“To promote mental wellbeing, create actionable lists every day” with April Peck

I create actionable lists every day. In a way, it’s like journaling with a twist of prioritizing. I get done what needs to be done- my “rocks”. I then can fill in the day by doing things that can be done, are okay to fall by the wayside, or helping others. This helps me personally […]

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I create actionable lists every day. In a way, it’s like journaling with a twist of prioritizing. I get done what needs to be done- my “rocks”. I then can fill in the day by doing things that can be done, are okay to fall by the wayside, or helping others. This helps me personally feel fulfilled and I can visualize what I am accomplishing. I have a purpose and I can help others who are struggling.

I had the pleasure of interviewing April Peck. April is a beauty entrepreneur, busy mother of three and wellness advocate, is passionate about empowering people. After majoring in Health Promotion: Fitness/Wellness Management, April served in roles selling nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals to treat depression before cofounding HydroPeptide, a global skincare company. After selling her successful brand, she set out to develop a new beauty company, LIV LUX LAB®, that would be based on principles of wellness, sophistication, and results. This company ultimately would have to solve real beauty problems while empowering people and positively impacting their lives. Looking at the scientific attributes that make up great hair, April wanted to understand why Indian women possessed the world’s strongest, shiniest, most nourished hair and scalp. She discovered one secret relied on the fenugreek seed, an Ayurvedic herb used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Impressed with its powerful results, she harnessed fenugreek’s rich biodiversity into Fenugen® and incorporated Ayurvedic principles of balance, wholeness, and knowledge into her new luxury brand, SAVE ME FROM®, a damage-specific hair care line designed to give hair a tip to root reboot. April created SAVE ME FROM® because she believes a great hair day can empower people and because she wanted to do more in advocating suicide prevention. After losing her sister to suicide, she was determined to find a way to save others from suffering her same fate. She sought experts in social work and became a trained instructor on suicide prevention to empower others on how to respond when someone is in crisis. Since hair is the main source of self-expression that can significantly affect self-image, improve feelings of empowerment, and transform lives, she made her hair care brand a platform to advocate her message of hope. SAVE ME FROM®’s mission is to save hair, save lives and empower, and donates 10% net income to organizations who help save people in a real crisis.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was an early adopter of “wellness”. In 1999, I changed my major from Political Science to Health Promotion: Fitness/Wellness Management because I wanted to help people like my college roommate live healthier lives. I was embarrassed when my roommate and I were hiking up to our collegiate symbol, an easy but albeit very steep 1-mile hike with an elevation gain of 1000 ft. I, being a distance runner who’d train up the mountain, had no problem hiking the trail but my roommate was huffing, puffing and stopping every couple hundred feet. In my mind, I thought, “It’s okay. Most people are probably like this if they haven’t been training as I have.” A few moments later a 90-year-old man with a walking stick cruised by us. He has raised a pioneer and he persevered up the mountain every day. It was then that I realized I wanted to help people to better their lives so they could live a functional life well into their 90s. Professionally and personally, I wanted to spread wellness.

I became a personal trainer and group fitness instructor as one way to pay for school and continued part-time after I graduated. I continued on my path selling nutrition supplements, then became a pharmaceutical sales rep for a drug used to treat depression. I later created a global prestige skincare brand, HydroPeptide, and I am now launching a new brand that is very special to me.

Wellness to me is a constant lifestyle change where the choices you make intentionally improve your quality of life holistically- physically, mentally, and spiritually — ensuring that all three are within balance.

For me, I felt I had mastered the body and had a good foundation for spirit, but my mind could use some help.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

Over the last few hundred years, we have learned an enormous amount about the human body- from genetics to environmental triggers- and we’ve created ways to see inside the body to actually know what is going on when someone is physically ill. Only within the last one hundred years or so did our society adopt the idea that physical illnesses happen due to patterns of hygiene and genetic susceptibility. Before that information became common, major physical illness was often viewed as an act of God brought on by the sick person’s lack of merits. Education and medical advances have changed that perception, and we now see physical illness as involving a variety of natural and preventable factors.

Like those early stages of learning about physical illness, our society is still in the early stages of learning about mental illness. What we know is based almost solely on what individuals self-report, their symptoms and manifestations of the illness. In fact, almost all diagnoses of mental illness are based on self-reports or reports by close family or friends. Because of this, understanding mental illness requires something like an act of faith in what the person is telling you is true.

This act of faith in a person is difficult for us all unless we’ve experienced it ourselves. And while mental illness is common in our society, there are many who haven’t experienced its potentially debilitating effects. Like the common cold, most everyone will experience dips in mental health, but they manage and move on. However, there are others whose “colds” turn into full-blown pneumonia and cannot heal without professional help. There are many who will say “you can do it” or “it’ll pass” and have difficulty understanding when there are those who don’t simply do that. Some go so deep into their mental illness that they feel no hope at all only to see suicide as the only way. In fact, 90% of people who die by suicide were said to have suffered from a major psychiatric illness.

In our attempt to de-stigmatize suicide, we hope to be able to make information about mental health and wellness common knowledge, to share the stories of those who have experienced a loss due to suicide and get real help for those who are in a real crisis. We believe that by being open about our own struggles and validating the struggles of others, we can create a community of support and acceptance without judgment.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

What we want others to learn about mental wellness is that we are all susceptible to mental illness regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, or any other circumstance. It can happen to anyone at any time and that it lies on a spectrum. What we also want our readers and customers to know about us is that we believe there is hope for anyone who is suffering from mental illness and that we want to help create a world of connection and understanding that truly heals. If left untreated, 2–6% of persons with Major Depressive Disorder will die by suicide.

