Crafting words that heal

November 27, 2019

Kevin Meiselman sits in front of computer set up in the Podcast Studio

Journalism major Kevin Meiselman ’20 has a pretty extensive beat. If he isn't recording his latest podcast, he's covering men’s ice hockey games for The Quinnipiac Chronicle at the People's United Center or handling public relations duties for his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI). He’s always on the move, driven and focused on what he loves.

Listen to an episode of “Behind the Mind,” his mental health podcast, or read one of his op-eds about mental illness in The Chronicle, and you'll learn things weren't always this way. Four semesters ago, he was at one of his lowest emotional states in years, struggling with bipolar disorder.

"Mental illness is a normal problem that many people deal with. " Meiselman said. “Everyone can live happily through it, but first you have to talk.”

Meiselman is just as comfortable talking about his mental health experiences as he is about the New York Rangers, his favorite hockey team. He first felt the symptoms of bipolar disorder as a child, and was diagnosed at the age of 8. By middle school, it began to hinder his social and academic life. His grades suffered, his attendance dropped significantly and getting out of bed each day felt like a victory in itself.

Meiselman’s family was extremely supportive, and understood what he was going through. Both he and his parents agreed that boarding school was the best choice, and Meiselman enrolled in The Marvelwood School, a private boarding school in Kent, Connecticut. There, he learned how to analyze his feelings, cope with his triggers in a healthy way, stop feeling guilty about his struggles and to focus on academics.

“Every year I matured a bit more, and it allowed me to get to college," Meiselman said. Meiselman arrived at Quinnipiac feeling hopeful, but in a completely new environment and without the structure of boarding school, he struggled. He felt lethargic and uninspired, and his self-worth was evaporating. He began mixing marijuana and alcohol with poor eating habits and minimal exercise.

"I regressed," Meiselman said. "It was the stereotypical bad way to behave once you get to college."

Meiselman managed passing grades, good enough to maintain his scholarship, but he wasn't proactive in student media, the reason he was drawn to Quinnipiac in the first place. He watched from the sidelines as his peers got internships, pursued their passions and tapped into the potential that he couldn't access within himself.

During his first year, Meiselman took advantage of Quinnipiac’s counseling services. The first thing Quinnipiac counselor Ken Wenning told him was that he had a cocktail of competing medicines in his brain and needed to amend his behaviors. Meiselman chose to ignore that advice.

"When I look back,” Meiselman said, “I was combative, and didn’t want to believe him. I was in denial, but he was right.”

In October of his sophomore year, Meiselman had emotionally hit rock bottom. It was the worst he had felt since his early days of boarding school. He recalled a tear-filled conversation with his parents.

“They drove all the way from New Jersey that day,” he said. “After a long day of discussion and self-reflection, I knew I had to change things.”

With the support of his family, friends and faculty behind him, Meiselman decided to take control of his life and mental health. He gave up alcohol and marijuana, began working out regularly and adopted a clean diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Whenever he felt anxiety or negative thoughts, he went for a run or picked up a basketball.

"Healthy lifestyle habits can change your life," Meiselman said.

As his mind cleared, Meiselman found the motivation he previously lacked. He started “The Kevin and Dewey Show" at WQAQ 98.1, which was voted Best Sports Show by the WQAQ management board for three semesters. He also created 33rd & 7th: A New York Rangers Podcast. To date, his guests have included Rangers play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen, sportscaster Kenny Albert, ex-Rangers player Stephane Matteau, and Bill Pidto, the studio host for MSG Networks.

"I've accomplished some things that many Rangers fans might be jealous of," Meiselman said. "What's important is that I do it in a way that is authentic. I think it will continue to grow as a result."

He also began writing for The Chronicle and helped Phi Gamma Delta boost its campus presence as PR chairman.

Meiselman was determined to keep his momentum going. The inspiration for what to do next came from a tweet posted by rapper and music producer Kanye West, who has also been open about his struggles with mental illness. West lamented that there was no platform for people to talk openly about their experiences with mental health.

"I thought, ‘Why can't I make that platform?’” Meiselman said.

With that, “Behind The Mind” was born. Each episode features a guest who is brave enough to share personal experiences with mental illness, from anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD, and more. For his inaugural episode, he interviewed Clint Malarchuk, a former NHL hockey goalie and coach, and a well-known mental health advocate.

"The point of “Behind the Mind” is to normalize the topic of mental illness, raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to it," he said.

Meiselman said he learned how to develop and produce strong episodes after taking "Art of the Podcast," a course taught by Ben Bogardus, assistant professor of journalism.

With so much content available on social media and in podcasts, Meiselman feels an obligation to push the right messages, especially when it comes to mental health.

“I am forever grateful for the unwavering emotional support from my family. I know that not everyone is that lucky, so I feel like I owe it to all the people with mental illness who don't have the resources that I do," Meiselman said.

In February, Meiselman’s entrepreneurship professor, Trip Sanders, encouraged him to enter the Funding Pitch Competition for Creatives in Chicago, a contest run by the organization, Self-Employment in The Arts. He earned a $500 prize for “Behind the Mind.”

“I held back tears when I won," Meiselman said. “I was legitimately scared to walk through the front door of my middle school, and now I’m confidently advocating for the same issue that almost crippled me.”

Another fortuitous moment came while Meiselman was participating in the Quinnipiac University in Los Angeles program this past summer. While interning at Fox Sports Radio, his superiors allowed him to promote his podcasts over the air to a national audience.

"I'm more confident in this idea than anything else I've ever done,” Meiselman said.

Meiselman's podcasts are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Podcasts. Going forward, he plans to build up social media presence for “Behind the Mind” and monetize it with advertising. He also sees the potential to increase the podcast’s exposure through merchandising.

“If ‘Behind the Mind’ can provide hope and inspiration to those currently struggling in silence, then I consider it a huge success.” Meiselman said.

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