July 2, 2019
Attending a Social Justice Workshop at DPH Suicide Prevention Conference

By Sarah Dickie

At the beginning of May, a few of us at The NAN Project had the privilege of attending the 18th annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference at the Sheraton in Framingham. The goal of the conference is to increase awareness of suicide as a public health issue by hosting discussions about advancements in the field through various workshops and exhibition tables. In addition to providing an opportunity for us to raise awareness about The NAN Project’s mission, the conference allowed us to expand our own knowledge about how to best carry out our work. I attended a workshop lead by the Mass Coalition for Suicide Prevention’s Alliance for Equity. It focused on the intersection of social justice and mental health: how racism and other systems of oppression impact not only suicide risk, but treatment of the survivor. 

Our instructors began by proposing three “shared agreements” for the discussion: make space, share the air, and embrace discomfort. These meant to encourage participants to prioritize the most marginalized voices, and for those with social privilege to hold back, but remain present. I would argue that these are excellent agreements for the wider discussion of suicide prevention, too. Speaking as a white person myself, it’s easy to feel guilty and dismiss the danger when confronted with the realities of racism. Likewise, it’s easy for straight and cisgender folks to do the same when discussing LGBT discrimination. As dedicated leaders of suicide prevention, it’s a duty of ours to consider the social privileges we have, and how oppression contributes to the issue of mental health — even when, and especially when, it’s uncomfortable. 

When the presenters opened the floor to participants, they had a lot to say about how people of color are treated in mental health care, and likewise how mental health is treated in their communities. One East Asian woman on the floor explained the pressure from her parents to earn good grades and make money, markers of success that are valued by her family’s culture. Her experiences with anxiety, which hindered her ability to do these things, were brushed under the rug. The culture dictated that she “be good” and “stay quiet” instead of opening up. One presenter, a bisexual East Asian woman, agreed that when she spoke out about her struggle in her youth, she felt “othered” in her community. If there were people like her, they weren’t talking about it.  

Professionals in mental healthcare added that they see racial disparities in their work environments every day. For one, youth who access care for mental health concerns in the greater Boston area are mostly white, despite a more diverse general population. This is likely a result of the toxic intersection of stigma and discriminatory care. 

“It depends what your color is, what treatment you’re going to get,” one older Black woman said. She went on to explain that Black folks who are mistreated in mental health care facilities are faced with the choice of whether or not to pursue justice, as within other arenas of their lives. She said that the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” has dissuaded her peers from doing so. Not only does racism inform the treatment experience for a person of color, but it also informs how and how often that person will talk about it. 

Inequity in mental health treatment is a dangerous reality, a symptom of the discrimination that persists in healthcare as it does in the wider world. We know that mental illness is often a result of trauma — we might not know that oppression is trauma. Day after day, marginalized people face the hostility of a racist world. The stress of this builds up, and can result in complications like heart disease and psychological disorder. This is why the Alliance for Equity dubs non-whiteness as a “forever risk factor”: something only social change can combat. Social determinants — like discrimination, education, wealth inequality, and risk of violence — makeup 80% of an individual’s overall health, according to the MCSP. In our efforts for suicide prevention, the Alliance for Equity advises that we “keep the conversation going”: talk about mental health; work to incorporate diverse perspectives; and consider how societal forces impact risk.  

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.

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
Legislative Briefing at the State House

 The NAN Project presents at the Massachusetts State House!

On September 13th, The NAN Project traveled to the State House to present as part of our observance of National Suicide Prevention Week. Our goal for this legislative briefing was to show our representatives the kind of impact that peer support and stigma-free conversations can have to help those who are struggling.

We were given the opportunity to speak because several of our legislators understand the importance of talking about mental health and that suicide is a public health crisis, especially among young people. As the number of lives lost annually to suicide grows, it is more urgent than ever that we foster collaboration between government, community health organizations, educators, non-profits, schools, advocates and all the other stakeholders involved in the field of mental health.

