Erin Vanni was a little girl with her nose in a book, her thoughts in the clouds, and a pen in her hand. She dreamed of becoming a writer and she would become that and so much more. After cancer took her mother’s life and her father committed suicide, she became an advocate for mental health. Vanni is also the communications coordinator Center of Workforce Innovations, where she makes an impact in her community by connecting workers with employers and vise-versa.
Vanni attended Purdue University and did not know her life's path right away. She actually changed her major three times. She knew she wanted to make a difference, but was not sure how. After sampling different options, she came back to her first love: English. She interned with The Times of Northwest Indiana and when graduation approached, a professor suggested the communications coordinator position.
“What drew me into this position was that I’d be writing success stories,” Vanni said.
Vanni flexes her creativity with social posts, flyers, and newsletters, to name a few. It is fulfilling that she makes a difference in her community, but Vanni does not stop there. She’s a freelance writer for HERE magazine, and writes blogs at riseabovethefall.wordpress.com.
In the midst of Vanni’s college, internship, and working, her mother, Patti, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Even though the world was crumbling, Vanni drove her mother to chemo and pushed forward in school.
“I had to finish and do this for her,” Vanni said.
When Vanni graduated, her mother was too frail to attend commencement. The kind-hearted mother of three was proud of her daughter's achievement and excited for where life would take her. Vanni hinted to her mother than her boyfriend would one day be her husband and that she would be happy and loved. Just two weeks later, Patti took her last breath. Two years after her mother's passing, Vanni's father, Chris, took his own life. Her father struggled with addiction, which played a role in his death.
“He was a great dad but had a bad problem,” Vanni said.
Vanni was inspired to open up about death in hopes of supporting the national conversation about mental health. A cultural movement is afoot to destigmatize therapy and seeking help, and Vanni wants to be a part of it.
“I was dealing with strong emotions and trying to find my way back to being a happy person,” Vanni said. “When I went to therapy, it changed my life. I hope that at least one person will read my blog and find that there is no shame in getting help.”
Vanni felt that she had two options: sink into the darkness or forgive and move forward. She let go of her anger with her father’s choice with the help of her now husband, Nick, her siblings, family, and friends. She also moves forward by pouring her passion into her life’s work.
“Life is too short and I know that more than I ever did,” Vanni said.
Through it all, Vanni never lost her sense of humor and finds even small things funny. She and her husband are foodies who enjoy supporting family-owned restaurants in the Region. In the future, she hopes to be involved in volunteer work for suicide awareness, or for something related to cancer. She is drawn to helping those who are dealing with similar issues.
“Sometimes you just have to take a hard look in the mirror to really remind yourself of who you are,” Vanni said. “Look beyond the reflection staring back at you remember how far you’ve come, and remind yourself of where you have yet to go.”