As I sat on the San Francisco BART, making my way through the big and foreign city, I started to feel anxious about meeting the other ReachOut Peer Supporters. We all met about six months ago, but a lot had happened in those six months. I became nervous and began to wonder things like how odd the awkward silence would be when we all came together.
I was suddenly shaken out of my nervousness by the sound of excited footsteps and laughter outside my hotel room. I peeked into the hallway and saw a couple of the peer supporters. One of them saw me and ran to greet me as if we were best friends that had only been apart for about a day or two. If you are shy or anxious (in my case), you only need to spend a couple of minutes with the other peer supporters to find that you are actually very laid back and open. It’s as if their friendliness and their acceptance bring out the best in you, just the same way in which they bring out the best of the forum community members. During the “strategy” meetings, everyone perked up and provided input. At one point we even had a very friendly debate to decide between two strategies to make the forums a better place. As the peer supporters constructed arguments and defended their stance with such passion, I saw how committed they are to this cause. Their intentions are so sincere that they eagerly gave up a Sunday of sightseeing to participate in the Out of the Darkness suicide awareness walk (pictured here), all to support a fellow ReachOut member whom the majority of the peer supporters had not even met. I’ve often wondered why the ReachOut forums have expanded so quickly and successfully in such a short amount of time. Some of the factors I’ve often played with include vast funds (which I recently found out are quite modest), extremely skilled staff, and even the color scheme of the website. But as I looked at all the peer supporters and staff bunched up together, laughing and chanting phrases of support, I realized that it is truly the people behind ReachOut, with their bright spirits and playful compassion, that make this initiative so successful and so heartfelt. Support for the ReachOut Forums Provided By: The Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Consortium is a component of The Strategies for a Supportive program, funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.
by Brandon Rohlwing, Youth Council Member
On September 9, hundreds of people gathered at Living Waters Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, IL to witness the creation of some amazing art for a great cause. In honor of the church's annual Rally Day event, Elliot from ArtBeat Live performed to raise funds for the Inspire USA Foundation.
In his short act, Elliot combines great music with his unique talents as a painter to produce a very entertaining show that results in beautiful art all made in about 10 minutes. After the church first booked him, they decided the two paintings he made should be auctioned off for a charity. Living Waters unanimously chose Inspire USA's ReachOut.com because of the great impact it has had on the church's youth.
I'm so glad that I was able to attend this event because it was very inspiring. Elliot's ability to take paintbrushes, dip them in buckets of paint, and then slap them on to a canvas to create a wonderful piece of art in under ten minutes is truly amazing. It was also wonderful to see the community members sharing positive messages of hope with each other as they gathered around the info table for ReachOut, collecting "swag" to distribute to the young people in their lives.
Possibly the most inspiring part of the day, however, was the generosity of those bidding on the paintings. With the attendees knowing how important ReachOut is to the community, the bids came one after another. In the end, the two paintings went for a combined $1,525. Overall, the fundraiser was a great success for the church, community, and ReachOut.
by Daniel Caldera, ReachOut Peer Supporter
This past summer as a peer supporter I had the privilege of attending San Diego City College's Passport to Life expo. The event was aimed at young people between the ages of 11-24 who are, or were, on probation. The event was started as a transitional tool to help candidates gain empowering life skills in order to have a steady transition into adulthood.
I attended the event to get the word out about ReachOut. My initial impression when I stepped on to the campus and ventured into the event area was that there might not be much interest in the "ReachOut services." Oh, but how mistaken I was.
I had forgotten the impact of having a conversation with an unbiased person, or the rejuvenating potential of having a place to express oneself anonymously without being judged. I explained to participants what our site and more specifically the forums are all about. I explained that the forums hosted a wide array of discussion topics, including general topics that did not necessarily relate to mental health issues. To my surprise, youth responded with great interest. At certain points I even got to pull out my handy dandy Kindle to showcase some of the features on the site, including our renowned fact sheets and personal stories. If I had anticipated the amount of young people and parents interested, I would have definitely requested more promotional materials! All in all, I learned no matter what type of situation someone is in a helping hand, or shall we say a set of listening ears is always appreciated.
567 Sutter St., Third Floor San Francisco, CA 94102 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
This past month, communications agency Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn (RS&E) launched a Spanish -language campaign inviting Latino youth in California to join the new moderated forums on ReachOut.com. The ad campaign and ReachOut forums are sponsored by the CalMHSA (California Mental Health Services Authority).
