Reaching Out @ Mental Health Matters Day
The sea of lime green ribbons sprawled in front of the state capitol was just one feature designed to make Mental Health Matters Day stand out. The bright accessories, worn by the Inspire staff among other leaders,visionaries, and young people in attendance, reflected attendees' collective effort to draw attention to the need for reducing stigma and raising awareness of mental health.
As part of the larger mental health movement supported by the Stigma and Discrimination Reduction campaign run by California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), Inspire was thrilled to participate in the mental health and community-based resource fair that kicked off the day. Along with providing temporary tattoos and materials on the ReachOutHere and Busca Apoyo campaigns, we also hosted a "Sink Stigma" beanbag toss and invited attendees to write encouraging notes to their future selves. ReachOut Peer Supporters and Text Supporters were also on hand to answer questions and share their stories of providing support online and via text message.
"Glee" star Max Adler (pictured here with ReachOut volunteers) and director Bradley Buecker returned to announce the winners of the competition. This year, the contest was extended to University of California students along with high school students across the state. While only four entries received the top prize (see all winners and videos here), all the submissions were impressive for creatively communicating a powerful message around suicide prevention or ending the silence around mental illness.
by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
ReachOut Celebrates Diversity & Community
Soka University’s International Festival is an exciting annual event where people, nonprofits and businesses all over Orange County come together to celebrate diverse cultures. As a Soka student and Peer Supporter, this year, I volunteered to attend and represent the ReachOutHere campaign. A brutal heat wave had settled over Aliso Viejo that week, but thankfully my fellow peer supporter Susana arrived with a sturdy canopy, a 38 pack of cool water bottles and some snacks. The provisions refueled our spirits and with newfound energy, we proceeded to reach out by sharing our experiences with ReachOut.com and inviting students to chat and potentially get involved. Our booth was surrounded by a festive atmosphere generated by the international theme with people in traditional garments, delicious smells wafting from ethnic food stands and foreign tunes in the air. All this reminded me that these outreach events are more than just publicity projects, they can create a special space for people to take refuge. The smiles that our volunteers give at our booths inspire hope and introduce the spirit of ReachOut.com. Ideally, it will help others smile, lend an ear or give a compliment. As I've learned in the forums, you might not always see the effects of your actions, but rest assured, you are making someone at least a little bit happier.
by Roberto De La Pena, Jr, Peer Supporter
Talking ReachOut TXT @ YTH Live 2014
YTH (Youth + Tech + Health) is a multi-day conference centered around the intersection between health and utilizing the technology most relevant to youth in order to reach them. Topics span from texting and sexual health to blogging about mental health. It's an innovative, modern approach to old problems. As a ReachOut Text Supporter, I had the privilege of watching ReachOut California Director Nicola Survanshi speak about our program alongside a Planned Parenthood representative, who spoke on a program that allows those with questions or concerns about sexual health to text in and receive answers. The response was incredible, with people in the room asking questions that ranged from our availability outside of text hours to how to launch a similar service in their own community. After the talk, Will, another ReachOut TXT Supporter, and I fielded questions from those around us, and I was amazed at the support and interest from people asking about the texting service, sharing their own projects, and offering encouragement. I had to leave early in order to attend my volunteering shift as a text supporter, but I still managed to attend the “By Youth, For Youth” talk, which featured speakers who presented on programs that promoted health among youth. And as I headed to Powell Street, my head buzzed with the information I’d received. “There is a community of people who care about health and youth,” I thought. “That’s amazing.”
by Echo Yupan Lu, ReachOut Text Supporter
With the success and steady growth of ReachOut TXT, and the ongoing support of the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), we have officially added another night of peer-to-peer mobile service! Spread the word: ReachOut TXT is now open every Monday and Tuesday from 4-8pm PT.
Since launching in September 2013, ReachOut TXT has hosted over 300 text conversations with more than 230 young adults in search of support and information from their peers. TXT Supporters, the trained youth volunteers who man the text line, have quickly become pros at providing quick responses, empathizing with a wide variety of relationship and mental health issues, and helping their peers get through tough times via text. Testimonies from volunteers and texters alike reinforce how rewarding the experience has been on both sides of the phone:
"I feel like the people who have texted us have had positive experiences and have left feeling better and more empowered to make healthier decisions. It feels good to know you’ve helped someone who might not get help from anywhere else.” - TXT Supporter
“Thank you for your help. It’s been nice talking to someone who could actually help :)” – Anonymous
“I’m glad there’s programs out there that are there for others when they feel like they can’t go to anyone else. Keep up the great work and thank you again.” – Anonymous With one more day of service, we look forward to making an even bigger impact by connecting with more young people in need.
