Tragedy Breaks Stigma of Depression

By Chelbi Mims
October 4, 2011


Burnham recently spoke to troops on a fort-base in Louisiana.

Nine stories up and a battle with depression built Jordan Burnham, graduate of Upper Merion High School, into the man he is today.

On Sept. 28, 2007 Burnham’s life was changed forever. He attempted suicide his senior year of high school by jumping out of his nine-story bedroom window which left him in the hospital for five months with a snapped left fibula, broken left tibia, shattered left femur, broken pelvis, broken jaw in four places, broken left wrist and was placed in a coma for five days.

“Some of the worst moments in your life will in turn make some of the best moments in your life,” Burnham said during the ESPN E60 documentary.

“Everyone saw me as a different person on the outside and I felt like I had to live up to so much by my peers and parents. My recurring thought which led to my suicide was I didn’t want to disappoint my parents or my sister.,” Burnham

On the outside Burnham was a popular student, excelled in sports and had good grades. No one would think he was in a tough battle with depression. Going through elementary school and middle school Burnham noticed something was different and was diagnosed with depression in 10th grade.

“In elementary school I had to switch to a new school and deal with being picked on,” Burnham said. Then my sister became my best friend and I had to move from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. But my sister was in college and this is the first time where I keep these depressed thoughts to myself and I think this is where people can relate to my story. There are transitions that we all go through and nine times out of 10 they are not easy ones.”

Multiple factors led to Jordan’s attempted suicide. He felt that others expected him to excel in sports even after high school. He felt he was not reaching other people’s goals for himself. He put increasing pressure on himself. He went though high school with fake smiles and could not figure out why his grades were slipping and why he failed his driving test.

“I made a lot of mistakes handling my depression. I, like most people battling depression, took an anti-depressant for four weeks then I felt good and I thought the medicine was working. I thought I was cured and I would self medicate with drinking or going out with friends and anything to get my mind off of what I was going through,” Burnham said.

Today, Burnham speaks to students and young adults about the mental health issues that college students and young adults may face. He also inspires young adults to talk about a topic which many people would like to keep hidden: depression. He will speak to the Cabrini student and faculty body on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in Widener Lecture Hall.

“Jordan’s story has made me realize that mental health is not to be taken lightly, and there is no shame in seeking help or talking to someone about what you are going through. Hearing Jordan speak makes me appreciate life, the opportunities I have, to notice when people around me aren’t okay,” Stephanie Parentes, Burnham’s girlfriend, freshman pre-occupational therapy major, said.

Burnham speaks about sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, the warning signs for someone depressed or having suicidal thoughts and how to help a friend.

“If you think your friend is depressed you have to change the conversation you would normally have and stop saying, ‘how are you doing,’ and change it to, ‘how are you feeling,’ and that changes the dimension of the conversation,” Burnham said.

Burnham started speaking when he was 19 and is now in his fourth year of speaking. He has traveled to 28 different states, three different countries and has spoken to over 60 schools and over 35,000 students. He has spoken to troops in Louisiana and  has been in three different documentaries.

“I travel all over but the most important thing is to help college students and young adults because they go through so much nowadays,” Burnham said. “It is crazy and I am so glad that people want to hear the story.”

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Chelbi Mims

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