June 7, 2019
Spring 2019 Recap!

This spring, The NAN Project presented in a number of new schools, returned to past schools, met with community organizations and began working with Middle Schools as well.

Our Senior Peer Mentor Ziona presents her Comeback Stories to a health class at Lowell High School.

Our team of Peer Mentors traveled across the state this winter and spring, into a number of schools that had never hosted The NAN Project before! We met with after school groups The Power of Know and Youth Health Leadership in Revere High School, and the Phoenix program at Framingham High School. We presented to all of the sophomore health students at Lowell High School, and the juniors at Greater Lowell Tech as well! For a more in-depth article on our visit to Lowell High School, read Sarah’s article on the blog!

Peer Mentor Greta presents her Comeback Story to students at Malden High School.

We also returned to several schools that have seen our presentations before. Outside of our traditional stomping grounds of Greater Boston, our Peer Mentors told their comeback stories to health classes in Acton-Boxboro and Milford High School. On the North Shore, we revisited Medford High School, and recently, Andover High School.

Not only did The NAN attend at schools and after school groups, but we also met with different organizations within the Massachusetts community. In the early spring, we collaborated with the Malden Access Television station, also known as MATV, to produce a short PSA discussing the work we do. As they host classes for students on how to use television equipment, the students and our Peer Mentors worked closely to create a video based on mental health. The NAN Project has also partnered with other community
groups such Lowell’s Boys & Girls Club and CTI YouthBuild. as well as LEAP for Education in Salem, Cenerboard in Lynn, and at the First Congregational Church in Methuen.

Peer Mentors play Mental Health Jeopardy with students from Salem Middle School.

As we know students can start to struggle with mental health disorders at a young age, we have designed a middle school curriculum to spread the message on mental health. The first middle school we shared at with the new curriculum was Bromfeild Middle School, out in Harvard Massachusetts. Our set up for middle schools are a little different from our regular curriculum, as we want middle schoolers to know and recognize the signs of different mental health disorders, and how to help if themselves or a friend is struggling.  We adjusted the language we use to cater to the younger audience and made the program a bit more interactive to keep the kids moving. We just met with the Galvin Middle School, located in Wakefield, to come up with a project we can do with the students to spread awareness on mental health!

None of these events could have happened without our incredible team of Peer Mentors! Thank you all for your continued efforts to bring your stories to classrooms across the state. If you’re wondering what our team will do over the summer – we’ll be training! The second round of our Senior Peer Mentor training will be held on Tuesdays this summer in Malden.

Peer Mentor Spotlight: Jocelyn Cote-Pedraza

Jocelyn has been working for The NAN Project since last spring, and in the year that she’s been with us, she has grown so much! Jocelyn’s story is one of resilience and determination, of overcoming stereotypes and rising through adversity. I had a chance to sit down with Jocelyn, and chat about life, coping skills, and her work with The NAN Project.

Hi Jocelyn! Thank you for letting me interview you for the PM spotlight!

Hi Elli! Thank you for having me!

No problem! I want to start off by asking you to talk a little bit about yourself, and how did you hear about TNP:

Okay! I am 22 years old and I was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. I currently work part-time for The NAN Project, and I’m also a rape crisis counselor and a sexual assault advocate. I attend Middlesex Community College, and I am studying business. I heard of The NAN Project through the GIFT training I attended, as The NAN Project and GIFT work very closely. I’ve been working for The NAN Project for a little over a year now, and it’s very important work for me. As a child i felt i was born to be a leader instead of a follower. I enjoy being apart of something bigger than myself and making an impact on others.  Since working with human services, I have found my niche.

Wow! You have a lot going on for you right now, I’m glad you’re keeping busy! So now that you’ve worked for The NAN Project for over a year now, what has your overall experience been like with us? Have you had any challenges or rewards?

Yeah, I can start with the challenges. I grew up in a culture where talking about your struggles were frowned upon and mental health was acknowledged but not addressed. I was told to keep everything in private and “what’s said in the house, stays in the house.” For a while I had a hard time expressing my my feelings and emotions, making it hard for me to advocate for myself. I kept everything inside. When joining The NAN Project, I still felt that it was difficult to talk about what my childhood. But with some time, I started to open up and I decided to share more information on my life and struggles. I’m constantly evolving in moving forward with my journey, and I’m starting to feel more confident sharing my newest version of my comeback story. One reward I got from this job was having one student from Medford High School come up to me afterwards to tell me he resonated with my story. He told me he struggled with some of the same things I did, and then he thanked me for sharing. This was really rewarding because I felt that if I could connect with at least one person, then my line of work has been fulfilled.

