his). 

“I wasn’t out in high school and college was the first place I felt like I was actually able to be myself,” Tyler said. “I felt like my sense of community was ripped away all at once.”

Those first few months of quarantine, when Tyler didn’t have a laptop and couldn’t access CSU’s online counseling or the LGBTQ+ center’s virtual drop-ins, were emotionally rough. “The conversations I had with my parents were conversations I was not prepared for, especially being on hormones.