The debut of targeted radio, online and print advertisements (see example above) across various Spanish-language media channels coincided with the introduction of bilingual threads in the forums. These discussions, supervised by Spanish-speaking moderator Pete Chico and guided by native-speaking peer facilitators Esteban Rivas, Humberto Zepeda, Roberto De La Pena, Daniel Caldera, and Brianda Alanis are part of a larger effort by CalMHSA, RS&E and ReachOut.com to help bilingual youth get through tough times with the help of their peers. In that same spirit, peer leaders Humberto and Esteban, along with two friends of Esteban, also lent their voice to the Spanish radio spot ads developed by RS&E.With Latinos comprising more than half (51%) of the youth population in California, according to the 2010 census, CalMHSA, Inspire and RS&E recognize the importance of supporting the many teens and young adults in this community. By welcoming all young Californians ages 14 to 24 into the forums, ReachOut seeks to create a safe, anonymous peer-to-peer community for young people of all backgrounds. Support for the ReachOut Forums Provided By: The Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Consortium is a component of The Strategies for a Supportive program, funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.
Youth Council Spotlight on Amy Grassel
by Emily O'Brien, Youth Programs Director
Amy Grassel, one of our first and founding Youth Council Members recently celebrated her 25th Birthday and her 5 year anniversary as a volunteer for ReachOut! To further her ongoing commitment to our mission, Amy will be advancing to an Alum position with ReachOut. The Youth Council plays a vital role in the development and success of ReachOut and we are thrilled and fortunate to keep Amy on the team! Here is a brief snapshot of Amy’s time with us... After interning as a web editor at Inspire Australia when she was studying abroad in 2008, Amy was eager to help with the USA launch. Upon returning to her hometown of New York, Amy joined Inspire USA as a contributing youth editor while ReachOut USA was still getting off the ground. Amy’s passion to help others and share the lessons of her life experiences led her to develop fact sheets on; breaking bad habits, amphetamines, college orientation, myths about college, inhalants ("Huffing"), adoption, peer pressure, relaxation, preparing for parenthood, and spring break. She also edited a number of other fact sheets and wrote blog entries on connecting with nature, Christmas blues, and teen pregnancy. Now, five years later, Amy continues to be an active Youth Council Member for ReachOut. Each week she provides peer-to-peer support to young people on MeetMe.com. Amy is also a member of the online Well-being Advisory Group and jumps at the opportunity to provide feedback to ensure that ReachOut remains youth- relevant. When asked what she likes about working for ReachOut, Amy says, “I love working with a team- a group of inspiring, kind, and creative people all committed to helping others.” Amy has a strong and positive work ethic and is satisfied by knowing she has helped someone get through a tough time. She says, “Comments and stories from teens help us see that what we are working towards does matter.” Amy remembers some of her highlights as a Council member, “I really enjoyed working the booth at the Bonnaroo music festival- directly spreading the word about our site to tons of young people, who were willing to listen and help spread the word also!” Another highlight she recalls is the “Youth Council summit in 2011, meeting my fellow council members from across the country, all being together in one (beautiful!) place, discussing ideas and inspiring one another.” Thank you, Amy, for being a part of the ReachOut crew! Oh, and a BIG Happy Birthday!
Just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we’re excited to announce the launch of moderated forums on ReachOut.com! Driven by youth and guided by 12 peer facilitators, the forums are a safe, anonymous peer-to-peer community created to help teens and young adults get through tough times. To promote the official launch, Inspire worked with Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn (RS&E), the Sacramento communications agency heading up the mental health stigma and discrimination reduction social marketing campaign. RS&E has been working hard on developing radio, online and print advertisements (see example above) that will drive California youth to the ReachOut forums. As a campaign partner, Inspire helped RS&E to identify youth aged 14-24 years old with the experience and eagerness to lend their voice and images to the campaign. ReachOut Forum Peer Leaders, Kylie Nore, Alisha Murdock, Cheng Veu, Daniel Caldera, Brianda Alanis, Eric Whitt and Nicholas Dugan jumped at the exciting opportunity to participate in this statewide effort to reduce stigma. They all did a great job recording their voices reading the script provided for the radio advertisements. Peer Leaders, Kylie, Alisha and Cheng also rallied their friends and participated in a photo shoot in Sacramento on Thursday, May 10. These photos appear in the online and print ads rolling out this week. The radio ads are also running now. Kylie Nore reported that the day in Sacramento was “So much fun! I had a blast, and my friends loved it too.” Support for the ReachOut Forums Provided By: The Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Consortium is a component of The Strategies for a Supportive program, funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.
by Emily O'Brien, Youth Programs Director
The first weekend of June, Inspire USA Foundation lead the Young and Well Collaborative Research Centre (YAWCRC) International Youth Health and Well-being Summit. The goal of this summit was to bring together Australian and American youth between the ages of18 and 25 to improve the current understanding of how young people define well-being, and how they use technology to enhance positive mental health. This Youth Summit will directly inform the development of apps and the design of an Online Well-being Center (OLWBC) set to launch next year. Inspire USA, Inspire Australia and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will run two youth participation workshops, one in San Francisco US, and one in Sydney, Australia. The first part of the agenda will consist of in-person/offline activities run at the headquarters of Inspire USA and Inspire Australia. The later part of the workshop will be a joint 2-hour video teleconference between US and Australian youth. We are excited about this event and learning from both US and Australian youth who are a part of the OLWBC international youth advisory group.
