The NAN Project Celebrates Pride Month 2022
June is celebrated as LGBTQ Pride month across the world. In recognition of LGBTQ Pride month The Nan Project would like to highlight five mental health resources that LGBTQ youth can access year round. Throughout the article, we will be mentioning “drop-in centers,” which are places for people to hang out, connect with others in a variety of groups, and access resources such as healthcare supplies and food.
One center LGBTQ youth can go to is BAGLY in Boston, MA. BAGLY (The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth) is a drop-in center that is a part of the AGLY Network, which has locations across Massachusetts that offer resources and programs for LGBTQ youth. BAGLY specifically offers group therapy, a narrative art therapy group where youth create art based on therapeutic prompts, and free 101 therapy sessions affectionately called “Tea Time.” Therapy services are free and open to LGBTQ youth under the age of 25. You also do not need to have proof of identification or health insurance to receive these services. BAGLY also offers a variety of non-therapeutic social groups and programming as well as HIV/STI testing for LGBTQ youth under the age of 22.
Another drop-in center LGBTQ youth can go to is Boston GLASS (Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services). Boston GLASS caters to LGBTQ people of color ages 13-29 and offers HIV/STI testing, PrEP access, as well as sexual wellness counselling. Additionally there is virtual or in-person therapy, in-home family therapy, and therapeutic monitoring offered. Similar to BAGLY, youth do not need insurance to receive services as all GLASS services are free. Youth can also attend a variety of social groups and events hosted by GLASS that cater to different interests and needs of the LGBTQ youth community.
Other Community Resources
One resource that serves both youth and their loved ones or caretakers is Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), where folks receive support and education around their/their child’s sexuality or gender identity. These support groups are run by parents of LGBTQ youth or adults and take place across Massachusetts. They also have a helpline people can call for resources and to have their questions answered if they cannot attend an in-person support group.
A favorite for healthcare across the local LGBTQ community, The Sidney Borum Jr Center in Boston provides mental health counseling, support groups for transgender youth and adults, substance abuse treatment, STD testing and treatment, and medical care. The Sidney Borum Jr Center takes most insurances.
Finally, a virtual resource LGBTQ youth can access across the country is The Trevor Project, which has a helpline folks can call for support, as well as a text line and an online chat room they can use if they aren’t able to make a phone call. The chat room has a private feature that enables the user to close the tab with three taps of the “esc” button if they cannot show their family their computer screen for safety reasons. The Trevor Project also has online chat rooms that LGBTQ youth can use to connect with each other.
These are not the only services available to LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts. There are a lot of organizations able and ready to serve the extensive and varying needs of LGBTQ youth, and we encourage you to reach out for either yourself or someone you know if you need it.
Links to These Resources
Greater Boston PFLAG
Sidney Borum Jr Health Center
The Trevor Project
Peer Coordinator Spotlight – Erica
Meet Our New Peer Coordinator, Erica!
Please join us in welcoming our newest Peer Coordinator, Erica, who came to The NAN Project four months ago. They have stepped right in to connect with students in the classroom and have begun shaping a new project with local colleges!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up outside of Washington DC, went to school in Cleveland, and then moved to the Boston area. I’ve been here ever since and love it! I’ve been playing ultimate Frisbee for a while, it’s a big passion of mine. I also like learning new recipes, looking after my many houseplants, and playing with my cat, Julep.
Does the Peer Coordinator position at The NAN Project fit into your personal goals?
I always knew I wanted to work face-to-face with people in a helping role. What better way to do that than to share my mental health journey with others to make them feel less alone, and perhaps get people to seek help earlier? It gives me hope to hear the way students speak about mental health in the classroom. I think that self-awareness, especially when practiced at a younger age, gives people a greater chance of leading healthy and balanced lives.
What strategies do you employ in managing your own mental health?
I love this question because I think it probably changes from year to year as I get to know myself better. Currently what works for me is going to bed on time, leaving time and space for me to feel my feelings, exercising regularly, and talking to my therapist.
What has been notable in your presentations to students in the classroom?
