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PROJECT LETS: 2018 UPDATE


WHAT ARE UP TO? 2018

Increase of funds distributed to directly affected, multiply marginalized communities (Mental Healing Fund)

New hire, Director of Operations

Mental Health Provider Network: building a collective of culturally and socially responsive providers who are: a) come from a trauma-informed training approach; b) willing to offer “donated” sessions, or low-cost, sliding scale sessions; c) willing to meet folks out in the community to avoid utilizing 911; d) willing to use their privilege, power, and network to fast-track urgent folks

Providing more original, accessible, and easy-to-understand content (podcasts and videos)

Making website easier to use and navigate

In-person events and workshops

Expanding community-based chapters & resources

Building out a Facilitation Team to deliver workshops across the US

Expanding resources for non-English speaking communities

Fulfilling development of our Advisory Board

Mobilize in coalition with other community organizations

Beginning stages of peer respite living centers & Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC’s)

Building a new interactive platform

Day of Action on campuses


“I think the bottom line is you have to organize. And I think that’s the same path a lot of groups have had to use to get heard, to get seen, to get care, to get something to happen for them.” — Will Meek, Brown University Director of CAPS

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KEY OUTCOMES FROM CONFERENCE Building sustainable peer-led programs on campus.


Key Conference Outcomes ◦

We’ve retained every chapter that has had a second meeting with us, or that was created at the conference→ in-person interactions are critical

Launching sustainable chapters & developing student organizers (training standardization)

Story-sharing & narrative sharing (meeting other disabled, mentally ill, and neurodivergent students in higher education)

“I think one of the best parts about coming here was-- our LETS chapter just started, and we’re really new, we’re still trying to get the word out and get people to join. And so, fighting with an administration that doesn’t want to hear anything that we have to say, can be really daunting. It’s nice to hear all these different ways that we can approach it, and kind of break it down into steps... So that was really helpful.” -Michigan State Student


A student on leave is still your student.


New chapters New: URI, RIC, UT-Dallas, North Dakota State University, Vanderbilt (Medical school), West Virginia University, University of Alabama-Birmingham 6 high schools: Northern High School (NC), Debakey High School (TX), Johnston County Early College Academy (NC); Friends Academy (NY); The Spence School (NY) Established: Brown, Columbia, Columbia graduate school, Penn, Yale, Cornell, Bergen Community College, Michigan State University, University of Waterloo, University of CaliforniaDavis; Friends Academy (HS); The Spence School (HS) Received requests & then had to drop: UConn, Valdosta State University, Williams, Princeton, Johnson & Wales University, Pace University, Bridgewater State University, 2 high schools


105 direct leaders Total students reached through events: 250+ people Total through surveys: 300-350 Total students currently involved in direct leaders: 105


Chapter accomplishments

Brown Disability Cultural Center; Workshops; PMHA program (6th training cycle, 112 peers, 120+ PMHAs); Article coverage; Mandatory crisis training for student groups; Panel in Abnormal Psychology

UPenn Multiple articles written about their programs; Launched PMHA trainings; survey with 300 responses; collaborating with other student organizations on proposing new policies; Humans of UPenn collab.


Chapter accomplishments


Chapter accomplishments


LAUREN DRAKE, UPenn

"I've had severe OCD since I was a kid, and it was in high school when everything hit the fan. There was talk about pulling me out of school because I would just spend half the day in the nurse's office. I was recommended to be in exposure response prevention therapy - it's basically a technique for people with OCD where you identify something you're obsessing over, let it happen repeatedly, and try not to obsess about it. It was a very stressful experience, but it also shifted my entire world. For the first time ever, I met people who had the same diagnosis as me. We would sit together as we were exposed to our obsessions, so you'd always have someone right next to you who's going through the same thing. The people I met there understood me instead of just feeling bad for me. I want people at Penn to have this experience too. That's why I helped found the Project LETS chapter at Penn - it's a space where mentally ill students can talk about their experiences together. I know what it's like, and it can be really lonely if you never meet anyone else who feels what you do. After therapy, I still relapsed a lot, but what people need to understand is that mental illness isn't linear. You don't just get cured and be done. There's gonna be times when things get bad again but you can't be ashamed or angry at yourself because of it. Mental illness is with you for life, and that's okay."


RYLEE PARK, UPenn

“I am one of the co-founders of LETS - I realized that a lot of clubs here are more focused on mental health, which is really important, but different from mental illness. Mental health and mental illness are on two different spectrums - it’s not that mental health is on one end of the spectrum and mental illness is on the other end. I wanted more conversations about how to cope with anxiety, or suicidal thoughts for example, and I wanted people to be able to meet others who have gone through the same things. I thought there would be a lot of meaning in this kind of discussion.” “I struggle with anxiety, anxiety-induced panic attacks, and depression - the thing with anxiety is that it manifests itself not only in its most obvious ways - where your heart beats fast and you feel fidgety - but for me it also manifests in me as picking my lips, for example. Yeah, you can see my lips are kind of bloody. My lips bleed and hurt, but I can’t stop myself. I literally can’t stop myself from peeling my lips whenever I’m anxious, which is all the time… You know that it’s bad for you but you can’t stop - the feeling that you’re not in control of the behavior of your own body is really distressing to me.” “The feeling of validation is so important in LETS. I can tell them about the things that make me anxious and they understand. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in this. These are people who are well-meaning and want to hear me out and relate and help me, coming from a place of their own personal experience. That’s just very different from someone who doesn’t know what this feels like.”


