By Lauren Hernandez
Phillip J. Roundtree shares his experience with mental health issues around the country.
Active Minds hosted “Black Mental Health Matters” in Beers Lecture Hall on Feb. 21. Students and faculty filled the lecture hall to capacity.
President of Active Minds, Raquel Sosa, gave a warm introduction for Phillip J. Roundtree, the presenter who struggles with depression and anxiety.
He was sporting one of his t-shirts that said, “This is What Depression Looks Like” in all capital letters.
Roundtree, 34, hails from Philadelphia, and he even attended Bloomsburg University from 2001-2005.
Roundtree started the event by asking what people see when they look at him.
Some of the responses were nicely trimmed beard and a black man. However, one response stuck out to him the most.
“A human with a mind that falls short of certain things because of mental health” said a student near the front of the crowd.
The student’s friends thought Roundtree’s response was going to be negative, but in fact, Roundtree applauded the student.
He told the student that that was the first time anyone has actually said that when he asked that question.
He jokingly said he’s been compared to James Harden and Mr. T, but he appreciated the student’s realness.
The tone became serious when Roundtree said he had suicidal ideations every day for 15 years.
He then spoke about how people think all mental health looks like the Parkland shooter, or Andre from Empire who is incredibly bipolar, or a homeless person on the street going through psychosis.
Roundtree has two degrees. He had the letters MSW (Masters Level Clinician) and MS (Master of Science) on his PowerPoint next to his name.
He said the letters are nice to have because he knows he’ll always have a job.
They’re a reminder that he did well academically, but if giving those letters back meant he could be able to wake up and get directly out of bed, he would get rid of them immediately.
He went on to explain that he believes his depression and anxiety stem from his childhood and adolescence.
In the eighth grade, his mom had a nervous breakdown while driving him to school, and it scared him.
He felt he couldn’t do anything, so he just sat and watched his mother.
He experienced something traumatic, but he never said anything to anyone. Years later, he asked his mom about the breakdown.
She claimed she didn’t know what he was talking about. A couple weeks later, she said she didn’t think he would’ve remembered that.
“How could I not remember that?” he repeated to himself.
Once ninth grade came, Roundtree began to lose weight because of the stressful transition into high school.
Even though he had low self-esteem due to him being overweight, he decided to write a four-page love letter to a friend he had a crush on for a long time.
He was too nervous to give the letter to her himself, so he had a friend give it to her.
He never heard anything back, so he isolated himself.
A few years down the road, he found out he never got a response because the girl was being sexually abused at the time.
He blamed himself, and the weight of thinking he was at fault all those years hurt him.
The audience could see the pain on his face.
Fast forward to senior year, and Roundtree got the news that his 25-year-old brother died.
They had argued a few days before, so he took it hard.
His brother had heart issues and was addicted to Percocet and Xanax.
He passed away in his sleep. Until this point Roundtree still had not spoken about the trauma he’s faced in his life.
In order to cope, he got a rest in peace tattoo for his brother hoping to feel better.
He only had two reactions after this: isolation or lashing out.
That next Monday he lashed out at a teacher.
He joked that it was lame that he got suspended during computer class, to lighten the mood.
No one made the connection that his behavior came from the loss of his trauma and the buildup of previous trauma.
Roundtree went on to college and struggled academically.
He also noted that mental “illness” and saying he “suffers from mental illness” is not true.
He is not suffering, he just had untreated mental health.
Now, he has mental wellness issues.
He says language when talking about mental health is extremely important.
He was kicked out of Bloomsburg University because he gave a police officer the “ammunition”to arrest him.
Roundtree was getting a drink from the union, and he was tasting the juice to make sure it wasn’t watered down.
The officer told him that was stealing, so Roundtree lashed out once again.
He went to community college after being kicked out of Bloomsburg.
After taking his psychology final, Roundtree’s mother picked him up to take him for his two-day jail sentence.
Bloomsburg University eventually let him come back to school, and Roundtree vowed to be better and focus on his academics.
His mother, without his knowledge, wrote a letter to Bloomsburg about what he’s been through, so they gave him another chance.
Later on in life, Roundtree found himself doing social work in Philadelphia.
He figured out the hard way he could not handle a job like that.
“It’s difficult for hurt people to help other hurt people,” said Roundtree.
His breaking point involved a boy that was tied up and beaten by his uncle and the uncle’s girlfriend.
The boy asked if he could go home with Roundtree.
He quit on the spot and told his boss if he ended up back at that place something in his life went terribly wrong.
Roundtree started coping by going to therapy for about eight years.
He also started lifting and journaling. He went to the doctor because he hurt his shoulder lifting.
The doctor asked if he was depressed, and for the first time Roundtree admitted that he was.
He was diagnosed with moderate depression and was prescribed anti-depressants.
He said once the pills took effect, everything disappeared. It’s been three years since a suicidal thought has stuck in his head.
He realized social work isn’t for him, so he decided to get his Masters in exercise science.
He wanted to still be able to help people without dealing with trauma.
After a while, he decided to start sharing his story. He emailed a bunch of high schools asking if he could speak there, none of them emailed him back.
Villanova University offered Roundtree a position as a strength and conditioning coach, a position that would start in May 2016.
Roundtree turned the job down because he was struggling with Emmanuel Sloan’s suicide. Sloan was the star of the Boys’ Latin football team, but the pressure became too much and he jumped in front of the L train January 2016.
Roundtree became extremely choked up telling Sloan’s story.
“It doesn’t have to be a death sentence” said Roundtree. “People only commit suicide because they want the pain to stop. They just want the pain to stop.”
Since then, he has spoken at Boys’ Latin six times. “When it’s your purpose, when it’s your passion, you’ve got to follow through,” he said.
In Roundtree’s case, mental wellness issues ran in his family. Roundtree worries about his nine-year-old daughter.
He jokes that when he’s worried she’s going through a depressive episode, she tells him if he takes her to Walmart she won’t be sad anymore.
“Don’t lose sight of who you are,” said Roundtree.
He joked that he’s known as the “mental health guy,” but he knows he is Philip J. Roundtree.
Phillip J. Roundtree can be contacted on his website http://quadefyllc.net/, his Twitter, @ Phil_Quadefy, or his Instagram, Phil_Quadefy.
If you are struggling with mental health, contact The Department of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) located of the second floor of the Flagler-Metzgar building.
They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
CAPS’ number is 570-422-3277. For more urgent help, the suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
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