In a world of loud social media chatter and a growing openness towards mental health conversations, there is a rumbling coming from young adults now being heard loud and clear: mental health matters.
Even five years ago, this kind of vulnerability was not being shared anywhere, let alone on social media. Plus, those who faced mental health struggles never allowed their thoughts to see the light of day. After all, the darkness is where those troubles belong, right? Jessica Miller, Miss River Delta 2020, and fellow activist, says otherwise.
In early 2013, Jessica’s step-brother's father died by suicide. Her entire family was led to find answers to help with their coping process. Later that same year, they found the Out of the Darkness Community Walk put on by the Arkansas Chapter’s American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). “Whenever that happened, it brought on a whole new meaning of life,” says Miller. Little did she know, this would inspire a large platform intertwined with the world of pageants, years of advocacy, and even a future career. Recently, Jessica graduated from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a minor in Psychology. She spoke with us about, her next chapter, finally getting back on the Miss Arkansas stage (following a gap year in competing, thanks to the pandemic), and how her platform has been more critical than ever.
Jessica has been a member of the AFSP Junior Board since 2017. Simultaneously, she has been involved in the Miss America Organization, as she has competed for the job of Miss Arkansas for four years. Her social impact initiative is called “SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education," where she has utilized programs like "More Than Sad" and "Seize the Awkward" in schools of all ages. “I wish that would have never happened to my family, but I know it hit us because somehow the world knew that we were going to be able to help other families too. For that, I am thankful," said Miller when discussing her journey as a supporter and champion in her community.
She plans to pursue her master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her ultimate goal is to become a mental health therapist after graduating. By sharing her family's personal story and continuing her advocacy plan, she is on a mission to save lives through awareness by making a change in how society views suicide prevention and education to effectively intervene in mental health conversations.
Transforming tragedy into teaching, she found her voice and gift.
Today, you can look online and find thousands of voices, like Jessica's, sharing the importance of mental health. All uniquely impacted in their own way, yet all drawn to involvement with the same passion and goal of making sure others know they are never alone. To keep up with her continued engagement, you can follow Jessica on her personal Instagram, @jessicaa_millerr, and/or on her pageant page,@missriverdelta2020. You can also cheer her on next month as she competes for the title of Miss Arkansas, June 13th through June 19th, 2021, at Robinson Performance Hall in Little Rock.