Shauna Moses, the associate executive director at the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, knows firsthand the importance of addressing mental illness due to her own battle with depression and a suicide attempt.

According to Moses, the mental illness awareness program, Attitudes in Reverse (AIR) taught her she that there’s a biological basis to mental illness, as well as a trigger. For her, one trigger was the death of a close relative, the thought of which activated a downward emotional spiral during an overwhelming season where her life was consumed by her career. She was dwelling on negatives: two divorces, two other failed relationships and a deceased loved one.

“All of those thoughts overshadowed everything else in my life: my son, my family, my friends… the negatives were just taking over,” Moses said.

For a while, her escape was to sleep. She would spend entire weekends in bed, hiding her struggle from her son and extended family. However, she eventually reached a point where the thought of suicide was constant.

"It was like a monster taking over my life,” she said.

When she did attempt to end her own life, she failed. However, the botched attempt gave way to a decision to turn her life around. She sought help at Carrier Clinic, and began to equip herself through therapy and medication.

“I do still have my very dark days... but the only thought I have of suicide now is about preventing it from happening for other people," she said of her life today.

Moses says one way she now counters her depression is through the companionship of her dog, Chica, who is always there to make her smile.

“She’s my lifesaver," said Moses. "She makes life a lot less lonely.”

Moses also tries to maintain a healthy work-life balance so that she's not always busy.

"I'm trying not to be a workaholic - it's a trigger," she said.

Finding this equilibrium includes volunteering with AIR, spending time with her family and enjoying entertainment that makes her laugh, rather than internalize other people's negative emotions.

“I hear a lot of people struggle in silence, and that’s why we reach out with our educational program," Moses said about sharing her story via AIR. “Everyone’s life is worth living. You just gotta get past that dark point, and you need a support network, whether it’s a friend, a family member, a teacher - maybe it is a professional counselor, maybe not. I’ve been there and it’s important to talk about it."

For those with family members struggling with mental illness, Moses suggests checking out National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Watch the video below to hear NAMI Recovery Programs Coordinator Jay Yudof discuss different resources available for New Jerseyans affected by mental health problems.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or struggling with a mental illness, help is only a call a way. The 24 hour national suicide prevention hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Video footage courtesy of Dan Alexander.

Kira Buxton is producer of The Jim Gearhart Show and a professional photographer-videographer. You can reach her at, or by tweeting @kirabuxton.

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