Frank Warren is bringing a PostSecret tour to UM. PostSecret is the website where people spill their guts on a post card and mail it in for all the Internet to see.
PostSecret has become a hub for people struggling with all kinds of issues, ranging from eating disorders to suicidal thoughts.
Warren, who started PostSecret in 2004 as a personal project, has expanded his project into a worldwide phenomenon. His home address is now posted all over the Internet. New secrets are posted each Sunday, and the site has seen over 450 million hits.
“Sometimes I’ll get two secrets from different people in different languages with the same secrets,” Warren said. “It’s one of the most empowering parts of the project, where we can see these types of connections between people that are sometimes invisible in our everyday lives.”
At his events, Warren shows secrets that were banned from the books, shares some of his own secrets with the audience and then asks the audience to share secrets of their own. He has found the college events to be the most receptive.
“I think that college students bring the relationship they feel to the website to the event. There’s this strong sort of trust that they bring to the event,” Warren said.
There is a reason people are so willing to admit their deepest, darkest secrets in front of a crowd of thousands of strangers.
“People can perform better in a large audience, than in small groups because they don’t feel the intense focus from one person,” said Dr. Craig Marker, director of the Psychological Services Center, who specializes in anxiety disorders.
One of Warren’s main goals is to advocate for people to seek help for mental health issues. The PostSecret blog has links and information for 1-800-SUICIDE and other wellness resources. He sees it as the most important part of his college tours.
“I think that the sad irony is that students on college campuses at this time, in this economy, are struggling with some of the heaviest issues that they’ll deal with in their entire lives,” Warren said. “There are so many resources. There are people there who can help. Whatever you’re struggling with, eating disorders, suicide, depression – there are resources available here and now and they’re free. There is no shame in it.”
The event, which is co-sponsored by Student Government (SG)and ‘Canes Care for ‘Canes, will have counselors standing by, should anyone feel that they need to talk.
Kirt McClellan, interim director of the Counseling Center, sees how the confessions could be beneficial, as long as the proper resources, such as the suicide hotline, are in place.
“If people are feeling isolated and it’s helping them to open up, then it’s certainly a good thing,” McClellan said.
Warren’s presentation is pertinent to the Counseling Center, as well. This past summer, the center received a grant to expand their Lifeguards program, a group that provides training, education and spreads awareness about mental health issues.
The Counseling Center will now provide online, anonymous mental health assessments. It will encourage users to seek help if deemed at risk, but the student will be able to remain anonymous and will ultimately have the final say.
To expand the PostSecret experience, SG is running USecret. Students can decorate the back of USecret cards or submit their own creations to one of the six drop boxes around campus. The secrets will be put on display at the presentation.
“You realize that everyone on campus has stuff going on, and that not everyone on campus is perfect,” said senior Samantha Flanagan, student ambassador for ‘Canes Care for ‘Canes.
There are many students who religiously check PostSecret each Sunday, some for fun, but some for deeper reasons.
“We live in a society where it’s really hard to get on a personal level,” sophomore Ilyssa Salomon said. “You read these post cards that people spill their guts on…you can connect with people that you don’t even know and kind of regain a sense of humanity, a sense of belonging.”
But for Warren, sometimes the funny and lighthearted secrets are the best ones.
A flattened Starbucks cup that read, “I give decaf to customers who are RUDE to me!”
“PostSecret Live” will be held on Sept. 7 in Gusman Hall at 8:30 p.m., where Warren will introduce the new PostSecret app, which will allow people to upload secrets and tag locations. There are no tickets left, but standby seating will be available at 8:15 p.m. before the event with a CaneCard. “PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God” will be for sale and Warren will sign them after the presentation.
USECRET Dropbox Locations:
Student Government Office (UC 214)
University Center Info Desk
Herbert Wellness Center
Mahoney/Pearson, Eaton, Hecht and Stanford Residential Colleges