Both our founder Ellen Dalton, and Deputy Commissioner of Child, Youth and Family Services, Emily Sherwood spoke on the needs that brought us to the State House, and the lessons learned about suicide prevention from their years of work in the fields of mental and behavioral health. “We get the conversation going – in a supportive, non-judgemental way. We identify trusted adults within the school who can help and we leave students with a message of hope,” Ellen related when talking about The NAN Project’s model.

There are so many avenues to inspiring hope and connecting support to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. As illustrated by the powerful Comeback Stories of our Peer Coordinator Mike Amendolare and Peer Mentor Belle Cole, starting a conversation about suicide is one of our most important tools to reduce the isolation, stigmatization, and confusion that many young people who are struggling face.

We thank Senators Friedman and Lovely and State Representatives Denise Garlick , Paul Tucker, and Michael Day for their support and sponsorship of this briefing. As always, we owe a special thanks to Senator Joan B. Lovely for her compassionate call to action. We are also so appreciative of the audience at the state house, who shared their own stories and touched us with their understanding.

To learn more about the problems facing our young people, and how The NAN Project works to tackle the issue of mental health, check out 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! 

Image result for paypal donate button transparent

 

August 27, 2018
Summer Time Recap

Summertime is here, and school’s out on vacation. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been keeping busy! 

6/4-  We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a group of students from The Phoenix Academy in Lawrence and have our Peer Mentors share their Comeback Stories. We then led a discussion about the different warning signs that a friend may be struggling and how to ask someone if they need help.

6/5- We were invited back to Stoneham High School to have our Peer Mentors present to Comeback Stories their Sophomore class. After, we had a conversation identifying the trusted adults in their community and how to access supports if someone they know is struggling.

 

6/6 – A group of Nanners attended a community event hosted by the Greater Boston Suicide Prevention Coalition, during which we had the joy of watching a performance by Genki Spark, a multigenerational, pan-Asian women’s group that practices and performs Taiko drumming, while also hearing stories of resilience. Thanks to the MCSP for hosting!

6/8- At the 2018 Youth at Risk Conference at Salem State University we connected with a ton of schools and programs in the region, as well as heard several inspiring speakers. We hope to make more connections and expand The NAN Project further into the district!

 

6/8 – The NAN Project took part in a youth panel on safety in schools organized by a group of young people at the Malden YWCA. Here, we were asked various questions regarding the safety of students in the Malden School District. On this panel were two Malden High students, the Malden Police Chief, a local lobbyist, and both of our Peer Coordinators.  

6/12- We met with the newly established Peer Leader Team at The Phoenix Academy to discuss what we can do in their school to normalize the conversation of mental health and support emotional wellbeing.

6/12- We were invited to the Boston DMH office to screen our video project, 13 Reasons Why We Need To Talk About Suicide to the staff and several interns. We then led a discussion about how this can be utilized in various settings to help combat the stigma surrounding mental health challenges.

6/13- Met with the Principal, several Health teachers and Counselors at Milford High School to introduce The NAN Project and have several Peer Mentors share their comeback stories. We discussed the needs and expectations at the school around mental health ran through what a typical day is like while we present in schools. We look forward to working with Milford High School in the future!

6/15- We met with the staff of Framingham High School and their alternative program – The Phoenix – to see where we would best fit in collaborating with them on future projects starting next school year!

6/19 – We invited a handful of young adults who are interested in taking our initial training, to get a feel for what it will be like to work with us before they fully commit. During this orientation, we covered the basics of school presentations, our four day training, an intro to the Q.P.R. model of suicide prevention, and introduced a  few clips from  our 13 Reasons Why We Need To Talk About Suicide video.

6/26, 7/17, 8/7 – The Greater Boston Suicide Prevention Coalition is working with The NAN Project to establish a youth suicide prevention coalition. Several of our Boston based Peer Mentors took part, along with students from several alternative schools and phone bank volunteers with the Samaritans. We hope to use this newly founded group – Boston Youth Together – to continue spreading education about suicide prevention and  emotional wellbeing. If you are interested in Boston Youth Together, please email [email protected] for more information! 

7/10 – The NAN Project’s Peer Mentors work so hard during the school year, we thought it would be nice to gather for some down time for a Peer Mentor Appreciation Day. 13 Reasons Why We Need to Talk about Suicide was screened for the first time as a group, followed by some awesome, throwback Nintendo 64 action and Chinese food. It quickly became clear that some of us need to work on our Mario Kart skills, but it was still a nice way to cool off during the hot months of the summer.

