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.
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