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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Survey Results are in!
As we sift through the data collected by our summer intern Maria Mongiardo, we want to take a moment to share the results.
The online survey created by our summer intern reached approximately eight hundred residents of Massachusetts and beyond was designed to capture participants’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to mental health. We hope to use the information below to tailor our efforts to the unique context of our communities, and assess the effectiveness of our programs.
- Over half of the respondents to our survey reported having a mental health diagnosis. 97% of participants reported that someone in their life was affected by mental illness, and 80% reported a family history of mental illness.
- Fortunately, 87% of those with a mental health diagnosis reported accessing support for their concerns. However, accessing support is not so straightforward. A startling 76% of participants have experienced barriers to getting the help that they need, including the fear of shame or stigma, not being taken seriously, and trouble finding a professional. While we respect the resilience of those who get support despite the difficulty, it should not be so hard.
- Though respondents’ attitudes, beliefs, and demographic factors showed some variation, one question almost earned a unanimous positive response. 97% “wish there was more mental health awareness/services in [their] school or school district.”
- Luckily, a majority of the participants already knew some important truths about mental health. Over half of our sample agreed or strongly agreed that most mental illnesses are treatable, and 94% agreed or strongly agreed that people with mental health diagnoses can live productive lives. 98% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that it is important to learn about mental illness.
- One item of the survey asked, “If I had a mental illness, I would not tell any of my friends or family.” About 27% of our participants reported they were unsure if they would tell, but 19% agreed or strongly agreed that if they were diagnosed, they would not share that diagnosis with a single person in their life. Many of our peer mentors describe in their stories exactly how important it was for them to reach out and find someone in their lives who could talk about mental health. Whether it was a parent, a close friend, or a sibling, many of us can not imagine recovery without the support of a loved one.
Why wouldn’t they reach out? We don’t know for certain, but it probably relates to the 30% of participants who agreed or strongly agreed that they would feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell someone that they had a mental health diagnosis.
We are already fighting to reduce this 19% on two fronts; by telling our own stories of connection and by educating others on how to be a support to those experiencing mental health challenges.
- Now compare our answers to a similar question, “If any friends or family of mine had a mental illness, I would tell them not to tell anyone.” How did our respondents predict they would support a friend who struggling? Less than 6% agreed or strongly agreed that they would advise their peers to stay silent, and 75% disagreed or strongly disagreed with this course of action.
Our participants were three times more likely not to tell anyone about their own mental health than they were to tell a friend or family member to do the same. The responses on how to handle one’s own mental health crisis were scattered, and no level of agreement reached a majority. However, when asked to think about a loved one in the same situation, three quarters of our participants knew they couldn’t ask their loved one to keep it hidden. Our participants wouldn’t shame their friends or family, but would feel shame if they themselves were in the same place. This is the power of stigma, of our tendency to see mental health challenges as personal weaknesses, especially in ourselves.
- Just over half of our sample agreed or strongly agreed that they would use mental health services if they were provided by their school or employer.
Attitudes, Beliefs and Age
Because our Peer-to-Peer model is based on shared experience/assumptions/culture of an age group – do different generations hold different beliefs about mental health? For the purposes of our analysis, we split the sample into two age groups; below 25 years of age, and above.
When asked to rate their current mental health, 80% of adults over 25 reported their mental health as “Good,” “Very Good,” or “Excellent.” In comparison, only 22% of the under 25 age group reported “Good,” “Very Good” or “Excellent.” The most common response, 41% of the under 25 age group reported having poor mental health.
When asked about their ability to access emotional support, both age groups felt confident that they knew someone who could help. An encouraging 90% of adults over 25 reported that they knew someone who could help them if they needed emotional support, but only 76% of the under 25% group.
A greater percentage of young adults reported having faced barriers accessing mental health services, compared to just half of the over 25 age group.
Younger than 25 age group more likely to be unsure if they agreed or disagreed with biological basis of mental illness, parents to blame. The younger age group answered that they were unsure if Masschusetts and Massachusetts public schools provided enough support to those with mental health challenges about twice as often as the older group reported being unsure.
This paints a picture of the young adults we surveyed – reporting poorer mental health, fewer supports, less sure about the truths which may destigmatize mental health, and facing more barriers to receiving the help they need.
Attitudes, Beliefs, and Diagnosis
Because over half of sample identified as having a mental health diagnosis, we have the opportunity to compare the attitudes towards mental health of those with and without a diagnosis. Unfortunately, 76% of those with a mental health diagnosis reported facing barriers to receiving mental health services. Approximately 65% of those who reported a mental health diagnosis agreed or strongly agreed that they would use mental health services provided by their employer or school in times of mental health challenges.
We are so thankful to everyone who took the time to complete or promote the survey. We’ve only begun to understand all of the ways that this data can inform our work in suicide prevention and raising mental health awareness.