Chapter accomplishments MSU Cornell Launched PMHA trainings, collaborating with the largest cultural organization on campus, planning panel on abusive households

Distributed survey demonstrating that ~90% of students know someone struggling with their mental health; launched PMHA training last week & already receiving PMHA requests; held panel about mental illness experiences in the fall; held safe/arts space in response to controversy on their campus lately


Chapter accomplishments

Yale Had a panel, “The Realities of Mental Health at Yale”; Gained support from the new Dean of Yale College; Head of the Psych interested in collaborating with PMHAs on the creation of a class; Creating resource guide and hosting conversations in cultural, religious centers; Had meet and greet session with LETS members and faculty/admin; sent holiday cards to patients in psychiatric hospitals

“Attending the first LETS panel at Yale was an extremely validating experience. For the first time, I got an opportunity to listen to another disabled individual who identifies with a "more stigmatized" mental illness, and is also a low-income international student who survived a genocide. This was the first time I've seen this person in my life, and yet I could relate to so many of their experiences; the difficulty of deciding whether to buy food or your psych meds when you can only afford one. The fear that you might lose your visa and be deported if you admit just how sick you are. The way genocide & ethnic cleansing shapes family structure + dynamics and contributes to intergenerational trauma.” -Antonija Kolobaric, Yale employee


We measure our success through the effectiveness of individual PMHA-peer relationships, as well as the demand for our program. We track the traction of a specific program by evaluating the volume of applications from individuals who want to work as a PMHA, and applications from students who want a peer counselor.

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We monitor the effectiveness of our training by analyzing pre- and post- training evaluations; we assess the status and functioning of our programs by conducting monthly check-ins, biannual evaluations, and notes from individual PMHA sessions. These evaluations and monthly check-ins exist to assess key metrics in both PMHAs and peers, including changes in quality of life, behavioral health, help-seeking behaviors, crisis response, size of support system, and volume of coping skills.


“I’m no longer scared of entering places on campus that trigger me. Even just creating a safety plan has been really reassuring. I’m better a asking for help when I need it and knowing the language I need to talk about what I’m going through.” - Peer Feedback


“I think I learned a lot about how to be more interdependent, when before I used to be very unwilling to ask for any sort of help. I also created a crisis plan and with the help of my PMHA began to realize a lot more about my thinking patterns and behaviors.” - Peer Feedback


“When I worked with my PMHA, I was able to regulate my studies and manage myself better. I was more conscious of the medical leave re-application deadlines, therefore able to successfully submit to the university before the deadline. This was integral in me returning to Brown. Though I was seeing a therapist, my PMHA was useful in pinpointing academic & emotional issues I had in the past at Brown and how to deal with those in the future (especially as it relates to my first-gen identity). My PMHA also connected me with a student who successfully returned from leave, which was incredibly helpful.” - Peer Feedback


A commitment to representation & inclusivity

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A commitment to representation & inclusivity

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"I realized a tendency I have to fault myself when a system failed to meet my needs. For example, blaming myself for bad experiences with therapists or little responsiveness in terms of accommodations from the university. Learning about the progress to be made in systems of mental health care has been a relief, and definitely re-framed my perception about my ability to be helped and supported through different services I've used in the past." - PMHA Training Feedback, 2016


Where are we making an impact?

Over 60% of the students who utilize our program increase their help-seeking behaviors

Over 50% of the students who seek PMHAs are students of color

About 70% of students state that they feel more prepared to handle crisis situations

Currently looking at: loneliness; hopefulness; increase in # of folks in support network; academic changes; suicidal ideation


Where are we making an impact? (Peers becoming PMHAs) "I had an incredible PMHA. Her impact made me want to impact someone else the same way by offering my time, expertise, and resources. I hope to gain a few new friends on campus and a sense of impact as both a mentor and an activist.” “Having a PMHA to talk to, who was much closer in age than a psychologist, was really beneficial because they understood firsthand about the difficulties. It felt great to finally be able to talk to someone that I could consider a friend about my mental illness particularly because I had never told anyone outside of my family. I really want to help others and guide them through college as my PMHA did for me.” “I understand the impacts a PMHA can have on a student who is struggling, as mine did when I was struggling with my own mental health. I believe I have a lot to offer and share — and I also believe I have so much to learn from my potential future peers.”


Training folks to think like peers

Project LETS 2018 Update  
Project LETS 2018 Update  
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