Actress addresses depression on campus

By Gretchen Andersen

Actress Brittany Snow wants to help Pitt students learn that “Love is Louder.” It’s the… Actress Brittany Snow wants to help Pitt students learn that “Love is Louder.” It’s the name of a national campaign she helped start that advocates for mental health issues, as well as it’s slogan.

With the help of The Jed Foundation — a nonprofit organization that serves to reduce the rate of suicide on college campuses — Snow created a national movement called “Love is Louder.”

A coalition of Pitt groups brought the actress to the William Pitt Union Assembly Room last night for “An Evening with Brittany Snow,” to raise awareness about mental health issues. Several hundred students attended the sold-out, free-ticket event, many of them using markers to write “Love is Louder” on their hands as they entered the Assembly Room.

Sponsors included Pitt Program Council, Active Minds, the Talk About It committee and the Division of Student Affairs. The organizers said they brought Snow to Pitt because of the national scale of college student suicides, and they acknowledged that the Pitt community itself has faced student suicides. There has been at least one suicide a year on campus for the last three years.

The lecture, which covered Snow’s personal experiences with bullying, information about her movement’s message and which included a Q-and-A session, marked Snow’s first visit to campus. She was joined by Courtney Knowles, executive director of the Jed Foundation, who also spoke about the “Love is Louder” campaign.

By the end of the night, some students were eager to hit the “like” button on the “Love is Louder” Facebook page. Amy Molitoris, a freshman, was one of them.

Molitoris is a psychology major who said she attended the event because she is interested mental health. Molitoris said Snow’s speech was inspirational and that she plans to tell her friends about the “Love is Louder” campaign.

“I think they [“Love is Louder”] can make a difference if enough people respond to them,” said Molitoris. “But some people dismiss these groups, and that becomes a problem.”

Jessica Stillman, president of Active Minds and event organizer, said she met Snow and Knowles at a national conference for Active Minds in the fall and and asked them to come to Pitt. Active Minds at the University of Pittsburgh is a student organization that promotes mental health awareness and education.

The “Love is Louder” campaign also began in the fall, after a string of high-profile suicides reported in the national media drew increased attention to teen suicides and the impact of bullying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.

Snow, who said she “took the issue to heart,” went to Knowles about what they could do. The pair started working together about five years ago. After some brainstorming, “Love is Louder” was born, and soon the movement became a top-trending subject on Twitter.

Many students said they did not know what to expect of the event or hadn’t heard of the “Love is Louder” movement, but were drawn to Snow because of her acting career.

Snow said to the crowd that she had personal experiences with bullying that were “similar to others’.”

An unnamed girl bullied her when she was younger, hitting her, throwing things at her and wroting nasty notes about her. Around the same time, Snow said one of her friends ended his own life and left her “devastated, confused and sad.”

Snow said she had a hard time getting over the bullying and tried to get her mind off it by throwing herself into acting, using it as therapy. She experienced feelings that she “wasn’t good enough,” developing a critical voice inside her head, Snow said.

Urging students to reach out and help their family members or friends who might be depressed, Snow said “Love is Louder” helped change her life. The campaign has generated celebrity attention, with rap artist Drake, pop artist Pink and Jersey Shore reality star Vinny Guadagnino.

“Loving yourself and loving others can save lives — as cheesy as it sounds,” Snow said to the crowd.

Snow said she and Knowles decided to come to Pitt’s campus because they wanted to start bringing “Love is Louder” into college and high school communities, hopefully incorporating it into people’s everyday lives.

Knowles said that in the future, he hopes “Love is Louder” will “allow more communities, campuses and groups to talk about the issues of how we help each other and take care of ourselves when it comes to our emotional help.”