Watch 13 Reasons Why We Need to Talk about Suicide
13 Reasons Why We Need to Talk about Suicide is a movie project that came about in response to the Netflix series. In mid-2017, teachers in many of the schools we work in started asking us how to address this series, which many of their students were talking about. It was a double edged sword. On the one hand, it opened up the topic of suicide to a huge segment of the population where previously it had been such a taboo subject. However, after watching the series, we had a couple major issues, which I’m sure many of you had as well.
First, we felt they sensationalized and almost glorified Hannah’s suicide by giving her a voice after her death. This is an extremely unsafe portrayal which could lead a young person who may be struggling with any number of risk factors –bullying, depression, sexual assault – to think that suicide could be a viable solution to their problems, or worse, a way to be remembered or means of “getting back” at their classmates. For a kid in or near crisis, this show could be both upsetting and dangerous.
Second, the series barely touches on the mental health issues that around 90% of people who die by suicide are struggling with. The show implied that those around her were guilty of her suicide, when we know that it is the individual themselves that makes the decision to end their life. The fact that Hannah’s mental health was barely mentioned reinforced the feeling that there is little hope for a young person who may struggling with a mental health concern in conjunction with the other traumas she endured. Yet we know, mental health is treatable, and suicide is preventable. This series did not impart this message to us and we wanted to change that.
Finally, the series painted an incredibly bleak picture of the supports a young person can turn to in times of need. Guidance counselors were unhelpful, at best. Parents didn’t understand and were reluctant to broach some difficult topics. Friends were flaky and offered bad advice. We want to show that in reality, there are many supports you can turn to if you are concerned for yourself or a peer. You’ll notice that within, or at the end of each of the 13 vignettes, there is a support listed (hotlines, coping skills, individuals), and we hope that young people will gain an understanding of the vast array of resources you can reach out to within your school or community.
More importantly, the final vignette outlines in 3 clear steps, on how to respond to a peer in crisis. If students, young people or anyone who views this takes just one thing away from this film, we hope it’s the empowerment to reach out to a friend in crisis and 1) Ask them directly, “are you ok” “are you thinking about suicide?” 2) Step back and listen and validate what they are going through, and 3) Get that person to a trusted adult or support.
So about the process of making a movie.
The vignettes were designed over the last 9 or so months with input and feedback from our amazing Peer Mentors, as well as the peer leadership teams we work with at Stoneham and Andover High Schools. A variety of different formats were used in an attempt to reflect the different ideas our peer mentors had. Some, such as one where a young man comes out as gay to his family used actors; some were silent and focused on stats; others were based on the Peer Mentors’ own lived experience. We hope the variety adds to the experience.
Finally, I’d like to thank the organizations that provide the support that allowed us to create this project, including DPH, DMH, Cummings Foundation and Eliot Community Human Services. I’d also like to thank Dan Perez for his amazing work directing, scripting and a million other things he did to prepare this work that you are about to see. There is no way we could have done this without him. Most importantly, I’d like to thank all of our Peer Mentors and Peer Leaders who acted in and helped direct, edit and pull together this movie. They are the core of The NAN Project and we wouldn’t be here without them.
We hope you find this film educational and more importantly, useful, in your work with young people. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you’d use this tool effectively when working with students. Enjoy!
A Night of H.O.P.E.
Our Night of HOPE at Raw Art Works in Lynn last Thursday evening was amazing! Congratulations to everyone in the HOPE (Helping Other People Endure) Group for pulling off this inspiring evening where they screened a bunch of short films and then hosted a panel discussion about mental health, in front of an audience of 150+!! We couldn’t be prouder! They did an outstanding job fielding questions about mental illness, strategies to respond to a peer in crisis, and how they found the strength to talk about their struggles and resiliency! We also had 15 youth serving community organizations attend and distribute information about the resources available to young people and their families in Lynn.
The Night for HOPE was the culminating event of a six month project titled “There is Help & There is Hope: Promoting Mental Health Awareness through Art”. Back in the summer of 2017, The NAN Project was awarded a grant from the North Shore Community Health Network to improve mental health awareness and reduce stigma among youth, their families and the greater Lynn community. We have been collaborating on this project with Raw Art Works (RAW), a Lynn based organization that provides therapy through art for at risk youth. Together we applied a peer-to-peer model where young people use their lived experience to open up the conversation around mental health and educate the community about locally available resources.
This group, which became HOPE, began in September after we identified a group of peer leaders within RAW that were interested in educating their community about mental health. The 10 young adults went through a 4 day Peer Mentor training that covered the risks, signs and proper response to a peer or loved one who may be struggling with their mental health or feeling suicidal. The training then focused on helping the peers develop their Comeback Stories, which detail the mental health challenges that they and their families have faced, and how they found the supports and hope to persevere.
HOPE met on a weekly basis, to share and refine their Comeback Stories, create art that promotes dialogue around mental health, and to prepare for the mental health fair. You can see some of the art in the attached pictures, including posters made using the printing press with inspiring messages and figurines promoting awareness.
The Night for HOPE at the end of the project on January 25 was a huge success, with attendance of over 150 young people, there families and community supporters. We enjoyed inspiring art, good conversation and each others company. Congrats to all at RAW for the amazing night.
