UWL Active Minds Chapter hosts Danée Sergeant

Karley Betzler, Staff Reporter

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Active Minds organization hosted the speaker, Danée Sergeant, on Wednesday, April 25. Sergeant began their presentation with by stating that Active Minds is, “bringing a sense of normalcy to something already normal.”  

Sergeant told the story of their journey with mental health, bullying, homelessness, loss, and hope. Sergeant’s story started in New Orleans, Louisiana. “I was adopted,” stated Sergeant. Sergeant explained that their adopted mom was incredible and they loved her more than anyone. This is where Sergeant’s first loss occurred. Sergeant’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer then passed away when Sergeant was in Elementary school.  

However, Sergeant’s mom had made plans for her to be taken care of; this is where Sergeant’s second adopted mom came into the picture. Sergeant explained that they loved their new mom, but it was also at this time that, “I first experienced bullying.” Sergeant felt the weight of their loss and bullying at school bringing them down. “I summed it up as this doesn’t feel good, so I’m gonna make it stop. I didn’t even know what those feelings were,” Sergeant shared. 

Sergeant went on to say that they began acting out violently in school. This pattern followed them through high school which led to them getting expelled from two different high schools. Sergeant explained, “High school was horrible for me.” This is also around the time that their second mom began getting sick.  

Sergeant said that they began doing drugs to cope with their mom becoming increasingly sick. Sergeant also explained that drugs made them feel comfortable in their own skin for the first time in their life. Sergeant noted, “After years of feeling bad, anything would’ve felt better. Drugs happened to be that.” By the time that their mom had passed away, Sergeant was already dependent.  

“After my mom passed, my feelings went out of control,” Sergeant said. Sergeant spent their days high, in and out of jail, and without a home. An adolescent drop-in center, an organization that provides basic needs for homeless youth, saved their life. “That place was so important,” Sergeant recalled. This is where a social worker helped them get into a seven-day medical detox at a hospital followed by a 28-day rehabilitation program.  

After being sober for awhile, Sergeant began to notice some things, “I had been so medicated, that I wasn’t diagnosed with anything,” Sergeant remembered. This is when they were diagnosed with ADHD and were put on medication for it. Sergeant finished up their Bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school when they began thinking, “I’m living the dream, why do I wanna die?” Sergeant recounted.  

“I ended up reaching out to my school,” Sergeant stated. The school helped provide her with the resources to get help. This is when the school’s doctor told Sergeant, “I think you have bipolar,” they stated. “I left with that diagnosis and things started to make sense after I started new meds,” Sergeant added. 

“This is why Active Minds is important,” Sergeant said, “They can help you communicate peer-to-peer about mental health.” Sergeant added, “One of the best decisions I’ve made is let someone know what was happening.”  

UWL Junior Lexi Schraeder shared, “I learned that recovery is not linear. There’s a lot of steps needed to get out of addiction.”