July 3, 2018
Elli Peltola – Peer Mentor Spotlight
We want to acknowledge some amazing work that’s been done by one of our rising Peer Mentor stars! Elli Peltola is a dedicated, and enthusiastic young woman. She has been working with us for some time now, and tells a wonderful story of her battle with self-harm and how she learned to love herself. We had the time to ask Elli a few questions, and here’s what we got.

Elli, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am 19 years old and was adopted from Belo Horizonte, Brazil into a great, loving family. Ever since I can remember, I have been blessed to be able to travel the world with my family, even living in Malaysia for a period of time. Traveling is my favorite thing to do, but I also like long drives with my friends, coloring in adult coloring books, and lots of sleep!

What are you up to these days, Elli?
Currently, I work as a gymnastics coach/parkour teacher (for the boys) to people of all different ages. I am taking a gap year from school, but will be starting community college in the fall to expand my career in mental health. Working for The NAN Project has been a significant experience over the last year that has helped shaped me into the person I now am.

Tell us a bit more about your experience with The NAN Project…
When I started, I wasn’t as confident with myself as I am now. I didn’t realize the impact my story could have on other people. Then one day, after presenting my Comeback Story, a girl approached me with tears in her eyes telling me how happy she was for me and how much my story spoke to her. It was a big eye opener because I never thought I could relate to someone so closely. I love working with the NAN project. It helps me emotionally and it’s helping increase my confidence, which is something I needed. I am so thankful to have found this job.

How did you get involved with The NAN Project?
I heard about The NAN Project through my DMH worker. We were looking for trainings I could do to better educate myself in the mental health field. When I was told that The NAN Project would help you craft your comeback story and share it with others to inspire hope, I thought it would be the perfect job for me.

Growing up I struggled to find hope in myself. I never thought I was important….until I started with The NAN Project. I had low self esteem and didn’t think my story could impact others but I was so wrong. I do have a purpose in this world and I am important. It’s hard to think you’re special when your world seems to be crashing down but there is ALWAYS someone out there who loves you and believes in you.

What do you use to cope with your own mental health challenges these days?The biggest resource I have found is just reaching out to others. Back when I was really struggling, this was something I’d NEVER do because I never wanted help. I didn’t want people to “help” me. It’s crazy how much a person can change over the years. A lot of my friends/loved ones/my providers know that when I’m upset, I think irrationally and react impulsively. I am very grateful  to have these supports who understand how I think and do their best to not have me react without thinking. One big thing that many of them do with me, is distract me from the negative situation and thoughts that are going through my head. For some reason, it tends to work most of the time. I’m also grateful I have people in my life who are willing to help and support me when I’m in need and they know how to react/respond when I need to reach out.

Can you suggest any other coping strategies for other PMs?
Self care was something I didn’t really know/want to do for myself while I was really struggling. Now, I realize that I am the only one who can take the best care of myself. For example, I actually love taking showers, keeping clean and moisturized because I feel the most beautiful that way. I love taking long showers, LOVE LOVE LOVE face masks, lighting candles in my room or even listening to soft music in the background.
A year ago I didn’t think I’d ever be able cope in the healthy ways I do today. But, with time, things did work out because I worked hard to live my life to the fullest and keep myself safe.

Thanks, Elli for taking the time to talk with us! 


May 31, 2018
Belle Cole – Peer Mentor Spotlight

We wanted to take the time to point out something that is pretty cool. The NAN Project’s own Peer Mentor, Isabelle Cole, has accomplished quite a feat. In the wake of confusion regarding The Netflix Thirteen Reasons Why series, Belle felt compelled to start an initiative on promoting positivity and life. Her project, 13 Reasons to Fly has now officially become a DMH promoted, non-profit organization. (Impressive right?)

I had the chance to talk with Belle and ask her a few questions

Why did you Join the NAN Project?
My friends over at DMH recommended that I speak with Kim Bisset, they said she’s really great at helping youth come up with their “comeback stories”. I reached out, and she mentioned The NAN Project’s peer mentoring program. I instantly wanted to be involved and a few weeks later, I attended their peer mentoring workshop. Their mission is so similar to my own.

Would you give us a little background on your non-profit, 13 Reasons to Fly?
I started 13 Reasons to Fly back in June in response to all the negativity surrounding the netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. Originally, I just wanted to flip the script and create something positive. Instead of focusing on 13 Reasons to end your life, why not 13 Reasons to live, and hold onto hope? That’s where it all began, I was knee deep in my own recovery but was tired of hiding what I was going through. I was tired of the very thing I was in the hospital for being glorified and stigmatized.

