My name is Kelsey Jai Kinsel and mental health is important to me. Although I’ve been advocating for mental health for the past 8ish years, I have never taken the time to really write out why this matters so much to me.
When I was 15, two people that I knew committed suicide. First, Jordan, and then later in the same year, Chris. Needless to say, I was shaken up and devastated that both Jordan and Chris decided to end their own lives. Prior to losing my friends, I had never really taken much time to think about mental health or suicide—and how that affected people. It seemed distant and rare, so I usually just avoided thinking about topics like suicide altogether because I didn’t know much about it.
However, once it became personal for me, I knew that I couldn’t stay silent and ignore the reality that suicide is something that millions (yes, millions) of people contemplate each year. I dove into researching more about suicide, depression, and mental illness. I was shocked to learn how many people experience debilitating mental illness and how few people seemed to be advocating on their behalf. I decided to start an organization called Salvation City that was dedicated to raising awareness of suicide prevention and mental health. It started as a small grassroots effort and developed into a larger project the more I recognized a need for it. I would wake up, go to school, and then come home and work on Salvation City in the evenings.
Music has always been something that really encourages and comforts me. I know that whatever emotion I’m feeling, there’s a song that puts words to it. I decided to produce a compilation CD that consisted of empowering music from 10 different artists. I knew nothing about the music industry or how licenses worked, but I dove right in and put the pieces together. I ended up working with artists like Chase Rice and Green River Ordinance. While I was working on the music, I also launched an awareness campaign that generated support from people like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Ingrid Michaelson, Colbie Caillat, Marcia Cross, Mat Hoffman, The Maine, and Eli Young Band. The consistent thing I noticed was this: people need each other.
My entire mission was to simply let people know that hope is real, that they are not alone in whatever they are facing, and that their story matters. I recognize the tangibility of hope because no matter what we go through, there is reason to push through and discover a newness to our lives.
A part of my story that even fewer people know, is that I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when I was young. Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that affects the nervous system and drastically impacts the neurotransmitters in my brain. As a result of this disorder, I have experienced several offshoot conditions that impact my mental health, including severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. I have walked through seasons of my life where I’ve had to kick and scream my way through debilitating panic attacks, excessive worry, and stuck thoughts.
It has taken me my lifetime— 24 years up until this very moment where I am able to sit here and write out how drastically hard it can be to live with mental illness. It can feel terrifying, isolating, and frustrating. What I’ve realized is that very few people will ever understand the complexity of how my brain works and how hard I’ve had to fight to find balance, graduate college, and accomplish my goals. Realizing this has also caused me to realize how little I know about others’ experiences. Although I may not understand, we are all in this together and I can offer empathy.
Up until now, there have only been a handful of close friends and family that have known what I’ve battled. I think for a long time, I was scared of standing out and of people somehow thinking less of me for admitting that my brain doesn’t work “normally” or like most people’s. Although it can sometimes be noticeable to spot someone with Tourette’s, most people in my life have no idea. It’s taken me a lot of introspection, effort, and time to feel so firmly rooted in who I am that I can openly talk about this—and this is coming from someone who advocates for mental health.
I hope that by sharing my story, I can somehow inspire others to accept themselves as they are, to not feel alone if they feel “different”, and to remain hopeful. I also hope to shed a light on mental health and help break the stigmas associated with it.
If you are affected by a mental illness or entirely unaffected, I encourage you just the same—take heart, have hope, and remain empathetic. As I’ve lived out my story, I’ve found hope in choosing to live with a spirit of victory.
Jai is my middle name and it translates to mean victory. I have created this brand with a mission of giving people that extra sense of purpose in their daily lives. Every time they come into contact with this brand, they can think of hope, be encouraged to chase big dreams, and remember that they matter.
Victory is ours for the taking, together, to reach new heights. This is a community of hope, dreams, and victory even through adversity—this is Jai Collective.
For interview requests, to book Kelsey as a speaker, or to say hey, get in touch with her here: