Dickey releases self-published book

‘A Hopeful Madness’ documents mental health

Molly Begeman, Features Editor

September, or Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, is an important month for recent Gannon graduate, Katie Dickey.  

Dickey graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in social work and is now working to create safe spaces in Erie by speaking openly about her story and struggles. To do this, she compiled eight years’ worth of poems, essays and articles documenting her mental health journey in a self-published book titled “A Hopeful Madness.” 

Dickey said the goal of the piece is to “speak what is unspoken and give a voice to others” to ensure those who either do not feel safe or do not feel brave have the comfort of knowing that they are not alone.  

“A Hopeful Madness” sheds light on the complexities of mental health — both the highs and the lows.  Writing essays, poems and articles about the experiences that she was facing in real time were therapeutic for Dickey to document her journey. 

Not only were writing and creating art safe ways to express what Dickey was feeling but publishing these raw and emotional pieces was a release.  Through countless depressive episodes, therapy, hospital visits and different forms of treatment, Dickey’s art was the one thing that was a constant oasis. 

However, Dickey did not publish the book solely to find her own peace.  

“It was to prompt students to know that nobody on campus has the same story as them or has seen the exact same pains and joys as them,” Dickey said. “Nobody walking down AJ’s way has lived the same life as anyone they pass, but there are so many people in our community that are going through incredibly hard and scary things, and we can choose together to normalize that.” 

Dickey aims to build a community of people who can share their experiences and learn that they are not alone in their fight.  Therefore, Dickey strongly believes in Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, and for her, it is a “safe space.”  

It is sometimes a struggle to connect the world and Gannon with the living experience of suicide prevention.  Dickey said that many believe change to be a linear process. 

“You formulate a mission statement, rally the troops, then plan the event, make the scene, then the marketing and the photos,” Dickey said.   

Dickey said this is a good way to create change, but it is not always sustainable. Sustainable change for Dickey is based on storytelling.  She advocates for having safe and welcoming spaces on campus and in the Erie community for students to just exist — places where students can share stories without pressure or risk of feeling like they must change what they are going through, when they are going through it and how they feel about it.   

Active Minds represents this more sustainable way of change with the event Outspoken, where students can showcase their own stories either anonymously or by speaking it themselves.  Dickey spearheaded the event, and so far, there have been three installments of it.  

Dickey said that Outspoken began anonymously, but over time, it became more important that students tell their own stories.  

Students used whatever art medium they preferred to tell their stories in ways they deemed fit.  There would be no sugar-coating or creating a happy ending, because as Dickey said, that is not how mental health works. 

“Sometimes there is no happy ending, so why create one?” Dickey said.  

By creating a platform for students to tell their stories, it lets them know that they are not alone in their struggles and that their stories may be like someone else’s.   

“Gannon is taking a very clinical approach to well-being for students, with Timely Care and referring students to counselling,” Dickey said. “But we need to keep that momentum going and we need to add another branch, where we are looking at how we are meeting loneliness needs.” 

Dickey said that some students are struggling with mental health concerns and preventative actions need to be put in place. This could mean creating spaces where students feel seen and can “collapse into safety” and have the space to feel their feelings. 

Katie stressed the importance of creating more reliable safe spaces for people of all walks of life — not just on Gannon’s campus but in the broader Erie community as well.  Dickey said the lack of mental health services in Erie plays a factor in the mental health of many people. She said that mental health is just as important as physical health. 

This is one of the primary reasons why Dickey does what she does.  She uses her story to show that mental health is not linear. 

We can still have powerful insights and messages to share, even when our journey is still unfolding, or feels more bitter than bitter-sweet,” Dickey said. 


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