Ron Blake brings hope for people with PTSD to ASU, Arizona

Ron Blake has touched the lives of many ASU students in his mission to both heal himself and get on the "Late Show"

Ron Blake looks and speaks like an activist, but he hasn't always been that way. 

Since Nov. 12, 2015, Blake has walked onto ASU campuses with giant poster boards to meet people and share the story of his sexual assault and the post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from it.

Blake asks people to sign his boards all across Arizona, but he frequents the ASU Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses.

Some people add drawings, others write poems and many simply sign their name. But the boards add up, and now Blake has 77 in his collection. 

While his goal for this project is getting on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” he began his mission as a way to help himself recover from the post-traumatic stress disorder he was facing and start engaging with people again. 

“If they love Colbert, they’re on board, but I want people to know the backstory,” Blake said. “That’s when I tell them that I was diagnosed with PTSD and it became really severe this last year. For me, this is a big way for me to take back my life.”

Blake said that he chose the "Late Show" because it was something he personally enjoyed and the goal of getting on it gave him something to look forward to every day. He takes photos with the people he meets and tags the "Late Show" in those photos.

He said he later realized that this project could also help other people, not just himself.

“After about the first week or two, I realized that this was a lot bigger than me," Blake said. "I was affecting a lot of people’s lives and I could bring a lot more awareness about PTSD."

If he were to get on the "Late Show," he said he would want to talk about his experience of meeting people because the stories that people have shared with him have been mind-blowing.

“When I hand off the board to everybody, it’s their board," Blake said. "And I think people really like that they can leave their imprint."

Social work freshman Katie Bell is someone he met along his journey.

“I got chills because I thought it was amazing that someone is doing something as simple as talking to people and getting them to sign something to go on TV,” Bell said. “In that, he’s fighting for his life and I just thought that was so beautiful.”

Blake said he tries to turn bad situations into funny ones and that he recently did that in a video he posted.

He described a bad experience with a psychiatrist who tried to tell him that his project was grandiose and diagnosed him with bipolar disorder within 10 minutes of meeting him.

Blake said he chose to see a humorous side of his experience, though he does acknowledge how the situation could have ended badly. 

“The part of it that’s truly sad is that if I would’ve been very impressionable at that time or if I would’ve been somebody that would’ve just listened to him, he would’ve medicated me and then taken away that dream or that goal of mine,” Blake said.

Blake said he hopes to stay in contact with some of the people he’s met while out and about with his board.

“I’m meeting so many people," Blake said "It’s been amazing, some of the contacts that I have now, and they’re helping me meet other people — I have a stack of business cards. People have given me gifts as I’ve gone along, like poetry. They’ve given me personal artwork.”

Nutrition freshman Genevive Damasco said Blake inspired her.

"The first time I met him, I was actually going through a pretty tough time myself," Damasco said. "After having all these trials and tribulations in his life i thought it was really inspiring to see him going out and making a change for himself. It helped me change my mentality."

Blake also said that he’d like to one day have an art show with his boards.

“If you take my name off of it, because people are oftentimes addressing me, it’s applicable to a lot of people, to get through what they’ve gone through,” he said.

Blake said that his project has really begun to help him heal but he doesn’t presume that what helps him will help everybody with PTSD. However, he does think there is something anyone with PTSD can do to help themselves.

“The best advice I would give anybody with PTSD is if they know they’re struggling, first and foremost, start surrounding yourself with people and then start talking to those people," he said. 

Related Links:

Stephen Colbert grills Jeb Bush and schmoozes with George Clooney in 'Late Show' debut

Second annual Rise! Poetry Event touches on themes like Black Lives Matter, PTSD, intersectionality


Reach the reporter at avcabral@asu.edu or follow @angeligagaa on Twitter.

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