Thrive on Campus//

Why I Launched My Own Student Mental Health Non-Profit

"I never thought a small idea I had at 1:37 in the morning would transform itself into something much bigger."

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Founder + CEO. That’s a title I never envisioned myself having, but being able to be the founder + CEO of a non-profit has helped me out tremendously in life. I’ve been able to grow as a person which has helped me grow my non-profit organization into something I never imagined it would be.

It all started at 1:37 a.m. on April 8th, 2013. That was the moment that my life changed forever, and I wouldn’t even realize it until a few years later. At the time, I was 15 years old, a freshman in high school, and new to mental health advocacy. I couldn’t fall asleep for school that night, no matter what I tried. I started scrolling through my Twitter timeline and saw common tweets about One Direction, Justin Bieber, and other music related things. But as I began to scroll deeper and deeper, the tweets got darker and darker.

I discovered that three people I followed were all considering suicide. I immediately tweeted them support and encouraged others to do the same, but wanted to do more to prevent suicide as a whole. I thought about what could possibly be effective, and remembered everything that happened the prior year. I used social networking sites as a way to find a community of people who liked the same things as me and made great friends from all over the world.

“What if I created my own community?” I thought to myself. “I could help people find friends and also advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.”

That simple, yet effective idea is what eventually grew to become Buddy Project, a social media movement aiming to prevent suicide by pairing people as buddies.

I launched Buddy Project immediately after getting home from school, and within the first 12 hours, over 3,000 people signed up to receive a buddy of their own. I was shocked that this many people supported my idea, and knew that I had to keep running Buddy Project so it could grow into something bigger. Buddy Project operated as a social media movement for the first two years of its life. In April 2015, I looked more into non-profit organizations and knew that the next step for Buddy Project was becoming a charity.

Since becoming a non-profit at the end of 2015, Buddy Project has expanded its efforts to do more than just pair buddies. We began fundraising for mental health and recovery centers in America by releasing shirts with phrases related to mental health and positivity. Buddy Project’s supporters have helped us raise over $25,000 through the shirt campaigns and help spread our mission to people all over, not just on social media.

I never thought that I’d bring together over 225,000 people throughout the world. I never thought I’d raise thousands for mental health and recovery centers in the United States. I never thought a small idea I had at 1:37 in the morning would transform itself in something much bigger.

Everything I do, I do for my younger self.

I do it for 14-year-old Gabby who didn’t have many friends and went through middle school with social anxiety.

I do it for 15-year-old Gabby who was afraid to speak up and use her voice.

I do it for 16-year-old Gabby who never thought she could make an impact.

I do it for 17-year-old Gabby who wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in the future.

I do it for 18-year-old Gabby who had no idea how she’d juggle running a non-profit while in college.

I do it for 19-year-old Gabby who couldn’t envision where she would be in a year’s time.

I know that each younger version of me would be so proud of everything I’ve accomplished.

Originally published at www.shopglohub.com

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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