Jewel on her mental health journey: 'I really realized I had three choices: kill myself, stay how I was or change'

Jewel is quick to introduce herself as not simply a singer and songwriter; she's a mental health advocate, too. She launched the Inspiring Children Foundation in the early 2000s to give at-risk youth struggling with financial hardship and mental health issues resources to therapeutic practices, mentoring, schooling, sports and more. Jewel is also now settling into her new role as an ambassador for the mental health and brain health nonprofit One Mind.

She says her panic attacks started after she left home at 15 and grappled with the stresses of paying rent and "trying to hold down jobs" for the first time. At 18, she became homeless and started shoplifting, at which point her anxiety "hit a whole new level." She began experiencing agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder in which a person avoids places and situations in which they feel helpless or fearful.

"And so it was then that I really realized I had three choices: kill myself, stay how I was or change — and I wanted to change. And so my entire life has been: All right, I don't want to kill myself. Now what? What am I going to do different today than I did yesterday, so that tomorrow can be different?"

She took a "studious" approach to improving her mental health, taking notes and experimenting with practices that, over time, she's built into an emotional fitness "curriculum" which she now shares on her Never Broken website.

"My goal was to have a better life, have a better experience," she says of developing techniques to help her cope. "And so I needed to find things that I could practice, because mindfulness won't change your life. Meditation won't change your life. It just builds the muscle of being consciously present."

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