The first thing I notice is that students are much more aware of mental health in general than when I was at their age. There are a lot of student questions wondering what will happen once they ask for help, and worries that reaching out might not help them. We encourage people not to give up, to keep reaching out and fighting for themselves. Everyone is worthy of help, and no one is beyond help. I tell students, “While you might not get exactly what you need right away, help is out there for you.” I think the Comeback Stories we share in schools reflect that learning what you need and how to get it is a process, and does improve over time. Another common theme among student questions is how to help a friend who might be struggling, which is something we do cover in our messaging. It’s encouraging that so many people want to be supportive friends!
How do you like to spend your free time?
I play for a few ultimate Frisbee teams in the Boston area throughout the year. When I’m on the field, I am fully engaged and focused on what I’m doing. It gets me running around outside (in the warmer months), and I get to see old friends and meet new people. I also have an ever-growing houseplant collection–I love watching my plants change throughout the seasons, and learn what they need by paying attention to them.
What do you hope for your future?
I want to learn more about the professional career options in the mental health field, as this is my first time working in the mental health space. Whether I pursue another degree or not, I want to be a support to the communities of which I am a part.
Peer Mentor Spotlight: Alison Sabean
This month, The Nan Project would like to highlight Alison Sabean in our Peer Mentor Spotlight! Alison has been working with us for almost two years now, and her story leaves her audiences with a message of hope. She has presented her story numerous of times to schools all across Massachusetts! Thank you Alison for being apart of this Peer Mentor Spotlight!
Hi Alison! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I was wondering if I could start off by asking you how you heard about The NAN Project, and what made you join!
Hi Elli! Thank you for interviewing me! I heard about The NAN Project when I participated in a young adult program through The Department of Mental Health called GIFT. It stands for Gathering Inspiring Future Talent. Through that program, we all had a common theme of having past histories with mental health challenges that want to get back into the workforce. GIFT had a partnership with The NAN Project, so that’s where I heard about it, and the rest is history!
I decided to join because I was really struggling to hold a job and I felt like this was something that I was meant to do. I am really passionate about telling my mental health story; being able to do it AND get paid is a dream come true!
What have been some highlights/rewards you’ve gained working with us?
One of my biggest highlights was definitely speaking at the Night For NAN. I was really flattered to be asked to speak after working only less than a year with the project. I think it really speaks to me feeling accepted by The NAN Project, and it was a feeling I never felt with any other job.
I think another thing is a highlight is just presentations in general and really getting deep and speaking to the students, talking with faculty, and being able to educate people. I also like being able to meet some really cool people through working at this job.
What was your most meaningful presentation and why?
Definitely speaking at the Night For NAN and specifically because it was an opportunity I’ve never had before. I found it really meaningful to speak to a room full of almost complete strangers, considering there were so many folks who attended the Night For NAN. It boosted my self esteem as well. Also, the Night For NAN is such a meaningful event for The NAN Project, so it felt really good to be chosen to speak at a night dedicated to the project.
For readers who don’t know your story, what are some coping skills you’ve learned over the years to take care and overcome your mental health challenges?
There have been a lot of different coping skills I’ve learned over the years and I use different skills for different situations. I think my main coping skills that I use are playing with my cat, expressing myself by doing art, writing/journaling, and physical activity when I can. I also consider coping and taking care of myself by taking my medication on time, going to regular doctor appointments and therapy, and making sure to keep up with all my requirements.
What are you grateful for?
I am definitely grateful for The NAN Project for giving me a way to be employed. I am also grateful for my family and friends for being supportive throughout my mental health journey and now my physical health issues. I am also grateful for my cat Iris. In 2020 I started my masters degree in social work, so I am grateful to be able to be a part of their program at Boston College.
I know you talk a lot about your cat Iris, can you talk a little bit about her and why she’s so important to you?
Yeah! So I had a cat since I was in the third grade and he lived until he was 19 years old which is pretty impressive. We had to put him down and I was pretty devastated over it. I was really heartbroken after we put him down, so I kept begging my parents to let me get another cat and they finally caved! My cat, Iris is such a joy. It’s kind of interesting how animals react to mental health situations. I know she needed me just as much as I needed her. We are inseparable, to the point where she follows me everywhere around the house! She’s a cutie and I love her so much!
Aw I love that! Iris seems like such a great companion to have! The last question I have is: do you have any advice for students who may be struggling, especially during this crazy time during COVID.