Help make a difference! Spread the word: If you know a young person looking for information, support, or just a good chat with a peer, encourage them to text "REACHOUT" to 877-877 on Mondays and Tuesdays between 4-8 p.m. PST.
by Michael Young, Youth Coordinator
Next month, Inspire USA Foundation, who powers ReachOut.com, is thrilled to be returning to the nexus of innovation and collaboration as a panelist at the annual South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) Festival in Austin from March 7-11. Emily O’Brien, Director of Youth Engagement, will be participating on the "Taboo Topics Online Social Campaigns with Privacy" panel along with other prosocial youth engagement experts from the Ad Council, Do Something, Crisis Text Line, and To Write Love on Her Arms. Together, the panel will address best practices for leveraging the anonymity of the Internet to offer support without raising privacy concerns. Emily will also preview the exciting and innovative work of the ReachOut Forums and ReachOut TXT program, funded by California counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). Attendees will learn how these programs have effectively engaged young Californians in a positive, anonymous dialogue about mental health and perceived taboo topics, while also providing evidence based health promotion information, peer support, and access to crisis services.
Mark your calendars! This spring, Inspire USA will be presenting at two important conferences in California to share our insights around connecting mobile and online technologies with peer support to better meet youth where they are. Here are short descriptions to help you catch us in action:
'Online and Mobile Outreach Methods' @ MHASF Tools for Change: Inspire will appear at the first international conference focused on lived experience and culture change around mental health and mental illness to discuss our online and mobile engagement strategies to reduce stigma and support youth. March 7-8, 2013 'Two-Way Texting' @ YTH Live: Nicola Survanshi, Director of ReachOut California, will present on ReachOut TXT, our new mobile text messaging program designed to provide timely responses of mental health support and information to teens and young adults directly to their phones. April 6-8, 2014 by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
For updated information on where to find Inspire, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Sign up for our newsletter here.
We'd like to take this time to thank all of our supporters! Our gratitude for your generosity for ReachOut.com is boundless. We have a lot to be thankful for in 2013, since we were able to do all of this:
Gratitude is not only limited to us. The youth who have found ReachOut have this to say:
Thank you everyone so much for all the kind words! It means a lot to have a community that shows this much support. I don't even know any of you personally but I still feel like I'm not alone in this.
For all of these things and more, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Wishing you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Nicola, Emily, Meredith, Michelle, Liz, Michael and Katherine
During the rainy, third weekend of September, 10 young people came together at the Inspire USA Foundationheadquarters in San Francisco to kick off ReachOut TXT, an exciting new peer-to-peer mobile service offering confidential support and information through the powerful medium of text messages.
The 10 text-savvy teens and young adults who gathered for an intensive three-day training were selected from a pool of Bay Area applicants to become TXT Supporters. Ranging from 17 to 24 years old, each articulated a strong commitment to offering nonjudgmental support and providing positive and unintimidating perspectives on questions and concerns received during the weekly sessions (Mondays 4-8 p.m. PST).
In preparation for the October 7 launch, the TXT Supporters were trained by members of the Inspire staff, including ReachOut Mental Health Advisor Dr. Romi Mann. Over the course of the weekend, Dr. Mann led several in-depth presentations on issues ranging from relationship problems to depression. Between these interactive sessions and exercises designed to help texters foster trust, field difficult questions and adhere to safety protocols, each volunteer learned to provide empathetic responses to a wide array of questions.
As the weekend progressed and the training came to a close, these 10 new Peer TXT Supporters provided critical input on the program, suggesting more youth appropriate methods for supportive responses and asking crucial questions to help improve the service. With October 7 just around the corner, these 10 new TXT Supporters eagerly await their first text, their chance to improve the lives of their peers and champion suicide prevention all through text messaging.
Help make a difference! Spread the word: If you know a young person looking for information, support, or just a good chat with a peer, encourage them to text "REACHOUT" to 877-877 on Mondays between 4-8 p.m. PST.
What do former NFL player Keith Elias, "High School Musical" star/Gimme Mo CEO Monique Coleman and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline all have in common? Each of them joined ReachOut along with teens and young adults across the country in rocking the movement for suicide prevention this September by answering the brave question of 'How Do U ReachOut?'On the ground and across social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #HowDoURO, we were amazed by all the efforts we saw from young people and advocates for youth alike to share their coping strategies for tough times.
Along with powerful images, we were touched by the outpouring of encouraging words. Our call to action inspired moving stories from young people and former NFL running back Keith Elias, honest answers ("I reach out when life's too hard to handle all alone.") and passionate rally cries for others to join the movement ("I reach out by speaking. Break the silence. Break the stigma. #HowDoURO") ReachOut volunteers from our Peer Supporter and Youth Council programs also played a key role in raising awareness for Suicide Prevention Month with outreach events held on campuses and in tandem with wider community movements like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Community Walk in San Francisco. Whether expressed in e-cards, Instagram selfies or profile pics, we know the impact of the campaign was far-reaching and look forward to welcoming new members into the ReachOut community and making next year's Suicide Prevention efforts an even more spectacular affair!
by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
Inspire Presents to California State Senate
Last week, Inspire USA had the amazing opportunity to present at the informational hearing for the California State Senate’s Select Committee on Mental Health. Poignantly titled “Every Life Matters: Implementing Effective Suicide Prevention Strategies in California,” the powerful proceedings were hosted by California Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose). As Director of ReachOut California, I was honored to attend along with Emily O’Brien, our Director of Youth Engagement, and present on our exciting new peer-to-peer text message support program, ReachOut TXT.
