Help Celebrate Three Years of ReachOut!
Happy birthday to us! March marked the third anniversary of ReachOut.com, and Inspire USA is thrilled to be celebrating with the upcoming launch of three new California-based initiatives with CalMHSA, the expansion of our team and the continuing growth in youth-generated traffic to the ReachOut.com site with a 33% increase in total unique visitors between our second and third year. From March 2012 to March 2013, nearly 1.5 million teens and young adults have visited ReachOut.com (up almost 500,000 from the year before), with 166,116 visitors from California alone!
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 at GlobalGiving today. A small gift can go a long way!
CalMHSA Funds Three RO Initiatives in 2013 by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
Three years after the launch of ReachOut.com, Inspire USA continues to seek out new and increasingly innovative ways to help teens and young adults help each other through tough times. This month, with funding from the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), we are excited to announce a trio of California-based initiatives that will expand both the reach of our peer-to-peer support as well as the scope of our youth-driven content.
Spurred by the success of the peer-facilitated discussions held in the ReachOut Forums, this spring Director of Youth Engagement Emily O'Brien will oversee the recruitment and training of 45 additional peer supporters. These new recruits will join the current team of ten in their ongoing efforts to create a safe and supportive online environment for young people in need. By spending time in the forums, ReachOut seeks to ultimately help decrease the attitudes of stigma that often surround mental health issues.
In addition to increasing our capacity to provide real-time peer support on the web, ReachOut will also do so via mobile platforms. Set to launch this summer, our text messaging support line will allow teens to send their questions and concerns to trained peer responders who will provide supportive and informative answers at designated times. Issues raised by text will not only inform the nature of individual responses, but also will have the potential to influence the range of topics covered on ReachOut.com.
ReachOut similarly plans to diversify our online content with a new project specifically focused on LGBTQ issues. Eight LGBTQ young people, recruited with the help of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) network and trained by Web Editor Meredith Sires, will assess gaps in current content and create new content by and for the LGBTQ community. The mix of personal stories and reliable information will be presented in a variety of formats based on the direction of the content developers, but whatever the form, we look forward to the breadth and depth they will provide.
Stay tuned for more developments on all three fronts! And if you know any young people in California with a passion for helping others, encourage them to get involved with ReachOut today!
Inspire USA Welcomes ReachOut CA Director by Meredith Sires, Web Editor
Spring is a very exciting and eventful time here at Inspire USA. Along with celebrating three years of ReachOut.com helping teens and young adults lead healthier and happier lives, we're also welcoming Nicola Survanshi into the fold in the newly created role of ReachOut California Director. Nicola joins us as a member of the Inspire leadership team with overall oversight of ReachOut in California and we are absolutely thrilled to have her on board! Below are a few words from Nicola to you:
Dear Inspire USA Fans,
I am very excited to join the team and be a champion for ReachOut as it grows and helps more and more youth get through tough times. I have a strong belief that online resources and mobile technology can be powerful tools in improving the lives of teens and young adults. I began my career in the U.S. Air Force as an Intelligence Officer, stationed at Hickam AFB in Hawaii. Later, I realized my passion for public health and enrolled at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, graduating with an MPH in 2012.
During my time at Columbia, I had the opportunity to develop a communications strategy with Ascel Bio, a disease forecasting start-up. I also joined in a research project under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar program, investigating the use of text messaging in community empowerment and health.
Discoveries from my research sparked the concept for my thesis on the role of text messaging in mental health literacy and help-seeking with adolescents. Inspire USA's mission and ReachOut's platform seemed like a perfect fit for my background and interests in providing easy access to mental health information and support.
With Inspire USA rolling out several new projects to broaden ReachOut's scope of services, I feel that I am joining at a very opportune time! This year ReachOut plans to develop three California-based initiatives, including a text messaging support line that aligns neatly with the thrust of my thesis. Starting this summer, teens will be able to text their questions or issues to ReachOut and get answers from peer responders on designated days and times. ReachOut also plans to launch a project creating new content by and for the LGBTQ youth. In addition, ReachOut will expand its corps of Peer Supporters, to provide even more engagement and encouragement to users in the forums. I look forward to an epic year ahead with ReachOut!
ReachOut Forums Launch 'Ask the Expert' by Cosette Paneque, ReachOut Forums Community Manager
We've all got questions we'd like answered, but sometimes we don't know where to look, are too embarrassed to ask, or don't think there is anyone who can help. At ReachOut, we're committed to creating a safe space where young people can ask those questions and find reliable answers.
Last month, the ReachOut Forums introduced the "Ask the Expert" sessions. This is a special event where we ask a mental health professional to join us and talk about an array of tough issues. This could be a psychologist, counselor, youth worker, or another type of specialist worker.
The topic of our first "Ask the Expert" session was Overcoming Depression and Thoughts of Self-Harm. We were fortunate to have Dr. Dan Reidenberg. Dan is the Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), a national nonprofit agency working to prevent suicide and help suicide survivors and people suffering from brain illnesses. Dan is a psychologist who has received numerous awards for his accomplishments and service in the field of mental health and recently was recognized as a "Champion of Change" at The White House by the Obama Administration.
For a week, ReachOut forum members posted their questions. They asked about coping strategies, how to help friends when they are depressed and suicidal, and how to deal with negative thoughts. Dan answered every question with great care and consideration. The session was a great success.
We hope to have a guest expert join us in the forums to run an "Ask the Expert" session every few months. Our experts won't give simple answers, but they will provide the information, suggestions, and guidance, so that young people can decide what's best for them!