Tuning Out Stigma: A Story of Overcoming Oneself

Written by Kyle Spriggs. Media by Coleton Gensler and Kyle Spriggs.

Theresa San Luis performing an original composition on the piano to give feeling to her time in a struggle. Media by Kyle Spriggs

On November 6, Greenville University hosted a program sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) called “Tuning Out Stigma,” a nationally recognized program that is showcased through NAMI’s national magazine. This program brought Theresa San Luis to the stage to tell her story with the intention to dispel myths about mental illness and spread the truth about the challenges that a number of people face in their daily lives. Many attendees were touched by her presentation.

“This event spoke to me in the sense of there being hope. Making the student body more aware of this hope and of the misconceptions that the world has of mental illness can change the lives of people who struggle with mental illness.”

                                                                        Austin Simmons (Junior at GU)


She told her story in four different sessions and, with the assistance of musical expression with original compositions performed on the piano and viola, San Luis provided an emotional perception of the events leading to her self-awareness of mental illness and overcoming her struggle.


“I could not explain this to anyone at the time or to this day. It was a mess.”

Theresa San Luis


Theresa San Luis performing an original composition on the viola. Media by Kyle Spriggs

During the “dark times,” San Luis expressed her difficulties in school at the University of Notre Dame, including flunking out of two classes. She said this was uncharacteristic of her behavior as she held a high IQ and was considered “gifted.” After recognizing that things were falling apart around her, it was time to seek help for what might be the problem. She was admitted to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a thought disorder.

She expressed these two periods through original compositions played on the piano. In her case, treatment involved medication and psychotherapy counseling. Through her strong Christian beliefs, she actively sought God to help lift the weight of her burdens.

The final session, “Successes, Hopes, and Dreams,” spoke to her personal beliefs with the common theme of “not having a cap on dreams or goals.” After overcoming her struggles, San Luis went on to receive a Master’s degree in Public Administration at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, alongside a Master of Arts in Communication at the University of Illinois Springfield and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Music at the University of Notre Dame.


One important message she wished to communicate in her conclusion is to “stand up and seek help for the problems one endures. It is okay to feel ashamed or embarrassed; seeking treatment is the best thing someone can do with shame and pride put aside.” In addition, she expressed the importance of taking treatment steadily:


Be patient when you are a patient.”

Theresa San Luis


To listen to her story and original compositions, check out the video below. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!



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