What would you say is your main objective of 13 Reasons To Fly?
My overall goal is to stamp out the stigma that surrounds mental illness. We want to start the conversation and help remove the shame that comes with a diagnosis or treatment. We also hope to give people peer support so that they see they are never alone. I want people to feel like they are loved and believe they are enough.

Is there any other project that we should be looking out for?
My age makes it difficult, as I am still in school, but plan on doing the GIFT training over the summer. We are also working on a campaign within 13RTF called The Body Project which focuses on self esteem issues and emphasizes body positivity. Other than that, I am staying active with church, sports and a leadership/community service organization, Project 351.

What gives you hope?
The opportunity to help others. I live each day with the hope that I can make a difference. I want to use my lived experience to help other youth who are struggling with similar issues I did. I have met so many inspiring youth out there that love my message, want to stay connected, and even want to help, they give me help!

Ridha Abidshah – Peer Mentor Spotlight

Hello all, my name is Ridha Abidshah, and I am a 23 year old Peer Mentor for The NAN Project. Through the GIFT Training, (Gathering, Inspiring, Future, Talent) I first learned about The NAN Project.

To me The Nan Project is a place where I found hope and purpose. This is where I was told, “It’s ok not to be ok.” This was where I heard that we need to bring the discussion about mental health and suicide awareness above a whisper. This was where I was given a safe place; where I felt comfortable enough to talk about suicide. Being a part of The Nan Project has taught me to really see the need to break the stigma regarding mental illness in general, but more specifically the stigma towards suicide.

Having been someone who had suicidal thoughts and inclinations and having been someone who actually had a suicide attempt, The Nan Project has really meant a lot to me. It has taught me that I can make a difference and an impact on the lives of others. Just by sharing my story and experiences I can reach many or maybe just one individual on a personal level where they no longer feel the need or want to end their life. This is what truly gives me a hope and a purpose.

I have always known that I want to be an individual who wants to help others in any way that I could. The Nan Project has helped me find my true calling. It has shown me the way in which I can help individuals and impact their lives for the better. It has also made me feel as a part of a bigger impact of suicide prevention in order to help break down the stigma little by little.

May 29, 2018
Onix Jiminez – Peer Mentor Spotlight

We wanted to acknowledge some great work that’s been done by one of our rising Peer Mentor stars. Onix Jimenez is a bright young man, with loads of dedication. He has been with us for some time now, after originally taking our Peer Mentor training at YAVP last summer. But, life happens, and Onix took some time to work on some stuff, but now he is back and better than ever! Having first first his shared his story at SuccessFest in March, he is now a regular on Team Nanner regularly presenting at Schools and Conferences!

I took the time to ask him a few questions; here’s what I got….

Q:You put a lot of hard work into writing your Comeback Story, and it really shows. What were some helpful things for you to write it?

A: At first the idea of writing my story was a bit overwhelming, I’ve experienced a lot, and I’ve comeback from a lot, so it was really difficult, pinning down what aspects of my life I wanted my story to be on. It took a while but I managed to look at the things that I’ve struggled with, and the events I’ve had the most growth from, and I used those to hopefully tell a story that shows strength.

Q:You recently had your first presentation at SuccessFest. How do you think it went?

A: I was nervous. I’ll admit I was a bit shaky at first. However, for being one of the few times I’ve publicly spoken, with an entire audience’s attention, I was pretty proud of myself for being able to do it.

Q: What would be a piece of advice you would give new Peer Mentors sharing their Comeback Story for the first time?

A: The bit of advice I would give is to know your story and own your story. When I first told my story I was nervous, regardless of what stage you are in, a comeback story is about personal struggle and about being able to turn it around. It was hard not to think, “Well, what if my story isn’t worthwhile”. However part of what helped was reminding myself, that I know this story, it’s mine and it’s worthwhile to know that I came back from this struggle, even if just for myself. And maybe, hopefully someone else will see what the benefits are of owning their story…because it’s theirs, it’s mine, and it’s ours. We all want to succeed.

Q:How did you hear about the NAN Project?

A: I was involved in the Youth Advisory Group and the Tempo young adult resource center through Wayside in Framingham when the training was recommended to me. I had wanted to be able to take steps towards becoming a peer mentor for a long time, and I wasn’t sure how, so this was my first real step.

Q: You work an awful lot…. What are some things you do for self-care?

A: Between my other job and NAN, I had a lot going on, and at times it was stressful. I would spend some time with my friends and spend some time alone. However, I ultimately had to make the decision to leave (old job), as I had to acknowledge I had my limits. A huge part of self-care, is knowing those limits, and being able to push yourself to de better but also knowing when it’s time to recognize I’m stressing those limits too far

Q:If you had to use one word to describe your feelings towards the NAN Project, what would it be and why?

A: Exciting

Thank you Onix for sharing with us and all your amazing work with The NAN Project!

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