Wow! That’s amazing how far you’ve come since you started working for us. When you aren’t working, what do you like to do in your free time? What are some things you like to do for fun?

I enjoy doing a lot of things outside of work. For example, I have a passion for working on my own personal cars in my down time.. I’ve turned this hobby into my upcoming business: Pedraza Performance. I also enjoy attending jazz nights, comedy clubs and poetry, as I feel that these activities keep me afloat.


Jocelyn presenting her Comeback Story at Lowell Technical High School last week.

I’m wondering if you can tell me some skills you use on an “off” day to cope with your mental health challenges.

Like I said earlier, I really like working on cars, even on an “off” day. It’s very therapeutic for me because my mind views it as a puzzle. Each car I would view as challenge: to diagnose, analyze, and further assist the situation. When I’m not working on cars, I also really like to spend some time in the outdoors. I enjoy hiking, biking, and spending time on a lake. Getting outside of the city gives me a break from my busy life. On top of these coping skills, I like to use positive self-talk to remind myself that I got this.

You have very cool coping skills! I have one more question for you. What do you hope for in your future?

I’m currently in the process of pursuing my future. Im attending workshops and seminars to purchase my first home. I’d like to further expand my business and open a dealerships that gives 10% of my profit to a non-profit organization that helps people in recovery because, i know how hard the journey of recovery could be. Asking for help can be the hardest first steps, but acknowledging and validating one’s journey can be life altering for someone who may be struggling.  

Thanks Jocelyn, for all of your work with us over the past year, and for sitting down with me today. I can’t wait until Pedraza Performance is up and running!

February 26, 2019
Sarah Dickie PM Spotlight Interview

Sarah came on board with The NAN Project in February of 2018 after completing a Peer Mentor Training at the TEMPO drop-in center in Framingham. Since then, she’s been crushing it with us!  Sarah’s main message is about her struggle with parental abuse, and how that led her to having poor body image issues, and severe anxiety. She has a great message about how beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and how she powered through her struggles. We had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah and ask her a few questions and this is what she had to say!

 

Hi Sarah! Thank you for coming out to do this!

Thank you so much for interviewing me. I feel honored!

 

You’re welcome! I want to start off by asking you to briefly talk a little bit about yourself. What  do you like to do in your free time?

I’ll first start off and say that I am a senior at Framingham State, and my major is Sociology with a minor in Psychology. I also live in Framingham, with my boyfriend and our big cat named Bunnie. In my free time, I like to draw, journal, find new music, play lots of video games and lastly I am trying to teach myself to play the ukulele… with some success! (laughs)

 

That’s so cool you’re teaching yourself to play the ukulele! I was wondering what your overall experience has been like working for The NAN Project.

It’s really different from any other job I’ve ever had and I feel like this is actually a really good fit for me. The biggest challenge I face is that I have actually always been really nervous of public speaking, which can make it hard sometimes to step in front of the crowd. I feel like I always have my face in my paper (laughs), but each presentation makes it a little easier to talk in front of a crowd. The reward from this job is that I feel like it’s fulfilling. It’s important for me to be doing this.

 

I totally agree with you, Sarah. I was excused in high school from all public presentations because it would scare me so much…but look where we are now!

Me too! (chuckles)

 

What motivates you to keep working with us? What about the job makes it worth coming back?

A couple things makes it worth coming back. It’s really rewarding and important work, like I said before and I really think that’s one reason why I keep doing presentations. We’re making a difference by  doing this work and it matters to people. Also, I learn more about myself by writing my comeback story and condensing all that I’ve been through into a cohesive narrative. It put some things into perspective for me and I feel like I know myself better, so that’s also been rewarding as well.

Thanks Sarah, that was a good answer!

Thanks Elli, I say smart things from time to time! (giggles) 

 

I’m wondering if you can tell me some skills you use on an “off” day to cope with your mental health challenges.

