July 18, 2024

The Power of PATH

Inspiring students through resilience and courage

Inspirational speaker Tasha Schuh uses her story to encourage youth and promote mental and emotional health through her PATH program.

After fighting for her life at 16, Tasha Schuh has dedicated her life to encouraging and inspiring others through resilience as an inspirational speaker.

Schuh spoke with Creston Community students and staff Friday about her mental health awareness curriculum The Power of PATH, an acronym for purpose, attitude, team and hope. Schuh works to empower people around the U.S. through her life story and program.

When she was 16, Schuh went through a traumatic accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

“I was rehearsing for my school’s musical production when, one step directly behind me they removed the cover off of the trap door,” Schuh said. “As you can imagine, what happened next was that I took one step back and I fell through that trap door, falling 16 feet to a cement floor, breaking my neck and severely crushing my spinal cord.”

During and after her hard recovery, Schuh had a rough time mentally, yet didn’t seek professional help.

“I struggled so much with my mental health. When I had my accident, it was very taboo to need help. I did not do any counseling,” Schuh said. “I had people that I talked to, but it wasn’t like a psychiatrist or a counselor. I look back now and I think, oh my goodness, I would have been able to get through things so much better and I would have been able to get so much further faster if I would have allowed those services.”

Since recovering, Schuh has accomplished more than she ever thought possible.

“I was told that I would never walk again, that I would be a quadriplegic, but today I have accomplished so much from sitting in this wheelchair,” Schuh said. “I have two bachelor’s degrees, learned how to drive, built my home, crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA, I wrote two books, married my prince charming and now travel all over the country sharing this story as much as I can.”

Schuh started speaking in 2007. However, she didn’t start focusing on schools and students until 2015, after a tragedy occurred to a close friend.

“In 2014, my best friend from high school lost her son Logan to suicide,” Schuh said. “That was what really opened our minds of what our world is going through. It really became our passion because I know what that feels like to feel hopeless, to want to quit, to want to give up, but I always was so thankful that I kept pressing through, kept going and I kept forcing myself to believe that better days were ahead.”

It didn’t take long after that for Schuh to develop her PATH program, becoming an official curriculum in 2020. While she said there’s a lot more acceptance regarding mental health today, there’s still work to do.

“If we have a heart condition or a lung condition, you go to the doctor. But for some reason, we have disconnected the brain from that list of things that we need to take care of. It’s OK to ask for help,” Schuh said. “We’ve come a long ways in just talking about these things and making it OK to ask for help and trying to remove the stigma.”

Schuh’s PATH program works to teach students and school staff how to fight through tough mental health days. Schuh explains that purpose, the first of the methods, is the “why?” for getting out of bed each morning. With this, people can live stronger, healthier lives.

“Purpose is something that directly affects our health,” Schuh said. “Research is showing that if you have meaning in your life, you are less likely to have sleep problems, you are less likely to have a heart attack and you are even less likely to die prematurely.”

Attitude, the next word in the PATH acronym, focuses on one’s daily decision for how to live their life.

“It is so important in our world to have a positive attitude. It’s easy to focus on the negative,” Schuh said. “I very easily can sit at home and feel sorry for myself. I did that for a long time, but I thought after a time, where is this getting me?”

She recommends keeping a gratitude journal as a way to encourage a better daily attitude.

The word team is the third letter in the acronym. Schuh uses this to remind her audience that they don’t have to fight alone.

“When I had my accident, I felt so alone, but I now look back and see that I had a wonderful team of people that helped me to get where I am today,” Schuh said. “There is not one human being on this planet that has ever lived without needing the help of other people. We need each other.”

The final word in the acronym, hope, can be an acronym itself, according to Schuh.

“I heard an acronym a couple years ago that says hope is ‘hold on, pain ends.’ That was life changing for me,” she said. “When you hope you believe that better days are ahead. Even though this day is really tough, I believe that I can get through it.”

Schuh encourages her audience to see her as proof that hope is there.

“I’ve had so many days of my journey where I’ve wanted to quit, but I’m so thankful that I held on to hope to get to where I am today,” Schuh said. “I want you to know that things can and will get better, and that I’m living proof of that. We have to keep on pressing through to get through the challenges.”

More information about Schuh and The Power of PATH can be found at tashaschuh.com.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.