Our newest guest blog focuses on an amazing resource for young adults. Dana Markey, project manager for NAMI’s Strength of Us, is here to tell us all about it…
I know how valuable it is to find peer support and with that, the comforting knowledge that you are not alone. After an isolating and traumatic childhood, I was lucky enough to go to college where I started up a NAMI on Campus chapter, a student-run, student-led organization that provided mental health support and education to college students.
Through this group, I got to connect with my peers and exchange stories, support and hope with those who could understand. I saw time and time again how just one meaningful connection with a peer could change the course of someone’s life, mine included.
Yet, the reality for far too many young adults, ages 18 to 25, living with a mental health condition is that this kind of peer connection can be hard to come by. College in so many ways saved my life but even then I knew that not all young adults have ready access to a supportive community like a campus—a more universal space was needed where any young adult could access peer support and resources specifically geared toward their needs.
Thus, when NAMI received a grant from the Rodwell Dart Memorial Foundation to create just such a space for young adults, I jumped at the chance to become involved with the project.
As project manager of StrengthofUs.org and a young adult myself, I had the great fortune of meeting many inspiring, candid and empathetic young adults while developing and eventually participating in StrengthofUs.org. As part of this project, we surveyed over 250 young adults on their social networking habits, support needs and resource preferences. We also assembled a wonderful young adult Expert Advisory Group that advised us on all aspects of the project.
Since our launch in March 2010, the website is growing rapidly with young adults opening their lives, minds and hearts to help others by sharing their personal stories, providing mutual support and offering friendship to those in need of a listening ear.
Their stories reflect an amazing amount of resiliency in the face of adversity. One young adult describes how filmmaking saved his life during a time he was battling severe depression, another talks about taking charge of his life after experiencing delusional thinking and paranoia and yet another discusses making it to Harvard after overcoming debilitating Anxiety. These stories are only a snapshot of the amazing young adults who are on the site to offer lessons learned, hope and encouragement to others whose lives have been impacted by a mental health issue in one way or another.
StrengthofUs.org users are connecting with their peers by sharing their personal stories, creativity and helpful resources by:
- Creating profiles;
- Writing and responding to blog entries;
- Posting to “The Wire,” a Twitter-like feature;
- Engaging in discussion groups and chats;
- Expressing themselves creatively by posting their original music, poetry, photographs and other artistic endeavors; and
- Sharing videos, photos and other media.
Young adults can also access relevant resources on and talk about the issues that matter most to them, including:
- Dating and relationships,
- Making and keeping friends,
- Doing well in school,
- Living independently,
- Setting and achieving goals,
- Maintaining weight,
- Overcoming negative thoughts;
- Finding strength and happiness; and
- Much more.
These are issues we all explore in our lives at one time or another, but StrengthofUs.org enables young adults to bond and connect over these topics rather than have to deal with them alone—it’s about strength in numbers so to say.
The over 1,000 talented, compassionate and thoughtful young adults on StrengthofUs.org are just the kind of people most of us hope to meet in our lives. They are quick to offer hope, strength and virtual hugs when others are having a bad day and to celebrate with those having a good day. If there is one thing you can take from StrengthofUs.org, it is that clichéd, yet ever so comforting reminder that you are indeed not alone. I encourage you to join this wonderful community today at StrengthofUs.org.