I really do like to journal. I like to write about how I’m feeling and stuff that happens to me throughout my day-to-day life. I like to draw as a distraction to my mind, and I also use breathing exercises. For example, I like to breathe in for three seconds, and exhale for three seconds. I also use grounding a lot and lastly, my cat is a good resource when I’m upset. He probably doesn’t know that, but I really like to sit with him or put my face in his fur; it’s really soothing.

 

Okay last question: What do you hope for in your future?

A couple things. The first is that I really want to be comfortable with myself. It sounds like a small thing but it’s really hard for me to love myself. I’m working on it, it’s definitely better than it was but I’d really like to say that I genuinely love who I am. I’d also like to have a career in mental health, whether that be mental health education or mental health support. That’s really the direction I want to go. Lastly, I would really like to live in Boston!

 

Alright! Well thank you Sarah for answering these questions, and good luck!

Thank you Elli!

 

Tragedy and Hope at Lowell High School

By Sarah Dickie

We put our whole hearts into everything we do here in the NAN Project, but our presentations at Lowell High School in January were especially important to us. Last fall, LHS sophomore Anna Aslanian ended her life, leaving friends, family, and faculty to wonder what they could have done to prevent it. Given the stigma surrounding mental illness, mental health is a topic often left untouched in schools, and students who are

Elli Presenting to Sophomores             

struggling may not know what resources are available to them or how they can ask for help. Our mission is to open up this conversation: our Peer Mentors share their own experiences with mental illness in what we call a Comeback Story, focusing on the symptoms they showed, their coping strategies, and the resources they accessed to help them care for themselves. Lowell High School acknowledged the need for this conversation and brought us in. Over three full days of presentations in mid-January, our Peer Mentors got the chance to speak with all twelve sophomore health classes, accompanied by school counselors and social workers who used the time to introduce themselves as resources for the students.

According to an article in the Lowell Sun, Anna showed signs of poor mental health before taking her life. Her family reported in interviews that Anna had an increasingly negative outlook leading up to the start of her sophomore year. To her family’s surprise, Anna suddenly quit the field hockey team, and withdrew from most other social activities shortly after. This isolation suggests that Anna had been struggling with something emotionally, but articles published following her death puts the blame solely on bullies and the school’s inaction. This seems to be an oversimplification of a tragic event. Rarely is there only one factor to blame for a person’s suicide: often there is an emotional struggle which is exacerbated by the external environment, like the harassment that Anna faced at school and online. The articles discussed local anti-bullying initiatives and how these fell short and failed students, but Anna’s mental health was not given the same consideration. Likewise, coverage on the supports available to Anna and other LHS students was insufficient. These articles also released parts of notes Anna left in the months before her suicide, which we consider a dangerous mistake. Giving this press to Anna’s note suggests to students that taking one’s own life is the way to be remembered, or the way to “get back” at bullies. This can be particularly dangerous for other students who may be struggling and wish to have their “voice” heard.

Though it can be especially difficult to talk about mental health after a loss like this, Lowell High School created an open and welcoming space for us to address it together. The sophomores were very receptive to our Peer Mentors’ stories: many were eager to relate what they had learned to their own experiences, and others had insightful questions about how they might approach friends they thought to be struggling. Several more students came forward privately with concern for themselves or a peer.

   Sarah presenting her Comeback Story

“I feel many of the students came away from the Peer Mentor presentations with a better understanding of how widespread mental health challenges are, and also how many resources are out there for them,” The NAN Project’s Director Jake Cavanaugh said of the students at LHS.

Our presentations at Lowell High School reached over three hundred students. We taught them the signs of depression and anxiety they could look for in themselves and their peers, as well as steps they could take to help peers they believe to be struggling: first, ask how the peer is feeling; then, listen, and validate their struggle; and finally, for high-risk peers, tell a trusted adult. We know that in the weeks following the presentations, at least two students who were struggling with suicidal ideation either sought help themselves or had a friend reach out for them. We are hopeful that students will hold onto the conversations we began together, and continue them with their friends and family. We’ll be back at Lowell High School in the spring, preaching our mission There is help, and there is hope!

December 27, 2018
2018 Wrap Up

In the past year, The NAN Project has grown exponentially! We’ve trained more peer mentors, met new students and staff, and worked on projects directed by high school peer leaders.