Thank you to all the community based youth serving organizations who took part in the health fair that followed the presentation, including Massachusetts Department of Children & Families – Regional Office, DMF, Children’s Friend & Family Services Society, Nagly, The Artful Life counseling center & studio, La House, The Safe Project, YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center, Eliot Mobile Crisis Team, Haven Project, The Food Project, Lynn Community Health Center & their School Based Teams, and Lahey Health Behavioral Services!
You can also see some of the videos we screened by following THIS LINK.
Signs of a friend in crisis & Resources to help them
By Kelley Campbell & Kayla Scott
With the holidays coming up there’s a lot to look forward to, but the holidays can also bring on a lot of stress and anxiety. This can bring up some tough emotions and sometimes the possibility of some negative coping skills.
We thought it would be good to address some of these and remind you that there are positive coping skills and resources we can use instead.
Self-injury is when someone intentionally hurt themselves physically WITHOUT the intent to die by suicide. While self-injury isn’t a suicide attempt, individuals that have been self-harming for an extended period are at a higher risk for suicide ideology and possible attempts.
Self-harm is used as a negative coping skill and shares many of the risk factors of other negative coping skills – trauma, abuse, poor family communication, isolation, anxiety, bipolar and depression. This is not a complete list as self-injury can be a response to anything that causes emotional distress or pain.
For most self-injurers, the act of causing harm to oneself is an actual act to preserve their life by giving them a coping skill in order NOT TO attempt suicide.
Self-harm is NOT about trying to get attention. Actually, most people who self-harm are ashamed, depressed and generally do not want anyone to know what they are doing and will go to great lengths to hide it. Self-injurers don’t want to die, they want the pain to stop and are desperately trying to find a way to do that.
Just a few warning signs…
- Inappropriate dress for the season, such as long sleeves, hoodies or long pants worn consistently in summer.
- Unexplained scars, scratches, bruises, burns or other marks.
- Odd or unexplainable items such as razor blades, matches/lighters or other items.
- Emotionally and Physically distant.
Helping someone who is self-injuring…
- CALMLY ask them if they are hurting themselves and if they are contemplating suicide.
- Once it is established that this is NOT a suicide attempt listen to them. Ask what is making them hurt so much that they feel they need to hurt themselves.
- Assess the level of danger. Do their injuries require medical attention? If so seek medical attention immediately
- Ask questions … ask the person if there are certain triggers that seem to make this worse? Where on your body do you tend to injure yourself? What is making you hurt so deeply that you feel you need to hurt yourself? Ask simple questions that encourage them to share their experience.
- It is important to engage the person in the conversation about what some of the possible consequences may be to their behavior and what the next steps may be in order to find more positive coping skills.
- Don’t judge them. Remind them that you are their friend and love them and want to help them. Help them to seek professional help.
Some things to avoid if possible…
- When you ask them about their self-harming behavior try not to panic. Try to keep a calm tone of voice and body posture. It may be hard to see what they have don but remember for them to be hurting themselves means they are in an extreme amount of emotional pain. Actively listen to what they are telling you.
- Let them talk. Try not to talk over them or minimize their pain with your own but do let them know you understand they are hurting and you are there to help.
- Do not use phrases like get over it, your disappointed in them, what are you doing that for? are you crazy, etc. We want to stay away from negative comments and support them the best we can.
Some positive coping skills to help…
- Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut
- Write down your feelings and then rip them up
- Hit pillows or cushions, or have a good scream into a pillow or cushion to vent anger and frustration
- Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut, or hold an ice-cube in the crook of your arm or leg
- Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel
- Put elastic bands on wrists, arms or legs and flick them instead of cutting or hitting
- Have a cold bath or shower
- Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board
- Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag
- Punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow
- Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay
If anyone finds themselves or someone they love struggling and not really knowing where to find some support the following will be helpful.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – If you need help and want someone to talk to
- Samaritans call OR text : 1-877-870-4673 – If you are feeling isolated, Desperate or uncertain about anything in your life. The Line is open 24/7
- Emergency Services Program/Mobile Crisis Intervention: 1-877-382-1609 – In MA for immediate crisis evaluation call this number and enter your zip code; you will get the number of the closest ESP/MCI that serves you.
- For the Crisis Text Line, text “Listen” to : 741-741
- Peer Support Line: 1-877-733-7563 (Peer-Line) Open between 4 PM and 8PM any day of the week. A person who has been through the recovery process, in English and Spanish
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or crisis please 911 or go to your local emergency room immediately.
- NAMI COMPASS: 1-617-704-NAMI (6264) or toll free at 1-800-370-9085 – For assistance navigating the mental health system in MA call this number or visit http://namimass.org/resources/compass
Additional online resources:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://afsp.org
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org/
National Institiute of Health: https://nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: http://www.sptsusa.org
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/
Screening for Mental Health (SOS) https://mentalhealthscreening.org/programs/youth
Enjoy the holidays!