7/16 – Reporters from WCVB’s Chronicle filmed several interviews with our founders and peer mentors, to be used for a segment airing during National Suicide Prevention week! Tune in this September to hear our team talk about their experiences with mental health and why we do what we do.

7/25 – Mike A, Onix and Jake travelled down to New Bedford to introduce The NAN Project to a group of therapeutic mentors with Mass MENTOR. We followed our typical presentation and Comeback Stories with a lengthy discussion on how to provide supports for young people who are struggling with a mental illness. We hope this presentation will open doors to more schools south of Boston where we’re making a major push this year!

8/14 – The NAN Project met with Stoneham High School’s Youth Coalition, a group of impressive young people with the goal of improving the wellbeing of their fellow students. Alongside health concerns such as substance use and vaping, the group discussed how to raise awareness about mental health among their classmates. The group will be meeting regularly once the school year begins!

8/18 –The rainy weather cleared up just in time for our Project Coordinator Kelley and our Peer Coordinators Mike and Lizzie to table at the Transition Age Youth Fundraising Fair in Plymouth. The Department of Mental Health’s parking lot hosted artists, mental health organizations, and local crafters – all to the tune of live music! We handed out the usual NAN Project ‘swag’ of stress balls, bracelets, and pens, as well a set of prints made by our Peer Mentors this winter at Lynn RAWArts. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table!

August 22, 2018
Senior Peer Mentor Training Camp ’18

On July 19th, The NAN Project kicked off its first Senior Peer Mentor Training Camp, a 6-week course for those who have already taken our initial Peer Mentor Training, and want to expand their skills to better help others. Over six classes, our team will learn new information about mental health, practice suicide prevention skills, pick up some art therapy techniques and get a peer mentor training refresher before heading back out to schools in the fall.

What does a life transition look like? Our class weighs in…

Each week begins with a morning lesson of Botvin LifeSkills, taught by Mike Hall and Maria Ruggiero. Unlike many of the health and life courses aimed at young adults, Botvin builds the fundamental skills needed to navigate that stormy time of transition into adulthood. The LifeSkills curriculum covers everything from effective communications, to decision making and personal finances. Many thanks to Mike and Maria for taking time from their busy schedules in the field of substance abuse prevention at the Lowell Health Department and the Tewksbury Police Department.

More LifeSkills – What is ‘typical’ adolescence?

We also participated in the half-day SafeTALK training, which is designed to bring intervention skills to those with no formal education in suicide prevention. Though our PMs have all been trained in QPR suicide prevention, SafeTalk allowed us to take a fresh perspective and brush up on our technique. With the guidance of our trainer, Tracy Jones from CrossPoint Clinical Services, our team gained useful skills that will strengthen our responses to those in crisis.

Taking notes on Mental Health First Aid Curriculum!

Next up, our team dove into Youth Mental Health First Aid training, a more detailed and in-depth explanation of how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Through 3 afternoons of lectures, group discussion, and role play exercises, our PMs learned a lot and gave context to their lived experience. This training was led by Eliot’s own Donna Kausek, the Eliot Mobile Crisis Intervention Program Director, Sarah Stewart, a Clinical Director at Rayne Academy JJ Division, and Cathy O’Leary, the Service Director at the DCF Division.

For the final two Thursday afternoons, Alex Norby, an Art Therapist at Raw Art Works in Lynn, led us in art therapy activities. After four weeks of intense, but valuable mental health and suicide prevention training, our team really appreciated the opportunity to check back in with ourselves, practice mindfulness exercises, and get expressive. Alex led us in meditation, creating self care boxes, and a collaborative art project. Even those of us who don’t usually use art as part of our self care learned a lot!

The NAN Project would like to give a big collective “Thank you!” to the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation for the grant that made all of this possible, to all of our trainers who were patient and informative, and to all of our amazing Peer Mentors for being so engaged and dedicated in their work. We look forward to seeing how these separate trainings will be adapted to better support students in the classrooms!

 

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