Presentations

  • In 2018, The NAN Project lead over 50 presentations to schools, community groups, mental health professionals. We covered more ground than ever, with our first trips to Hatfield, New Bedford, West Springfield, Lowell and over 2 dozen other communities.
  • Over 2,500 new students and young adults heard our presentations, and 1,000 staff members and stakeholders received training on how to support the students and young people with whom they work
  • We we able to spread our message among more professionals and stakeholders by attending SuccessFest, Mass Suicide Prevention Conference, Provider Forum on Restraint and Seclusion Prevention, Youth at Risk, and the Teen Mental Health Summit.

Trainings

We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our incredible team of Peer Mentors, which expands at the end of every New Peer Mentor Training. This year, we held trainings at Tempo Young Adult Resource Center in Framingham, at ServiceNet in Holyoke (Our farthest west yet!) and two trainings at YouForward in Lawrence.

We also held our first Orientation Day, an informational session for interested young adults who wanted to learn more!

Coaching Days

Scattered throughout the year, we have several opportunities for our Peer Mentors to reconnect and further refine their stories and presentation skills. We fondly refer to these events as “Coaching Days.”

This year, we were able to hold Coaching Days at the following locations:

  • January 12 STEPS in Arlington
  • February 12 Young Adult Vocational Program (YAVP) in Arlington
  • February 16 TEMPO Young Adult Resource Center in Framingham
  • March 2, YouForward in Lawrence
  • April 20, YAVP in Arlington
  • May 7, YouForward in Lawrence
  • September 6, Eliot in Malden
  • September 9 ‘Art with Alex’ – Creating Centerpieces for A Night For Nan
  • October 19, YouForward in Lawrence
  • November 16,  Eliot CHS in Malden

To learn more about The NAN Project’s Coaching Day, click here!

During our not-so-busy summer season, our first Senior Peer Mentor Training Camp offered our Peer Mentors the chance to become trained in Botvin LifeSkills, Safetalk (suicide prevention training), Mental Health First Aid, as well as participating in some grounding and therapeutic art projects lead by Alex Norby. These trainings not only provided valuable information, but also sparked some incredible discussions as Peer Mentors shared how what they were learning related to their own lived experience. We are so glad to have been able to provide this training for our team, congrats to those who graduated as Senior Peer Mentors! To read out blog post about our training, click here

Peer Leadership Teams

2018 was also a big year for our Peer Leaders, the students who keep up mental health awareness in their communities every day.

  • We trained teams in Stoneham, Bunker Hill Community College, MassMentors, and Andover High School in QPR suicide prevention. This training teaches signs and clues that someone could be struggling,
  • Students at Phoenix Academy in Lawrence came up with the catchy name “NANIX” for their Peer Leadership Team when we first met with them last year just before summer break. When we came back together as a group this fall, students and their city had experienced disaster and loss, including the loss of a Phoenix Student and NANIX member. Students stepped up to make this project happen, and we have been very lucky to work with such a dedicated group of young people. To read more about this team and their project, click here!
  • We visited Stoneham High School Peer Leaders and held a discussion about the importance of grounding techniques, rounding out our meeting with a new favorite art activity of ours – creating grounding stones! Grounding Techniques are meant to keep us in the here-and-now, connecting us back to reality and away from overwhelming emotions. The stones we created with Stoneham PLT are meant to serve as reminders of what each student finds grounding; some decorated their glass pebbles with nature scenes, or representations of their coping skills.
  • Andover Museum Trip – We joined our Peer Leaders at Andover High School to view the Many Faces of Mental Health exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. The purpose of this exhibit was to show that Mental Health cannot be easily seen with the naked eye, and many people you see even walking down the street may be struggling. The Peer Leaders were very receptive, and we enjoyed this wonderful day at the museum!

Other Projects

Phoenix’s Peer Leaders finish Mural of Resiliency

The NAN Project has been fortunate to work with the staff and students of Phoenix Academy since the spring of 2017. Our most recent project is a mural created by their Peer Leadership Team, known as NANix, and has been an especially inspiring and healing opportunity for us all. (To read about Peer Leadership and our Peer-to-Peer Model, check out What We Do.)

Phoenix has hosted several peer mentor presentations of comeback stories to their students, as well as staff training in QPR suicide prevention. Last June, we met with a group of students who were interested in becoming more involved and promoting mental health in their school and in their community. Since its founding, this group of students, who decided on the name NANix (a combination of NAN Project and Phoenix Academy) has brought energy and big ideas to the table. We founded NANix, set up some goals for the next school year, and were excited to meet up again once classes began after summer break.

