Eli Paulk On Overcoming Depression, And Helping Others Do The Same

Eli Paulk sat alone outside of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s International Ballroom. A handful of students filtered in and out of the banner event September’s Suicide Prevention Week: a resource fair with over a dozen different community organizations and groups hoping to engage students on the topic of mental health. Dressed in black shorts and a purple Louisiana State University hoodie, Paulk appeared to be unaware or uninterested in the event going on in front of him. A surprising observation to me because, as he would later share, although he has made it his goal to help others struggling with depression, Eli still battles with it himself.

“There was honestly, two years straight where every day, it just seemed like there was a cloud over me,” Paulk said, fighting back tears. “I couldn’t enjoy anything.”

Paulk did not share exactly what circumstances affected his life during these two years other than a short-lived break up with his girlfriend. But he said he credits her, as well the music of J-Cole and Mac Miller for helping him work through that time in his life. This is why he says Miller’s death last September affected him so deeply.

Paulk said although he didn’t meet him, talk to him, or even consider him his favorite rapper, Miller and his music were a big part of his life growing up. When Miller’s album, “Swimming,” released last September, he said he listened to the song “Wings” on repeat while crying for a half an hour.

“He was very transparent,” Paulk said, as he teared up. “Everybody knew his struggles. He didn’t hide from anything. And that’s why people connected so easy.”

And by sharing his own personal challenges on YouTube, Eli is trying to do the same.

Eli Paulk, 22-year old YouTuber and Purdue Fort Wayne student, hopes his videos can help viewers struggling with depression.

Last July, Paulk announced a change in the direction of the content on his YouTube channel, “Eli Is Broke.” Once a mix of personal adventures, hip hop and rap album reviews, and a short film about self doubt, Paulk started to post videos focused on success and happiness. One of his longest uploads, a conversation about depression in millennials, runs 17-minutes long.

Paulk said he wanted to stop making clickbait and focus on producing more substantive content that could make a difference in people’s lives.

“I don’t wanna try to fix anybody,” Paulk said. “But I wanna be there in case anybody needs affirmation.”

Paulk said he has always had the urge to help people. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, one of his clearest memories as a kid was not being able to understand why there are homeless people in the city. He took notice of the juxtaposition of homeless people asking for money along Coliseum Boulevard, while high-end car dealerships existed nearby. This led him to pursue a career in social services, before becoming an English major and focusing on communication after encouragement from his professor, Dr. Kate White.

However, his mission of reaching out to and helping others is proving harder than he thought.

During the first week of the fall semester, Paulk passed out over 1,500 business cards on campus to promote his channel. Since then, he has not seen any increase in views or heard from a single person who may have found his card — until I contacted him.

Paulk took a four-month break from making videos to focus on himself.

Josué Loya, Paulk’s longtime neighbor and friend, said this is something Paulk doesn’t often do. Loya says Paulk is always doing what he can to help others.

“He’s a very caring person,” Loya said. Anytime he has needed a ride, run out of gas, or just needed help cleaning his yard, Paulk has always been there to help.

Paulk’s desire to reach out to those struggling with their own mental health is not without need.

Judy Tillapaugh, Coordinator of Fitness and Wellness at Purdue Fort Wayne, said suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. Tillapaugh said one of the best things students could do for their own mental health is to reach out to others.

“You’re talking, you’re sharing, you’re laughing, you’re connecting,” Tillapaugh said. “That can make a difference in helping a person cope through something that they might be facing.”

At a time when it is easier for us to be closed off and pulled into our own little words through smartphones and social media, Paulk said he hopes his content can break through and make it easier for those of his own generation to connect and reach out to others. He aims to meet people where they are, rather than wait for them to come forward.

Paulk hopes to find the right balance between positivity and entertainment. He knows kids won’t want to watch videos of him solely lecturing about mental health. He wants it to be easier for audiences to digest, so he can make a meaningful connections and accomplish what he set out to do in the beginning.

“That’s the goal,” Paulk said. “Give people hope.”

John Kaufeld: The Perfect Storm of Talent

When walking into John Kaufeld’s office you will most likely see one of two things happening: he is working on the IPFW Chancellor’s newsletter, or working on a dozen other projects that are displayed on his computer screen.

