HASTINGS — Silence isn’t always golden.
That’s part of Warriors of Purpose’s main message. The group, which includes many reality television stars from shows like “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” “The Amazing Race” and “Naked & Afraid,” aims to bring hope and purpose to students through substance abuse and mental health education and awareness.
As a kickoff, Warriors of Purpose started spreading their mission in Nebraska. The warriors made their fourth (of 12) stop at Hastings College on Thursday night. The nonprofit organization will make 12 stops total on the Nebraska tour and hope to tour all over the country.
About 50 people heard from the reality stars, who shared their connections and experiences with mental health and addictions.
Four warriors spoke as part of the Hastings College presentation and attendees were able to speak with all of the stars afterward.
Trish Hegarty, who appeared on season 28 Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty of “Survivor,” shared her past struggle with bulimia.
“What a lot of people don’t know about me, is that I was surviving my life way before I was on ‘Survivor’,” Hegarty said.
In college, Hegarty said she really struggled with the eating disorder. She said her family never shared personal struggles, so she always kept it to herself. She wasn’t the only one stuffing personal struggles and not talking about the elephant in the room. Her brothers were both heroin addicts.
“I couldn’t be at college and be happy because I was so worried with everything else that was going on in my house,” Hegarty said.
As a junior in college, Hegarty said she took a class on women and mental health. A speaker came to the class and shared her story of struggling with anorexia.
“I really didn’t know how sick I was (until that woman shared her story),” Hegarty said.
The woman advised Hegarty to seek counseling, which she did.
“I went in and I was so self-conscious and afraid to say what was happening in my life,” she said.
After a few sessions, Hegarty said she “unpeeled the first layer of my sickness.”
After she heard the woman speak to her college class, Hegarty said she made a promise to never stick her finger down her throat again. And she didn’t, though it wasn’t easy. She said every meal was tough, but she stuck to her mantra, “Everything that goes down, stays down.”
Among others who also spoke were Shane Lewis from “Naked & Afraid,” Carolyn Rivera from “Survivor” and author RJ Vied.
“Big Brother” season 18 star Victor Arroyo said he doesn’t deal with some of these issues himself, but said he advocates for the awareness of them. He said it’s important to talk about these things.
Current “Survivor” star Sierra Dawn Thomas shared that she deals with anxiety. She said many people think that they can’t talk about mental health struggles, because it’s so stigmatized. However, she said people shouldn’t be afraid or feel alone, as everyone deals or is connected with these issues in some way.
Hegarty said, through warrior and survivor tears, that the woman who spoke to her college class all those years ago saved her life.
“The reason why I know that dreams come true is because I’m standing here right now,” Hegarty said. “None of us are perfect. We’re all surviving something.”
She said silence is dangerous with these issues. If they aren’t talked about or brought to the forefront, people could spiral into a darker place.
“If anybody told you it (life) was going to be easy, they lied,” Hegarty said. “Don’t ever be alone in what you’re going through.”
To learn more about Warriors of Purpose, visit www.warriorsofpurpose.org/