Students create an outline of their design.

In September, one of the founding members of NANix, Leonel “Leo” Rondon, was lost in the gas explosions of Merrimack Valley. When we came together again as a group, Phoenix students expressed their desire to work on a project that would both honor Leo and celebrate their community’s resilience and ability to support each other, even through incredible struggle. They chose to paint a mural.

For this kind of project, we had to enlist the help of Art Therapist Fernanda from Lawrence Art House (LA House.) With her guidance, students were soon encouraging each other to contribute to the mural and taking ownership of the creative decisions and direction of their piece.

Over the course of a few months, we transitioned from brainstorming about the purpose of the mural, to sketching elements, to choosing quotes and reference material, and finally beginning to layer paint on the canvas. All throughout this process, students displayed incredible teamwork, respect for each other, and openness to each other’s ideas and feelings. Though creating a mural was an entirely new experience for many of the students, as well as for our own Peer Mentors, we were all able to witness the therapeutic power of art.

The final mural design encompasses a landscape of Lawrence, complete with the Ayer Clock Tower and Merrimack River, with a tree symbolizing regrowth on its banks. A banner flies from the clock tower displaying a quote from Leo, “I was given this life because I was strong enough to live it.” which NANix chose this quote to honor him, and because it embodies their resiliency and perseverance, in the face of loss, trauma, anxiety and depression.

We are so grateful for the involvement of everyone who worked on the mural, from the students who came to school early to finish in time, to those who simply picked up a paintbrush and added a single spot of color.

We look forward to meeting with the NANix team again soon, and deciding on our next project together.

With this mural, students remember the people they have lost in the school, and in Lawrence, but it is also about our growth and rebirth. Dark colors transition into lighter shades, a tree grows even through adversity, and even the birds with significant challenges (a dark green for mental health, a lighter green as Leo’s favorite color) are able to fly.

 

 

A Look Inside The NAN Project: What is a “Coaching Day?”

All of The NAN Project’s Peer Mentors (PMs) must complete a four day training before being certified to go out and work in the schools and communities we serve; but their coaching is far from over! The NAN Project frequently holds Coaching Days — a paid opportunity for any of our PMs to update their comeback stories, refresh their presentation skills, or learn new mentoring techniques. This plays a crucial part in maintaining safe messaging and public speaking skills, and is an important part in preparing our Peer Mentors for their work promoting mental health awareness.

(Click here to learn more about our Peer Mentors!)

A typical Coaching Day consists of The NAN Project’s Peer Mentors joining us at a young adult drop-in center, facilities around the state, including Malden, Lawrence and Arlington, often where we have previously held New Peer Mentor Trainings. On these occasions old and new Peer Mentors alike meet up and share their personal stories and experiences of working in the schools. We check in with all the young adults to see where they are at and how they have been, followed by icebreakers for everyone to get comfortable with each other. We then dive into work on refining their ever-changing stories of recovery by honing in on their story’s core message, often followed by work practicing art therapy techniques that we can then bring into the classrooms.

(Click here to learn more about what we do!)

This November we focused our efforts on editing our comeback stories for our upcoming presentations. We started by asking the group to name the central message of their story, for example, are you speaking to destigmatize depression? To educate about psychosis? To show young adults that they’re not alone if they’re experiencing anxiety?

Here were some of our PM’s answers:
“It’s OK to be different. There is a place for you in the world.”
“No matter how low you may feel, you are never alone; and the bravest thing you can ever do is seek help.”

Redefining our goals and purpose allowed us to take a second look at our comeback stories, and ask ourselves how we could adjust our stories to better emphasize the points we were trying to make.

 

In small groups, PMs took turns reading their current drafts, while their peers took constructive notes on where to add details, or sections that could be repurposed for longer versions of our stories. While the Comeback Story is never complete, many of our PMs left feeling as though they had improved their own greatly.

 

Thank you to all of our amazing Peer Mentors for the hard work they do. We’re excited to debut their hard work in our many upcoming presentations! 

November 5, 2018
Jade Turner- Peer Mentor Spotlight

Jade came on board with us in April of this year, and since graduating our training has proved to be a superstar! This 18 year old Boston native tells an amazing story of resilience through her struggles with mental illness, assault, and how she powered through it all to better herself. We had the time to sit down with Jade and ask her a few questions, and here’s what we got…

First presentation of Jade’s Comeback Story, mic’ed up for an audience of around 100 Milford High staff and faculty. She nailed it!