His office is decorated with Star Wars themed Mr. Potato Head figures, Looney Toons mailing stamps, and other items that are not typically seen in someone’s office that works within a university’s head administration, and has the job title that Kaufled holds.

He reads the work he has done so far that day fact checking every little detail to make sure he has left nothing out or mistyped any key information. He fixes grammatical errors meticulously and quickly like his life depended on it.

He is the voice of IPFW. Almost everything and anything relating to news about the university goes through Kaufeld.

If anyone has a question regarding the school they are sent to talk to him, because he has all of the answers. He runs the university’s Twitter news account, creates newsletters regarding faculty achievements on campus and publishes content on his personal blogs.

John Kaufled’s experiences in life have all played a role in getting him to where he is today.

“I really enjoyed being a journalist. I liked the idea of writing,” Kaufeld said about what his interests were as a young man. “I wrote for every school newspaper at every school I was ever at, because I just found that fascinating.”

His interests in writing led to him becoming a best-selling author of the international book series “…For Dummies.” His books have sold almost 3 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 15 different languages.

His primary work focused on teaching people how to use computer software and programming. His books not only influenced readers in the U.S., but all around the world.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State where he first found that he had an interest in computers. During his time in college, Kaufeld said, “At one point I had seven majors. I changed my major a lot, and I ended up falling in love with computers. I found that I really enjoyed system design.”

It was through his experience of being an IT manager and working with computers in the corporate world that he was able to write his books helping people understand computers easier because he wanted to understand how and why computers worked the way they did for people. A career in computers services had to end though as Kaufeld said that he felt that “burned out” by all of the work.

Though the stress of his corporate career began to get a little too overwhelming, there was another passion that Kaufeld could go to help relieve the stress. A passion that started long before everything else.

“I was an only child… so with board games I found that I had an easier time connecting with people my age. As I got older and became a parent, I found that there were moments I was having trouble connecting with my kids, and I learned that when we were playing those games we were connecting and communicating better,” said Kaufeld about what board games have meant to him throughout his life.

That passion for board games, especially foreign board games, led Kaufeld to own and run his gaming business in Fort Wayne and writing a column in the News Sentinel newspaper. Kaufeld describes his column on his LinkedIn page as, “…gives hope to frustrated, time-stressed dads. The Dad Game gives you hands-on advice about connecting with your kids by using board games as a tool, specifically European-style board games like The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne. (But not Monopoly. Never, ever Monopoly. Ew.)”

Among his work in business, communications and journalism, he also does speaking seminars on the side. He is currently doing work in a concept he refers to as, “imposter syndrome.” He speaks to college students about embracing their accomplishments and ideas rather than believe that no one will care or appreciate the work they are doing. His speaking engagements are something that he sees himself doing more of in the future.

His journey to IPFW began when Kaufeld was working as a communications manager at STAR Financial Bank. Before working at the university, a friend working at IPFW asked him to join her in the social media department. Soon, he became the social media manager of the school. While working for the university, he also became a student. He was able to earn a Masters of Arts from IPFW in 2013.

In 2014, he was introduced as IPFW’s new chief communications officer.

“John is a unique professional who brings a singular set of skills, insights, and experiences to our executive team,” said Chancellor Vicky Carwein in the university’s online news letter announcing Kaufeld’s new position. “Our ability to communicate with our partners, constituents, faculty, staff, and students is a key part of IPFW’s future. John’s expertise will help us continue to grow and develop in those areas.”

Dr. Dan Tamul, who is an assistant professor in IPFW’s Department of Communication, has worked with Kaufeld before. Tamul has brought him into his journalism classes as a practice interview subject that students can use to talk to and is familiar with Kaufeld’s work.

“The kind of position he occupies here, if he were at Purdue or one of those big universities, he would have a team of people helping him, but it’s just him,” said Tamul “I’m really glad that we hired him. He is the perfect storm of all the talents and skills to do that job really well. He’s all about IPFW.”

IPFW has a published author, business man, marketing strategist, computer wizard, journalist and professional speaker in one man. His office located in Kettler Hall is open to anyone who has questions that need answered. Kaufeld can provide help to any student seeking his experience, or anyone who just wants to play some board games.