Our efforts to spread this information have currently mostly been a part of our blog, website, and social media sites. We’ve done features on those who are suicide survivors or suicide loss survivors, as well as those who are bettering their communities by creating initiatives to lower suicide rates in their own towns. We’ve also, as a team, participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk in Seattle, WA and created opportunities for our readers to monetarily contribute to these causes. We believe that being unapologetic about our stories and experiences is one of the most effective ways to connect with others and open their minds to being taught about why we all should care about mental wellness.

Our plans to continue our suicide prevention and mental health education efforts extend far beyond that, however. Our soon to be launched haircare brand SAVE ME FROM® is our catalyst for broadening our span to educate and empower women. We not only want them to feel beautiful and empowered in that sense, but we also want them to feel as if their purchase will go toward something even bigger than themselves. That’s why we will donate 10% of our net income to organizations who help people in a real crisis. We will support and promote initiatives that are designed to train and teach the general public in mental wellness and suicide prevention. One organization that we are particularly interested in is the Seattle based QPR Institute, which stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. We see the value in making mental health and wellness information just as accessible as CPR.

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

From what I told you about my college years, you might think that my life was like any typical childhood. Unfortunately, my childhood was not built on a foundation for WELLNESS. Every family has their black sheep and skeletons in their closet, but our family’s skeletons made it difficult for me and my five sisters to live. It was hard. It was emotionally and physically challenging and as soon as I was 18, I left and bettered my wellness. When I left and I never returned. I NEVER returned. Unfortunately, I left behind two younger sisters who continued to live in the same brutal situation for several years. I cried myself to sleep every day for two years knowing I left them behind and never contact them. I knew I had to better myself, ensuring my own safety, before I could truly help them.

I left them and over several years both had attempted suicide and one died by suicide.

These events have weighed heavily on my mind and I’ve struggled to understand why I didn’t do more. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t help somebody who won’t help themselves” or “You can’t help others until you help yourself?” That’s what I believed. I knew my sisters struggled. They grew up, survived our childhoods and left home. They still struggled. I believed they just had to figure it out for themselves. After all, when I left for college, I had a lot of helping myself I had to do. I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay for tuition, rent, my next meal, live.

My sisters now had families and they seemed like they figured it out. When they struggled and I responded, “You can do it” or “This is just a phase” and “You’ll be fine.” I didn’t recognize the warning signs, but hindsight is 20/20. Now looking back, the warning signs were there. I just didn’t notice them or even know what to do.

I’ve tried to learn from this experience and it’s my hope that I can help others learn from it as well. I want to encourage every household to recognize the warning signs that can lead to a suicide attempt. I want to help people understand that asking someone if they are thinking the “s” word, don’t put the idea of suicide into someone’s head. If you’re thinking it, chances are they already are too. Asking, listening and referring them to care lets them know there is hope and they have support.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals can educate themselves about mental health and mental illness, except that there is always more to learn and understand and learn skills like active listening and QPR. For society and the government, there can be better access to crisis centers, more acceptance of the fact that mental illness is a part of our human experience and we need to continue discovering how to treat it and allowing opportunities for individuals who suffer from mental illness to feel connected and hope in the world.

We hope other companies will be inspired by ours to support organizations like QPR and encourage all households to be trained on the crisis prevention strategies of Question, Persuade and Refer to help. Most of our population has received some sort of CPR training to save lives, but most have never learned the signs of a serious mental health crisis that could also lead to death. If we’re all trained, we can feel more confident about how to help someone in their time of need.

In a survey by The Akin, beauty consumers are concerned about the loneliness crisis in our country. They want to see and get more from their products than just something to make them look beautiful. We believe that this is something we address with our initiatives to give consumers a chance to purchase something with the intent that their money is going toward a greater good; this is an important societal shift that we believe is good for our world. We also are grateful for Instagram’s new policy to ban self-harm images from its feeds as they are proven to increase self-harm incidences, particularly among teens. We see so many good things being done to support those suffering from mental illness, but we know that there is much work to be done.

What are the 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

· Exercise is a major key in my life. Running clears my mind and kickboxing helps me release aggression (yes, I do get mad but at least I’m honest and I found my outlet) and it’s just fun.

· Serving people in need, which I’ve been a recipient of more often lately, puts my life into perspective and helps me realize how blessed I am.

· Being with my family brings me the greatest joy, and I just hope I’m doing it right.

· Learning about mental health helps me feel more confident in knowing I CAN do more when I see someone in need.

· Creating wholesome, nutritious meals that are also yummy is fun (I especially like the praise I get from my family too).

· I create actionable lists every day. In a way, it’s like journaling with a twist of prioritizing. I get done what needs to be done- my “rocks”. I then can fill in the day by doing things that can be done, are okay to fall by the wayside, or helping others. This helps me personally feel fulfilled and I can visualize what I am accomplishing. I have a purpose and I can help others who are struggling.

Figuring out how to balance all this is key. I work on it every day.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

I tend to read a variety of books- business books, marketing books, hair care books. I really enjoyed listening to the recordings from the Global Wellness Summit. I’m currently studying QPR and reading Suicide, the Forever Decision. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariel and Mindset by Carol Dweck are business books that also talk about psychology and how it influences decisions. C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity has helped me deal a lot mentally with that I’ve been through and brought me hope.

Ultimately, I love to learn from other’s lives and experiences and I find that the personal connection to someone’s life story is the best motivation to support real change. I was recently also featured on a relatively new site called Faces of Fortitude for my suicide loss survival story, and I find a lot of my motivation and inspiration comes from reading others’ similar or different experiences surrounding suicide on this site.

I find that I am guided well by Mother Theresa’s poem “Anyway”. It provides me with a compass of how to truly love and help others, even when it doesn’t seem to make any sense.

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