I’d say that if you’re struggling, definitely reach out to someone. Whoever it may be, make sure it’s someone you feel comfortable with. Keep up hope that things will get better. There have been a lot of times where I’ve lost hope and something good can come my way. I also think that if you are in therapy or getting help in some way for a mental health issue, don’t give up. Just remember that you can do this and there’s so much more life to live than struggling with your mental health challenges. Maybe you won’t overcome it, but you will learn how to manage it, and live with it.
Thank you Alison for having this interview with me! I loved hearing a little bit about your life and how much you’ve overcome over the years.
Thank you so much Elli for interviewing me!
Peer Mentor Spotlight: Andrew Christopher
This month The NAN Project would like to feature Andrew in our regular PM Spotlight section. Andrew has been with the NAN Project after completing the last Peer Mentor training back in January of 2020. Andrew brings a lot of positivity to The NAN Project as well as some great ideas and lots of unique knowledge.
1). Tell us how you learned about TNP and why you decided to join? How has your time with the NAN Project been ever since you completed the training?
I actually first learned about The NAN Project about four years ago when I was approached by Ellen Dalton when I was working for Eliot Community Human Services at the time in a different role and at the time I actually passed up the opportunity and I’m coming to regret that as it seems like a great organization. So far, my time with The NAN Project has been great, it’s been very rewarding. You get to work with some very nice people and get to do worthwhile work as well.
2). For our readers who haven’t had the chance to hear your story, can you highlight some of the supports you used to overcome your mental health challenges?
Certainly. Growing up I was a kid that had some issues. I was bullied. I have a few learning disabilities. The support systems that really helped me was a school counselor, a therapist and my parents mostly. My counselor advocated for one thing that really helped me – I got to take my tests in another room to limit distractions. They have all been crucial in getting me where I am today.
3). I know you mention your love of sports in your Comeback Story. What is your favorite to play? And what is your favorite to watch?
Hockey has always been my favorite sport both to watch and to play. During this time I’ve actually been watching some old game I’ve never seen. They were there before my time, but still very fun to watch. The Summit Series between the USSR and Canada from the 70’s I found very interesting in particular.
4). You mentioned in your Comeback Story that quitting sports was probably one of the biggest regrets in your life. What made you get into sports and what was the first sport that you did?
It really is one of the bigger regrets in my life I would say. I had always been someone that played sports. I come from a family that was very much into athletics and I grew up playing hockey. I essentially learned to skate as I learned to walk and after that I got into baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse and basketball all at different times. Hockey and lacrosse are definitely the most fun to play though. Sports was a good outlet, where mental health didn’t matter. It wasn’t something that came up on the field, which I liked as a kid.
5). Were there any other jobs that you had in the past prior to working with The NAN Project that was related to Mental Health?
Yes, I actually worked for Eliot Community Human Services as a Peer Specialist in a group home for about five years called The Avenues Home. I got to work with some great kids, and through working with them, learned about myself.
6). What would you say was the most meaningful presentation that you did? And why?
One of the afternoon presentations we did in Methuen High School. I would say we had a very good group of kids that day. They were very active listeners and they had very good questions. I feel like my story related to more than a handful of kids in the room which is always very rewarding, even if you have two kids responding to your story that it’s a win – but it seemed that there seemed to be eight or nine at the time that was a really cool feeling for me.
7). You mention being an avid reader in your Comeback Story. Can you tell us about a book you’ve recently finished, or about your favorite author.
A book I’m currently reading is about a French guy in the first World War called Poilu. It’s his four years of notebooks from serving in the first World War. It’s an interesting read. One of my favorite authors though would be Kurt Vonnegut. I read just about everything he wrote before he passed away. What he wrote was always funny, smart and witty; there are no just not many writers of his quality, I think, with his humor.
8). Lastly, what is one thing that you feel grateful for in your life now?
The health and wellness of my family, especially during this time. I’ve been very thankful during the Covid crisis no one in my family has come down sick or anything. My brother still lives in Brooklyn so we’ve all been very worried about him. So, I’m very thankful for everyone that I know dearly that are healthy at this time.
Thanks for sitting down to chat, Andrew!
To read more Peer Mentor Spotlights, click here!
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.
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!
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!
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?
What are you up to these days, Elli?
Tell us a bit more about your experience with The NAN Project…
How did you get involved with The NAN Project?
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?
Thanks, Elli for taking the time to talk with us!