Other compelling hearing speakers included suicide survivor and author Kevin Hines along with Kevin Briggs, a Sergeant on the California Highway Patrol with a long history of enforcing suicide prevention efforts on the Golden Gate Bridge. Victor Ojakian, a staunch Suicide Prevention advocate in California, described his efforts to implement suicide prevention protocols in schools, and Michelle Thomas from San Francisco Suicide Prevention presented on the recent launch of their crisis text line, MyLife. The hearing brought texting to the forefront as a critical new programmatic feature for encouraging young people to seek help during tough times. The insightful and empathetic Committee on Mental Health included Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano. As we spread the word about the launch of ReachOut TXT, we are thankful to the committee for their dedication to the promotion of mental health and to reducing suicide rates in California.
by Nicola Survanshi, Director of ReachOut California
This May marked the one year birthday of the ReachOut Forums and the young people who help moderate them,known as Peer Supporters. To celebrate, Inspire USA and nine peer supporters from all over California got together for a weekend of brainstorming, training and celebration.
We kicked off the weekend with some dinner and bowling and then got down to the hard work on Saturday, when we discussed how to improve the program for the next cohort of 45 new Peer Supporters, who are starting this month. The Peer Supporters decided they wanted to play a leading role in mentoring the new cohort (check out the awesome introductory video they made above or on their YouTube channel!) and will be supporting them over the next year as they get trained up to moderate. Sunday we had a guest visit from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) who provided some more training around mental health, before we had a whistle-stop tour of downtown San Francisco and said our farewells.
The celebration summit provided a great opportunity to reflect on the success of our first ever year in the forums, as well as a detailed looking at how we can make the program even bigger and better for 2013 onwards.
Know a young person in California between the ages of 16 and 24 passionate about helping others and interested in mental health? Encourage them to apply online to join the next cohort of Peer Supporters! See online application for more details.
by Liz Crampton, Online Engagement Manager
This month, Inspire welcomed aboard Liz Crampton as our new Online Engagement Manager and Romi Mann, Psy.D. as our new Mental Health Advisor.
Liz is the Online Engagement Manager at Inspire USA. She brings many years’ experience in online communications and campaigning from the non-profit sector. Liz has worked on a wide variety of issues including social justice, sustainability, indigenous rights, public health and conscious capitalism.
Liz is passionate about working with young people and worked closely with youth, schools and local authorities in the UK where she ran a national walk to school campaign.
Dr. Mann is a clinical psychologist with a strong interest in helping youth and young adults. He earned his doctorate degree from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA and his dissertation researched parental relationships of gay men who had children after coming out. His specialties include LGBT identity development, depression, anxiety, trauma, and harm reduction of risky behavior. He has worked in a variety of school settings providing crisis support and management, individual and group therapy, and consultation to teachers, staff, and parents. He has also volunteered on a variety of crisis and support phone services. Dr. Mann maintains a private practice in San Francisco where he provides individual and couples therapy, supervision, and consultation. We're thrilled to have both Liz and Dr. Mann joining our team and look forward to sharing their contributions here!
Inspire USA had a spectacular day at the National Conference on Mental Health at the White House on June 3! Invited as one of the innovative thinkers in the mental health space, members of the Inspire team convened with fellow nonprofits, policy makers and famous activists Bradley Cooper and Glenn Close to partake in the ongoing discussion around addressing and supporting mental health in the United States. Inspire USA founder Jack Heath, Board President Katherine Chon, Director of Youth Engagement Emily O'Brien and myself were all in attendance wearing our lime green mental health awareness ribbons, along with huge smiles!
The day started off in the East Wing with an impassioned speech from Janelle Montano of Active Minds, introducing President Obama. The President then delivered a very engaging speech that focused on normalizing discussions of mental health - relating mental health help-seeking to getting treated for a broken arm or cancer – and elevating national mental health coverage and services.Secretary Sebelius took over from there, hosting a panel that included Glenn Close, Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association and former Senator, and Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of Give and Hour. There were about 10 senators in the audience, and former Congressman and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy gave a powerful plea asking them to make sure insurance carriers are accountable for covering mental health in the Affordable Care Act.
We then left the White House to head to the Executive Offices for short presentations hosted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. DoSomething kicked off these sessions with an overview of the Crisis Text Line, a teen text service set to launch this summer whom we are collaborating with in the planning and implementation of our text-based information and peer support service, ReachOut TXT. Georgetown University, Upworthy and MTV's Half of Us/Love is Louder campaigns also presented on similarly forward-thinking initiatives that embraced technology to reach youth.
After lunch, Bradley Cooper and Vice President Joe Biden wrapped up the day with speeches where the VP proved to be a regular stand-up comedian! It was an amazing experience, and we are excited to further the conversation on mental health and the work of ReachOut!
by Nicola Survanshi, Director of ReachOut CA
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