Senior Peer Mentor Training 2019
Written by Sarah Dickie
This Summer, The NAN Project held our second Senior Peer Mentor Training Camp. This six-week, twelve-part training covered a wide range of topics relating to mental health, suicide prevention, and self-care. As summer tends to be a slow time for the work we do, with high school students on break from school, these trainings have three purposes: to provide our Peer Mentors with work; to build on our presentation and suicide prevention skills; and to strengthen the relationships among our team.
Through our participation in this training camp, our Peer Mentors learned a lot about supporting youth struggling with their mental health. Meghan Diamon of Mindwise introduced us to SOS: Signs of Suicide, a series of universal, school-based depression awareness and suicide prevention programs designed for middle school and high school students, as well as their parents and teachers. SOS is similar to the Question, Persuade, Refer or QPR method that we teach: both involve “asking the question” – that is, asking if a youth is thinking about suicide – and encouraging the youth to seek mental health support. We also learned some “postvention” approaches for providing support to loss survivors after a suicide with Debbie Helms of Samaritans of Merrimack Valley. Later, Kelsey Taylor taught us all about Motivational Interviewing, a method of supporting an individual in taking steps toward changing harmful behavior. MI is appropriate for use by clinicians and us average folks, because of its focus on keeping power in the hands of the individual changing their behavior. Though we don’t work one-on-one with adolescents in our line of work, this method is valuable to us in our everyday lives as we help our colleagues and our loved ones in their recovery journeys.
Our team also enjoyed the opportunity through this training to improve our working relationships and practice our self-care. We began the summer with mindful yoga for anxiety relief, led by art therapist Alex Norby. This was a first for most of our Peer Mentors, and many found it so rejuvenating that they sought to add it to their personal routines. Later, Senior Peer Mentor Greta Waag taught us some self-reflection skills through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, a method that has helped her tremendously in her own recovery and one she’s very passionate about. Additionally, our team clinician Donna Kausek led us in a conversation about healthy work relationships, covering topics like effective communication, fostering mutual respect, and making and keeping boundaries – all skills that will prove invaluable to us in our work with The NAN Project and beyond.
To break up the sometimes intense suicide prevention topics, we got to have some fun and flex our creativity with improvisational activities and artistic projects. Friend of The NAN Project and filmmaker Dan Perez de la Garza led us in a film studio workshop. Last year, Dan helped us create the vignettes about mental health that we’ve released on YouTube. He encouraged us to use film as a medium to express ourselves, given that our work in high schools has already made us storytellers. Building on this theme, Agatha from Salem State University lead us in some public speaking and storytelling exercises. We practiced concise phrasing with six-word stories and answering tough questions with no preparation in front of an audience, which pulled many of our Peer Mentors out of their comfort zones. Though it may have been hard to get through, this exercise showed us that we have the skills to power through an uncomfortable situation. Our team did lots of art, too: Alex returned to lead us in a group painting project for which we connected our individual canvases with one continuous line, illustrating how we are connected as The NAN Project team. Finally, art therapist Fernanda Lopez from Lawrence Arts House helped us to create a three-dimensional mural to represent our work. We used daffodils as a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings in recovery, and arranged them around the word hope, which we hope to instill in the students who attend our presentations. We hung this mural in The NAN Project’s Lexington office as a reminder of our incredible journeys and of the great time we had together this summer.
Following this extensive training, the wonderful group of young people who participated have all graduated to Senior Peer Mentor status. Thank you to our guest instructors for taking time to come work with us; thank you to the Young Adult Vocational Program in Arlington for lending us a beautiful training space; and thank you to Eliot and the Cummings Foundation for the support to make these trainings happen. Our team is more prepared than ever to return to high schools this upcoming fall!
