Warning: The topics of suicide and mental illness are discussed in the article below, and the contents may be graphic to some readers.
On Oct. 10, speaker Steve Swanson came to Dakota State University to talk about his experience with mental illness. His story was moving, and there were few dry eyes in the Science Center auditorium.
Swanson started out the session with a warning. “I don’t know where the line is, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I’m going to treat you guys like adults. Is that okay?” We agreed, but I don’t think anyone could prepare themselves for his story.
A video started playing, a scene from the Lord of the Rings, and if you haven’t seen it, you might want to watch it. “Where is the Horse and the Rider” is a scene from the movie which ends in the line, “How did it come to this?” Swanson opens up with this clip because he repeats this phrase throughout the entirety of his speech.
The first story Swanson tells happens in college; he had stabbed a knife into his ass, and couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. He grabbed a towel to cover the wound, when his RA, whom he had had sexual relations with at the time, had walked in. Swanson went into the bathroom, but the RA, in the mirror, saw the blood covering the floor. Swanson begged him not to tell anybody.
“How did it come to this?”
The second story comes when Swanson was offered to go to his brother’s wife’s family reunion. Swanson had social anxiety, so instead, he asked them to drop him off at the nearest church so he could play the piano. When he got inside, he put a razor to his chest. A resident of the community, noticing a stranger going into his church, went to investigate. When he went in, he found the surprise of his life, and brought Swanson to the reunion so that he could get ahold of his brother, who then took him to the hospital.
“How did it come to this?”
Steve Swanson is from small town Nebraska, and one day, when he was young, there was a man who came down the road in a horse and carriage. The horse was hurt, and the man needed a place to stay. Swanson’s father, being a good Christian man, offered to help, for he completely believed in Hebrews 13:2 which states: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” For Swanson though, this man was no angel. That night, the man snuck into his room and did things that no young child should ever have to go through.
“What do you do when your first sexual experience is with a cross-dressing pedophile?”
To this, Swanson explained exactly what he had been leading up to. “We pull the fill based upon the first experience. The misinterpretation of the circumstance defines your life.” He calls it the “Simba experience”, showing us a video clip from The Lion King when Mufasa dies and Simba is crying next to his father. Scar comes up and puts the blame on Simba, causing Simba to misinterpret the situation.
Swanson is a “self-contained homosexual, masochistic, multi-personality.” He doesn’t speak professionally, but Stomp Out Stigma (S.O.S.) thought that his story would hit hard for some people. “To mental health and the stereotypes that surround it, Jesus is perfectly capable of handling the depth of any psychological pathology.”
S.O.S. is a club that anyone on campus is welcome to be a part of. Amanda Ruiz, the President of the club, tells us what it’s about: “We aim to raise awareness for suicide prevention and to try to prevent the stigma for mental illness around campus.”