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photo by Austin Huhs

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Let’s Talk About Our Kids’ Mental Health 

Leawood Resident Susie Gurley Begins Season 2 of Just a Mom Podcast to Empower Families

It was five years ago when Susie Gurley and her husband Dr. Dan Gurley, an orthopedic surgeon in Overland Park, received the call. They were on a golfing trip celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when an 8th grade school counselor contacted them to say their third son, Will, was considering suicide. 

“We missed all the signs,” Susie says. “If it can happen to us, it can happen to others, and we want to help.” 

Susie started the Just A Mom podcast in 2022 after her personal experience parenting a child with mental illness.

“I felt very alone and hopeless in the darkest days of Will’s battle,” Susie explains. “I also found few resources for parents to deal with a child who struggles with mental health issues. Almost every parent I’ve interviewed has told me the same thing. I want parents to know they’re not alone and there is hope.”

After countless hours in therapy, intense outpatient treatment, medication, and life changes to battle anxiety, depression and suicide ideation, Will is doing well today and is a college sophomore studying musical theatre. Along the way, Will used his talents to reach out to others in a groundbreaking way. After watching Logic perform “1-800-273-8255” at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Will was inspired to use his love for music to help other teens.  

At only 15 years old, Will founded the You Matter Festival on August 11, 2018. Now in its sixth year, the has become a prominent local draw focusing on suicide prevention through live music, speakers and a mental health resource fair. Susie and Dan’s entire family, including their first son, Jeff; daughter, Olivia; their spouses (and even their spouses’ families) are all actively involved.

“As I think about standing at the top of the stadium as Will first shared his story with 1,000 people, I remember how terrified I was,” Susie states. “I was afraid of being a bad mom and being judged. I felt shame for having a mentally ill child who wanted to end his life at points. My husband and I had kept Will’s struggle to ourselves for months. But just the opposite happened after that night. Will became a local teen spokesperson, helping break down the stigma of teens talking about mental health. He was interviewed on the local news, featured in a local magazine and newspaper, asked to speak to teen groups, and to serve on a local campaign to end teen suicide in our area.”

Susie recalls how after taking Will to record a video for the campaign, she was asked to also do a video. 

“I had come a long way about sharing our story, but make a video? Me? What did I have to say that was important? I’m not a therapist, counselor or doctor. I’m just a mom.”

But Susie agreed in hopes that one or two people could be helped. A few days after the video released, her husband saw on Facebook that it had received more than 10,000 views.

“I was shocked and perplexed. I didn’t think I had much to contribute or anything special to say. But my husband and I realized that parents weren’t talking about their kids’ mental health problems. That is exactly why I started the ‘Just a Mom’ podcast. I want to share the real stories of moms and dads who have walked the lonely, scary road of parenting a child with mental illness. I want them to hear that we got through it and that our child is still here, and he’s (mostly) thriving.”

Susie says she initially struggled with the idea of “putting herself out there” and the possible misconceptions about her motives. “But my motive is simple: this message is too important not to be shared, and a void needs to be filled. I remind myself of this every day—it’s not about me, it’s about the message.” 

That message is resonating with listeners who appreciate the honesty, vulnerability and intimacy. “I felt like I was right there with you, and you were talking to just me,” says one listener. “It’s relaxed and casual but also serious which makes it less intimidating than if it were more clinical.”

After more than 3,300 downloads of 13 episodes from the first season, Season 2 will begin on January 10, 2023.

“I’ve learned a lot in Season 1,” Susie says. “I’m incorporating more interviews with professionals, experts and organizations to help share resources and empower parents. Another huge takeaway is the realization that ANY parent could benefit from listening. So many things shared during interviews are things I wish I had known before my first child was born over 25 years ago. I encourage young parents to listen so they can have conversations about mental health starting at a young age.”

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  • Photo by Stefanie Werths
  • photo by Austin Huhs
  • photo by Austin Huhs
  • Photo by Austin Huhs