Dear Evan Hansen
Earlier in July, a few of our senior staff had the privilege of attending the Tony Award-winning production of Dear Evan Hansen in Boston, thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous NAN Project supporter. Additionally, we were able to provide tickets to several teachers and guidance counselors from school districts we’ve worked closely with over the past year. We had a wonderful time socializing with our colleagues, soaking in the majesty of the beautiful Boston Opera House, and cultivating our mental health education and suicide prevention skills in a new setting.
The musical follows Evan Hansen, an awkward high school senior with an anxiety disorder, as he begins his school year and navigates his mental health in the aftermath of a peer’s suicide. Evan’s therapist has recommended that he practice positivity by writing letters to himself, detailing what will be good about each day. In the beginning, Evan’s single mother – a nurse by day and legal student by night – encourages him to make new friends, suggesting he break the ice by asking other students to sign the cast on his arm. Connor Murphy, presented as an angry outcasted punk that smokes marijuana before school, is the only person to do so, in big, bold print. Later the two have a confrontation in the computer lab where Evan is printing his letter to himself, in which he mentions how infatuated he is with Connor’s sister, Zoe. Upon finding this letter in the printer, Connor becomes furious and steals it. The next day Evan is called into the principal’s office to meet with Connor’s parents. We learn that Connor has died by suicide, and he was found with Evan’s letter in his pocket. Connor’s parents believe this to be a suicide note addressed to Evan and ask about his relationship with their son. Evan lets Connor’s parents believe that the two were good friends, as it seems to help them heal – but things quickly get out of hand, and Evan finds himself as the face of Connor’s memorial project.
Before the show, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) held a panel for educators and mental healthcare professionals to discuss the show’s impact on this generation of struggling youth, and different ways we can better our mental healthcare and suicide prevention efforts. Panelist and trauma clinician Marlene Kenney noted that young people today are approaching trusted adults with songs from the show’s soundtrack. Teachers, then, are looking to Dear Evan Hansen to better understand these students. Panelists agreed on the importance of holding space for conversations about mental health in the classroom – after all, most young people look to access mental health services within their schools, rather than beginning with daunting outside medical services. Research has shown that students who access mental health services in school, where they may already have supports in place, are also more likely to stick with treatment.
One thing Marlene would change, had she been working with students like Evan and company, is the way Connor’s death was memorialized. To hold space in memory of a suicide creates a “well of sorrow,” she says, where people will go to think about death. She suggests that the best way to honor someone who has died by suicide is to remember them as they were in life, not by the details of their death. The panel also took issue with disparaging comments in the script about LGBT youth. Evan is teased by a friend because the stories of his fictitious friendship with Connor make it seem like the two were secret lovers, and the romance is explored for comedic relief. Panelists argued that this is insensitive to the fact that suicide rates are five times higher among LGBT youth. Additionally, the panel criticized the cast’s lack of diversity, citing that students of color are less likely to access mental healthcare.
Regardless of its faults, the show has certainly impacted youth struggling with their mental health, and it spoke to our senior staff, too. There were tears, especially when Evan opens up to his mother about his own suicidal thoughts. Senior Peer Mentor Greta said she would have latched onto the soundtrack in high school: touching on experiences such as loneliness, non-belonging, and depression, it would have made her feel seen. The MSPCC panel praises the story for its portrayal of some signs of suicide in high school students, like the social and physical aggression Connor displays prior to his death. The play also shows how peers of a student who has died by suicide can become involved with “competitive grieving” – for example, the way Connor’s peers tried to out-do one another with stories of how he impacted them, and how much they were suffering in his absence. In this way, Dear Evan Hansen allows us a realistic glimpse into the tragedy and healing surrounding a youth suicide, even when the behaviors we adopt to cope are inappropriate. Regarding conversations about mental health with young people, we think this trendy musical is a good place to start, and we urge the audience – young people, parents, and educators alike – to keep the conversation going.We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to see this amazing production and process its impact with our colleagues in education and mental healthcare. Thank you to our gracious anonymous supporter, to the MSPCC for an educational discussion, to the cast of Dear Evan Hansen for a beautiful show, and to The NAN Project team for continuing to make space for mental health education. There is help, and there is hope!
