Jordan Corcoran will spend Mental Health Awareness Month making people aware of mental health resources. After all, she is one.
In 2013, after years spent battling her own demons in silence, the Glenshaw resident founded Listen, Lucy, an organization fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Throughout May, she’ll visit 15 schools, organizations and businesses across the country to share her experiences. She believes having candid conversations in a public forum will help other folks open up about their own struggles.
To prepare for her whirlwind tour — her first in more than two years — she’s hosting a listening party for a hometown crowd. On Thursday, April 14, from 6 to 8 p.m., the nationally recognized speaker, author, podcaster and mental health advocate will give a presentation at Alloy 26, located at Nova Place on the North Side. Tickets, which include drinks and snacks, are $15 and are available online.
Corcoran was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder when she was a 19-year-old freshman at Mercyhurst College. But her problems had begun long before that.
She suffered frequent panic attacks as a North Hills High School student but balked at entering treatment because she was too embarrassed by the situation.
In college, things went from bad to unbearable. Panic attacks were a daily occurrence and one bout of anxiety ended with her being carried out of her dorm room on a stretcher.
“I was living in chaos and refused to admit it,” she says. “Eventually, I decided that I needed to go to therapy. It unlocked everything for me. Not only did I learn what was different about my brain, but I learned about myself. I became an expert on my own illness.”
Through therapy she learned how to identify triggers and use coping techniques, like writing, to stave off anxiety. Once she was able to quiet her mind, she began detailing her experiences. She penned a warts-and-all op-ed for the school newspaper, found acceptance and changed the course of her life.
The Listen, Lucy organization (Lucy is Corcoran’s childhood nickname) uses speaking engagements, books and workshops to break down barriers that stand between people and mental health treatment — whether those barriers are stigma, accessibility or insurance. And she invites others to anonymously share their experiences in an effort to create a kinder, more understanding world.
As the mother of two kids (ages 2 and 6), she’s comfortable talking to young children. And she easily relates to middle and high schoolers, college students, adults and corporate America. Despite her diagnosis, today Corcoran feels confident in front of a crowd.
It’s valuable timing: Her advice is needed now more than ever.
A new report from the CDC shows that one in three kids in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental illness. The pandemic exacerbated a lot of situations, but also made people take notice and advocate for themselves and their families.
Corcoran, whose touring was sidelined due to Covid-19, is now flooded with speaking requests.
In addition to traveling, she’s working on a follow-up to her children’s book “Little Lucy and the Little Butterflies,” about a young girl dealing with anxiety. Helping kids understand that their emotions are common and valid is important to Corcoran, who sees herself in a lot of the scared and vulnerable faces in the audiences she addresses.
Her message to them is clear: There is help and hope.
“Information is power,” Corcoran says. “This is an all-consuming, emotionally draining illness. Once I found acceptance, it freed up so much of my being. I want people to find the same acceptance and realize that it’s normal to struggle with mental health.”