Sophomore mental health advocate Alex Bush centers her life around positivity — from her vibrant social media presence to her presentations encouraging students to take care of themselves.
However, this positivity has not always been around for the 19-year-old entrepreneurship major. Since she was a junior in high school, Bush has publicly spoken about the grief of losing six loved ones to suicide, two of whom were family members.
“(My grandmother) was my first experience with suicide. My mom kind of sheltered me from it, then my dad passed my junior year (of high school),” Bush said.
She has struggled with her own mental health, she says, but has since been open about her experiences. This will be her fourth year giving keynote speeches on mental health for middle schools, high schools, and now, UM organizations.
Her speaking career began at a Diversity Day at Saint Mary’s High School in 2017. Bush said her father’s death was highly publicized in the area because of his success in real estate, but the news was not positive. She wanted to set the record straight and tell the world about who her father really was.
“He was portrayed as some kind of scummy business guy, and that’s not who he was. He was just sick,” Bush said.
Bush, a Denver native, worked with organizations like the Colorado Crisis Hotline, and she even helped create an Emmy-nominated mental health public service announcement that was shown in movie theaters across the state.
“I don’t want to see it happen to anyone, because (suicide) is a horrible thing for people to experience,” Bush said. “So I just dedicate everything I do to the people who’ve lost their lives or a loved one to suicide.”
The state of Colorado has officially recognized Bush for her work in mental health advocacy, as well, but her favorite feedback that she has received through her years of work was from her own high school.
“I have a stack of letters from my high school after I did a keynote speech for them. They’re all thank you notes,” Bush said.
Now, Bush is involved with Active Minds, organizing events like the Out of Darkness Walk and Send Silence Packing. She is also her sorority’s mental health chair, a position she created.
While she continues to speak to schools in her hometown, she has since shifted her audience to those her own age. She spoke to many sororities across the Southeastern Conference, as well as panhellenic chapters in Colorado and Ohio, over the past two years.
“The presentation has definitely changed over the years. I think the main difference is that I talk a lot more about my own struggles now because I’m more comfortable talking about it,” Bush said.
“I want to start making different presentations that I can have people pick from. I want to do a suicide prevention one, I want to do (a) mental illness one, I want to do one that talks about grief and how to handle it.”
Bush’s dream is to give a TED Talk. She added that she wants to continue public speaking in the future, and she thinks that going to a TED conference would be the ultimate goal. But, at the end of the day, she just hopes her presentation makes a positive impact on people.
“Ultimately, I want to make a positive impact on everyone I come across,” Bush said.