Hi Jade!

(laughs) Hi Mike, how are you?

I’m well, thanks. So I wanted to start of this interview by asking you to tell us a little about yourself and how you heard about The NAN Project

Well, I guess you could say that I’m a little quiet, but very enthusiastic. I actually found out about The NAN Project when I tried to attend GIFT (DMH funded Peer Mentor training), but learned that it would be too far of a commute. I was then referred to you guys by Dr. Kim Bisset (who runs GIFT).

It’s been a few months since you’ve started working with us, how do you like it?

I love it, and it makes me feel good inside, you know? After we finish presenting, more times than not the faces of those in the audience are ones of shock. And hearing from those who come forward to speak with you at the end makes me so happy. Often I’m thanked for sharing, and told how brave I am. I’ll quote a past audience member  “I can’t believe how well you are doing after all you’ve been through. I can’t believe how strong you are.” This shows (the audience) that if I can make it through my struggles, why couldn’t you?

Even the strongest of people have their off days. What are some resources you use when you are feeling worked up?

A coping skill I use when I am overwhelmed is Box Breathing.  Imagine tracing around the four sides of a box, it only takes you one second to get from one corner to the other. You travel around the box and inhale for four seconds, take another trip around for four as you hold your breath, and finally exhale for five seconds. It gives me a short mental break and takes me out of the negative space that I am in. Also, my psychiatrist is a big support, and is amazing to talk to.

Jade gets up to present to an entire grade at Ludlow High School!

So, besides working for us and your other job. What are some things you like to do for fun?

I mainly just hangout with my niece and my friends; we could be doing anything really. Just being with those I care about and simply enjoying their presence sounds like a good time to me.

What would your dream career be?

Psych nurse.

(Laughs) Wow, that was fast. You seem to have a pretty clear goal set. What makes you want to be a psych nurse?

Because when I was in the hospital the nurses helped me, like very very much. I don’t think that I’d be here without them. I think that having my lived experience would help me as a Psych Nurse connect with those who need support like I did.

Besides being a successful psych nurse, do you have any other plans for the future?

(Smiles) I don’t know, psych nursing is what I’ve been thinking about for the future for some time now. Maybe once I have enough money saved, I could travel to Greece. It’s so pretty! All the pictures you see in social media are just like..wow!

Well, I wish you the best of luck for the future! One last thing before I let you go. You’ve talked in the past about how important music is to you. Can you speak a little on that?

There’s just some songs that get me out of the situation that I am in, and the way the lyrics feel when they pass through my body. I don’t know, it kind of puts me in a new space

Thank you for your time Jade, I’ll talk to you soon!

Thanks Mike, it was good talking to you!

To learn more about our Peer Mentors check out our Peer Mentor Spotlight or to learn more about the work Jade does with The NAN Project visit our page What We Do.

Autumn in Review 2018

Autumn in Review

Fall is in the air, and it’s turned out to be a very busy one! Over the past few months, we have had the opportunity to train two separate groups of New Peer Mentors, give several presentations to various schools across the Commonwealth, and had the opportunity to train a group of mental health workers in the Q.P.R. model of Suicide Prevention! Here is a brief recap of some of the work we have been up to these past few months!

One Peer Mentor training took place at YouForward in Lawrence. This training covered presentation skills, developing Comeback Stories,  QPR training, and how to develop the conversation around mental health in the classrooms running on four consecutive Fridays in September and October. Our second training was at ServiceNet out in Western Mass, so our team stayed over in Holyoke and completed the 4 day training over 4 sessions in 2 weeks. This new group of Peer Mentors will allow us to extend our work to schools throughout Western Mass. We are happy to welcome aboard all of our New Peer Mentors, and we look forward to working with all of these enthusiastic young adults!

As part of National Suicide Prevention Week, The NAN Project presented a legislative briefing at the Massachusetts State House. To read more, check out the blog!

On September 18th, we had the opportunity to meet with the 100 or so faculty at Milford High School to introduce ourselves and discuss how to fit our presentations into their mental health curriculum. After presenting several Comeback Stories, we went through a typical day presenting to students, and discussed the differents ways that we can assist in creating a Peer Leadership Team.