This month, Inspire USA Digital Director Anastasia Goodstein had the honor of attending and speaking at the fourth annual Business & Human Rights Summit hosted by Yahoo! in Washington, D.C. at the Newseum. This year’s event followed the launch of the Change Your World series in Cairo with a similar focus on how women across the world are using social media, digital media, technology and the Internet to create positive change in the world. Attendees included Fulbright Fellow Lauren Bohn, GLAAD Vice President of Campaigns and Programs Allison Palmer and The U.S. State Department’s Senior Advisor for Women and Technology Ann Mei Chang, Anastasia was invited to appear on the Social Advocacy and Women’s Health panel to discuss the work we do harnessing technology to promote mental health and prevent suicide. She touched on the ways that ReachOut, in welcoming all young people, provides young women with a readable, relatable source for support and information on a wide range of issues that impact their daily lives.Beyond health, the summit covered four primary areas: women's leadership in governance and politics, women's rights/human rights and social justice, journalism, and entrepreneurship. The summit was designed as an inspiring showcase of women using digital tools to influence policy, govern, engage and inspire voters, address social issues and change the world for teens and young adults growing up today.
by Meredith Sires, Content Editor
Happy birthday to us! March marks the second anniversary of ReachOut.com, and Inspire USA is thrilled to be celebrating with the upcoming launch of our moderated forums for CalMHSA, the expansion of our presence on myYearbook and the continuing growth in youth-generated traffic to the ReachOut.com site with a 320% increase in US visits between our first and second year. From March 2011 to March 2012, ReachOut.com has had 1,000,041 visits from teens and young adults in the US and 166,937 visits in California alone. We’ve given:
Numbers based on the search terms, keywords, page views and referring urls used by the 589K unique US visitors to ReachOut.com since March 2010.
As we continue to take strides towards connecting with youth in need, and empowering those with an inspiring story to share, we look forward to deepening our impact and furthering our reach in the year ahead. We could not have accomplished so much without your ongoing support. Help us continue our U.S. expansion by making a donation today.
by Brandon Rohlwing, Youth Council Member
My name is Brandon Rohlwing, and I am a Youth Council Member from right outside of Chicago. A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a local church after having an article published about how my work for ReachOut was recognized. Living Waters Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, IL, was interested in having me speak during an upcoming series about ‘hot topics.’ I was asked to speak about depression, recovery, and how ReachOut fits in. I was very excited by this offer and seized the opportunity. On March 7th, I presented in front of about 100 people and then did a Q&A with about 20 young adults afterward. Here’s what Pastor Carol Gates had to say about the night: The room was silent as Brandon shared the realities of depression and how it affects the lives of so many young people, often leading them down a deadly path. The candor with which Brandon spoke regarding hisstruggle, his testimony about ReachOut…brought light and hope into the darkness of depression. Beyond thatmessage though, a deeper message was conveyed by Brandon through his presence with our young adults in the‘debriefing session.’
Overall, I believe that the message was well received, and offered an alternative perspective to most attendees on what teen depression can look like, and other struggles that teens go through. I believe that Pr. Gates saw the same thing I did that night by saying, “When Brandon finished his reflection about his experience, a loud applause echoed throughout the Worship space – one filled with hope with the sure and certain knowledge that support is available 24/7 with the click of a button.”
With your help, we have been able to accomplish so much this year at Inspire USA Foundation. Just to highlight a few high points of 2011:
We relaunched the ReachOut.com site in February of 2011 with a focus on powerful, real stories from young people about how they got through a tough time (we have over 800 stories and counting!). In November alone, we were able to reach approximately 649K U.S. teens and young adults through ReachOut.com and social media sites (myYearbook, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and WeeWorld).
We launched our mobile site and weekly text messaging program expanding the accessibility of our content and reaching teens where they spend the most time (on their phones).
We began working with our partners in Australia to develop and evaluate online and mobile wellness apps as part of a five year project.
We expanded our RO Youth Council, had an in-person summit this July and are watching in amazement at all they have accomplished in their local communities.
We have so much more planned for 2012 including the launch of forums on ReachOut.com, an Ask the Expert feature, a teen developer competition and more exciting partnerships so stay tuned and thanks again for all of your support in 2011!
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