“You wouldn’t know I had a mental illness if you met me,” says Travis Oswald, sitting at the dining room table in his Mt. Joy home. And he’s right. Personable, outgoing, and funny, Travis seems like a pretty normal guy. But that’s his point. “You have no idea who’s suffering, or what anybody’s been through,” he asserts. “Rich, poor—it doesn’t matter how much money you make or how famous you are. Mental illness affects everybody.”
From the time he was young, Travis suffered with anxiety and depression. He frequently woke up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. He played football, but felt faint when he realized people were watching him on the field. “You don’t know what it’s like to be scared to go to sleep, or be scared to be on a bridge, or be scared to go in a store, or waiting in line at the grocery store and you’re sweating and shit for no reason,” he explains, shaking his head.
Travis managed to deal with his problems through medication and talking with family members and friends. However, in February of 2017, he was having a particularly rough few weeks when he received a call that one of his best friends, Shawn Platt, had shot himself. “He was a family friend,” Travis says, “I knew him my whole life. He grew up with my older brothers, so he was always around. Shawn was like… when you say one of a kind, or one in a million—that was Shawn.”
The news of the senseless death of his friend left Travis in shambles. “I went to work, and I was plowing snow. I had a break and I called my wife—and I just broke down,” he remembers, “I was like, ‘I gotta do something.’ It just all connected for me at that point, ‘cause I tell people about anxiety and depression, but if you don’t know it, you don’t understand it. I can’t just sit back and not reach out to people. If I knew Shawn had the same feelings, we could’ve talked and maybe prevented this shit.”
Travis had never had a Facebook account, but that day he signed up for one and started a mission to spread the word about mental illness and suicide and let suffering people know they weren’t alone. He first created the page in his own name, but when people started tagging him in photos and writing personal things on his page, he decided to create a second site called “Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention” specifically for his cause.
“I’m just a dude that don’t want no money, I don’t want no fame—I just want people to bring more awareness to a situation,” he explains. Travis’s goal is to bring the subject of mental illness to the masses, and make it something that people aren’t afraid to talk about openly. He gets frustrated when suicide gets attention only through the deaths of public figures, such as Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell: “Of course they’re famous, so it’s going to make the media, but it’s like… this is every day. People live with this everywhere, every day. Everyone has a story. I guarantee you, anyone you ask will be like, ‘Yeah, I know somebody who committed suicide.’ That’s just how big it is.”
The quick growth of his Facebook page is testament to how hungry people are for a place to share their stories and battles. Travis posts to the page every morning, and receives messages from people all over the world. He’s even had people call him personally to share their stories and get advice. “Ten out of ten times I talk to somebody… they just want someone to talk to, really. They’re just happy someone’s there to listen. That’s my main goal—just to help people. Let them know there’s a way out.”
Travis’s plan is to honor Shawn by keeping the Facebook page going indefinitely, trying to reach as many people as possible with his message for those like himself, struggling with mental illness or thoughts of suicide: “It’s sad to be in that dark of a hole and to think there’s nowhere to turn except death. Never give up. Have hope. Things change… It WILL get better. It might get worse first, but it will get better eventually. There are other ways out besides suicide, but you gotta put effort in. You can’t just expect something to happen without effort. Get medicine, do what you gotta do. Find that one thing in your life that makes you happy, and just focus on that.”
For more information, follow Mental Illness And Suicide Awareness on Facebook.