QPR in North Hampton
By Sarah Dickie
Earlier in June, the NAN Project sent a few members of our team to Western Massachusetts for certification in leading QPR training for suicide prevention. Peer Coordinator Elli Peltola and Senior Peer Mentors Sarah Dickie and Onix Jimenez trekked up to Northampton the night before to enjoy a stay in the beautiful hotel Ellery. Elli and Sarah, arriving early in the afternoon, passed the time with a scenic walk down Main Street in the shopping district. We explored local shops and had delicious hibachi for dinner, giving us a chance to spend quality time together and build our working relationship.
Training proceeded on Thursday, June 6th at Hotel Northampton from 8am to 4pm. An impressive spread of pastries, fruits, and coffee greeted us as we entered the sunny conference room. Floor-to-ceiling windows draped in luxurious, intricate curtains surrounded tables topped with white satin-esque tablecloths. The elegance of it all was daunting. Our team was feeling a bit nervous, a little out of our league, maybe (as this was the first time any of us had taken a trip like this for work), but we were overwhelmingly excited to learn and flex our mental health muscles.
Before training began, we had the chance to enjoy the provided breakfast and socialize with the other trainees: some social workers, some teachers, some nurses, some police officers. We got to share our mission with them and make some new connections with school staff before the upcoming academic year of classroom presentations. Despite our different careers, we had all gathered there with the goal of better equipping ourselves to prevent suicide, lending us a powerful feeling of unification.
QPR – standing for Question, Persuade, Refer – is a strategy for suicide prevention which offers increased possibility of early intervention, stressing action and active follow-up with the struggling individual. Using this strategy does not require the at-risk person to ask for help, but instead encourages friends of the individual to ask about suicidal intent and offer support through the help-seeking process. Peer Mentors at the NAN Project learn this strategy as part of their onboarding, and many of our senior staff become certified to teach this material.
Our trainer for the day was Sarah Gaer of the Riverside Trauma Center, a Master Trainer of the QPR Institute. She shared that she had lost her best friend to suicide as a young adult and had dedicated herself to the cause in her memory. Our team could tell that Gaer was incredibly passionate about the work, which impassioned us, too. While remaining sensitive to the heavy material, she also had a great sense of humor, and thought we ought to have some fun together — this put us more at ease.
In the morning we covered suicide statistics, risk factors, and various warning signs that a suicidal person might show; and in the afternoon, we dove into model delivery of the QPR curriculum, how to properly use official QPR Institute materials, and a QPR “boot camp,” which had us practice answering potential tough questions from an audience of trainees.
We each went home with a bag of goodies lovingly packed: a binder of training guides, a starter pack of QPR information pamphlets, and some reading on providing support to individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts. Additionally, these members of our team are officially certified to teach QPR. According to the QPR Gatekeeper requirements, this means we are able to recognize a suicidal person at risk, demonstrate increased knowledge of suicide intervention skills, and demonstrate the ability to persuade the at-risk person to seek help and stay alive.
Following this certification, our team is better prepared to provide sensitive and well-informed suicide prevention training to new and seasoned Peer Mentors alike; and, to provide guidance to high school students who want to help their friends who might be struggling. Many thanks to all of our supporters: you help us to take advantage of opportunities like this and keep our Peer Mentors trained.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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!
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!
- In 2018, we completed our response to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, with our own 13 Reasons We Need to Talk About Suicide. If you haven’t watched the video yet, be sure to check it out here!
- Read about our State House Briefing during Suicide Prevention Awareness Week.
- We’ve welcomed new peer mentors and new employees to our team, check them out on Our Peer Mentors!
- Read about 2018 Night for NAN, our big fundraiser of the year.
- Conducted a Survey about the Attitudes and Beliefs About Mental Health in Massachusetts!
- We were on ABC’s Chronicle two times, check it out HERE!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!