On September 20th we were asked to present to ALL of the students at Ludlow High School. Here, we had each class of students take turns coming to the auditorium to hear our Peer Mentors share their stories of resilience. After, we allowed the students to ask questions they had, and led a panel discussion about how to ask for help if you need it, and who some trusted adults are in their community. We were more than eager to take on this eventful day where we reached over 800 students! Thank you to everyone at Ludlow High School for this amazing opportunity!

On October 3rd, we were invited to Mass Mentor in New Bedford at train their Peer Mentors in the ways of suicide prevention. Using the Q.P.R. model, we discussed the recent statistics around suicide, different risk and protective factors, what to do if someone you know seems to be thinking about taking their life, and how to get someone the help they need. Congratulations to the 15 new Q.P.R. gatekeepers, we hope that you all now have the confidence to ask the question, and to quite possibly save a life.

October 18th – The NAN Project held it’s annual fundraiser, A Night for Nan. To read more, check out our blog post!

October 22nd- We returned to Milford High School to present to a handful of their Freshman classes. Here, we introduced who we are and how we work to promote mental health awareness through our Peer Mentors sharing their Comeback Stories. We then gave students time for Q&A, led a discussion about various types of mental health challenges, and talked about how you can help a friend who may be struggling.

October 23rd+25th – We returned to Nan’s alma mater, Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School once again, this time to present to their Freshman Health classes. Here, our Peer Mentors presented their stories of triumph through their struggles, and led conversations about who to turn to if you or someone you care for is struggling, as well as positive outlets for stress. Thank you to everyone at HWRHS both students and staff for making these presentations so successful!

A Night for Nan 2018

A Night for NAN 2018

On the 18th of October,  we held our annual fundraising gala, A Night for Nan at the Danversport Yacht Club. This celebration is always a great opportunity to connect with our community and our supporters, to recognize the work we have done and re-energize for the year ahead. This year was our biggest event so far! 

Over 200 supporters, Peer Mentors and their parents, friends, and family members filled the dining room to show their love and enjoy the wonderful meal provided by Danversport. The silent auction tables that lined the walls were busy until the final moments of the night, thanks to eye catching prizes like a weeklong getaway to Turks and Caicos, date night packages, and pieces of art created by our supporters and even some of our peer mentors! New to the program this year was our Fund-a-Cause table, run by our peer mentors and detailing what the guests’ donations would go towards. Guests also caught a glimpse of our most recent video project, 13 Reasons Why We Need to Talk About Suicide. 

We could not end the night without recognizing one of our most vocal supporters. Senator Joan Lovely, who has been an advocate for The NAN Project, connecting us to schools and inviting us to speak at the State House this September for Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. Thank you, Senator Lovely, for being our ‘Friend for Life.’

As always, the stars of the show are our peer mentors and their incredible comeback stories. This year, Senior Peer Mentor Onix Jimenez and Peer Coordinator Elli Peltola shared with us their inspiring journeys through real challenges in their mental health, and the successes they have achieved today. Though they are just two members of our team, Elli and Onix represented the core of what we do, and gave the attentive audience a feel for the classroom experience. (To read more about Elli and Onix, check out their interviews in our Peer Mentor Spotlight!)

We both surpassed our initial fundraising goal and almost doubled the amount from 2017. In all, we raised $147,000 to continue our work and expand our reach. With the successful fundraising underway, we’re more confident than ever in the ways we wish to grow and our plans for the coming year. The funding we received will help us bring our message to more schools, train more young people, and launch our next big project… a middle school curriculum. After many of our contacts expressed the sentiment that their youngest students or family members were also struggling, we have begun careful consideration of how to reach an even younger classroom. Just as we conducted focus groups, discussion, and met with clinicians to develop our high school model, we are starting the process from the beginning for younger students!

Thank you to all of our supporters for making this big event such a success!  Specifically, Kate M, BIMSHA, Capital Lease Group, Ltd., Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage, Inc., Marsh and McLennan, The MENTOR Network, eHana LLC, Hosted Telecom Solutions, JOS Staffing, Charles & Selena Senatore, SyncHR, Tier1Net Inc., Telco Systems, AAFCPAs and all our other individual and corporate supporters! 

 

If you couldn’t make it to our event or have a chance to donate, there’s still time! 

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