If you’re reading this, well… you are reading this, so I’m going to assume you are somewhere where it is safe for you to, for a moment, be still. I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath in and slowly exhale as you count to five, thinking of each number as you do so. Repeat this three times (yes three, you can do it).

Now that you’ve done that (I’m trusting you have, if not, do it now), how do you feel? Odds are, you may feel a little more relaxed, perhaps a little more awake, and feeling ever so slightly, more alive. What’s more interesting is that there is now a penny on the ground directly in front of you.

You looked, didn’t you? I apologize if there wasn’t a penny (today, July 4, would have been my Grandma Dolores’ birthday and she was someone who loved a magic trick, even when they were not always good and even when they did not always work, so that was for her). If there was indeed a penny, then… Ta da! That’s real magic, folks (and a one-cent gift from me to you, so spend it wisely).

If it sounds like I’m speaking to you as an old friend, that’s intentional. This is the first of a few printed experiences we’ll share together (albeit at different points in time) so I’d like to operate as if we’ve known each other for years instead of a traditional printed piece.

As a magician, my job is to first and foremost entertain and offer audiences an escape from the ordinary (I’d say we’re off to a decent start; this has to be a little out of the norm for you, as it is for me). I appear to do seemingly impossible things to illicit various psychological and physical responses. The character I portray when I’m performing is very similar to who I actually am, just taking many levels and turning them up to 11.

I’m a Wyoming native; I attended Sheridan College, and completed my undergrad at The University of Wyoming. I now reside in Las Vegas, Nevada, and split my time between a quiet home life and a less quiet life travelling for work and for leisure. I like long walks, sunsets and the movie “You’ve Got Mail.”

If I’ve learned one thing thus far it’s that we are more alike than we are different. Everyone experiences joy and pain, has needs and wants, and all have problems, which can seem impossible to overcome. This isn’t news to any of us but it is worth being reminded of.

For example, if I ask you to take a moment, I’m sure you can come up with something that is problematic in your life. Go ahead, do that now, I can wait….

No, you didn’t leave the stove on, but, if it was something else, I want you to understand these are all temporary and can be overcome in healthy ways. Without coming off as some sort of wannabe self-help guru, the senses with which we view our lives and the world around us can greatly impact how we manage and work through problems.

Some of the best traits of Wyomingites are the same that make our country great: People work hard, are kind, live and let live and value being properly educated in order to make a decision. I’m frequently met with people knowing Wyoming as the place where we are “cowboy tough.” While these key pieces of our heritage are at times a very positive thing, the notion of “toughing it out” may occasionally be to our detriment, especially when it comes to mental health.

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Modern science is still scratching the surface of the human mind. Even though research and treatment for various mental health issues have seen great strides, similarities caused by different physiological, chemical and cognitive issues can make diagnosis and treatment extremely difficult to pinpoint and achieve.

I bring this to light because, in the words of G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” Mental health affects everyone, be it directly or via coworkers, family, friends and loved ones. If you or I had a physical ailment, we would likely see a doctor or get help. That is common sense that even the most rugged of cowboys and cowgirls can get behind, but the same cannot be said for mental health. A simple Google search of “mental health statistics” will demonstrate that this is an issue that desperately needs our attention through a litany of surprising data to support this idea.

Thankfully, a major shift in de-stigmatizing mental health has been developing. The idea that truly being “cowboy tough” includes talking about and asking for help with our problems is now becoming more mainstream. From a personal standpoint, I can tell you that I’ve benefitted from being able to discuss the ups and downs of my life with people.

So, what can we do about it? Taking the time to educate ourselves as best as we can on mental health and directing others to professional care when something is outside of our knowledge base is one of the best things that each of us can do. Each of us has coping mechanisms and it’s important to note that “thinking happier thoughts” or “just getting over it” may not be the answers, just like there are some injuries you can’t just “walk off.”

If we can treat mental health as we do any physical or medical ailment, I’m confident that the world would be a better place. Everyone can benefit from routine physicals and I hope that, one day, visiting with some sort of mental health professional, even if it’s to hear that “everything is A-OK and you’re healthy as a horse” (which, sidebar here—why is that a term?) will be treated the same way. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me in working toward making this a reality. It’s been great getting to catch up; we really ought to do this more often. Now, let’s go celebrate the 4th, enjoy it on behalf of all of our brave men and women, our country, our freedom and, if you don’t mind, my Grandma Dolores, who I could count on for anything and gave great advice.

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John Rotellini is an entertainer and entrepreneur and does the seemingly impossible for a living. Travel, art and film buff, sports fan, amateur underwater basket weaver. Magic Man.


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