ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS, I NEED HELP: TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
An Interview with Gabby Frost, Founder of Buddy Project
Buddy Project is a nonprofit movement that aims to prevent suicide and self-harm by pairing people as buddies and raising awareness for mental health.
Founded in 2013, their organization has since made a significant impact on the mental health community, already connecting over 225,000 individuals with a much-needed system of support.
Boasting a following of more than 200,000 people across their social networks, Buddy Project is working every day to let people know they’re not alone and that true, human connection is one of the greatest gifts we could ever have.
SOS Safety Magazine had a chance to interview Gabby Frost, founder and CEO of Buddy Project, about the incredible work her organization is doing, her key accomplishments since starting a nonprofit at the age of 15, and the importance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable and reaching out for help when you need it most.
Can you tell our readers a bit about Buddy Project and what you define your mission as?
Buddy Project is a social media movement turned non-profit organization that I founded in 2013. Our mission is to prevent suicide by pairing people as buddies and raising awareness for mental health.
Buddy Project acts as an online pen pal system and mental health community for people who feel alone. We want to include people of all backgrounds, whether they have a mental illness or not.
Mental health affects everyone and we want to foster conversations surrounding that.
What’s the story behind how you got started?
In 2013, I was a huge fan of One Direction, Justin Bieber, and other pop singers/bands. I didn’t really know anyone at my school who liked them as much as I did, so I went on Twitter to find a community of people who felt that way. I met hundreds of people throughout the world solely based on my interests. I began to discover that a lot of people I followed were going through mental illness, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
One night, I was scrolling through my Twitter when I couldn’t fall asleep and discovered that three people I followed were all thinking of suicide. I immediately tweeted them support and encouraged others to do the same. I also began thinking of ways that I could prevent this from happening to other people. I thought of the simple, yet effective idea to pair people together with a buddy, kind of like a pen pal system.
How does your organization aim to raise awareness about mental health and mental health related issues?
We mainly raise awareness for mental health through social media. Our movement started on Twitter and we now reach over 200,000 people through our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages. It can be difficult to talk about mental health in person for some people, and we want to help build people’s confidence by talking about it online and meeting other people who feel the same way as them.
Social media also allows us to reach millions of people, and even though we don’t have a face-to-face interaction with everyone, we can spread a lot of awareness and education just through social media.
What exactly is Buddy Project doing to help prevent suicide and self-harm?
We give back to mental health and recovery centers throughout the United States. By giving different centers contributions, we hope they can improve their different treatment programs and prevent patients from self-harming or dying by suicide.
We also send out positive and uplifting posts on our social media channels. Sometimes people don’t have someone in their life to motivate them to get past their struggles, and we hope to give people a message of hope through our posts.
Why do you think suicide and self-harm are so pervasive in young people today?
Suicide and self-harm are at an all-time high because young people aren’t receiving proper treatment for their mental health struggles. Mental illnesses are becoming more and more prevalent in young people and they are being left untreated, which puts them in a worse place mentally.
What key accomplishments stand out for you and the organization when it comes to your efforts thus far?
Our biggest accomplishment to date is becoming a non-profit organization. Without transforming Buddy Project from a social media movement into a non-profit, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our other major accomplishment.
Since becoming a non-profit, we’ve been creating shirt campaigns to fundraise money for Buddy Project. In March 2018, we released our “You Are” campaign which states “you are loved, you are strong, you are capable, you are valid.” Through this campaign, we’ve been able to raise over $19,000 and sell over 2,250 shirts. We’ve also been able to raise over $8,000 and sell over 950 shirts through our “You Have a Purpose” campaign for Suicide Prevention Month.
Can you tell us about your Music & Mental Health campaign and what you hope to accomplish with it?
Buddy Project’s Music & Mental Health campaign aims to bring light to how music is a great coping mechanism for artists and fans. We hope to spark a discussion among people who work in the music industry, including but not limited to artists, songwriters, singers, tour crew, and managers. We’re planning on interviewing these people and having them open up about their mental health.
We also have playlists on both Spotify and Apple Music that include songs that explicitly talk about mental health or can be easily related to mental illness. The playlists consist of a variety of genres and artists and we hope to keep expanding on it continuously.
What advice would you offer someone who is currently struggling with depression, self-harm or another mental health related issue?
Don’t feel ashamed to reach out for help. It may seem like things can’t get better or that people don’t care, but you are not alone. There is help out there that can help you, and you deserve the best for your mental health.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is currently struggling with poor mental health?
I would recommend that people struggling with poor mental health try to seek professional help through therapy or a counselling center. But if you are unable to afford that or feel ashamed to ask to receive that type of help, there are many online resources available.
Crisis Text Line is an amazing resource for anyone going through a crisis. If you live in the United States, you can text BUDDY to 741-741 for free, 24/7 support from Crisis Text Line counsellors.
There’s also many more hotlines and resource sites available which you can find on Buddy Project’s hotline page: www.buddy-project.org/hotlines
What’s the one thing you think could be done that would change the world the most?
Adding more mental health education to schools will change the world and the global stigma surrounding mental health. There’s no harm in teaching anyone more about mental health; we all have it.
For anyone suffering, what do you think is the most important message for them to hear?
I think it’s important that people suffering know that they’re not alone. None of us are alone in this world. There are always people out there that want to help you.
What advice would you give to young people who want to raise awareness and be part of the change?
Don’t give up. A lot of people may not take you seriously or think that your cause isn’t important, but those people don’t matter. Do it for all of the people who need someone to raise their voice. Not listening to the negativity has helped me grow so much, and if you just listen to yourself and what you want, you can achieve anything.
What do you want Buddy Project to mean to other people?
I want Buddy Project to be a place where people can be themselves entirely. I want people to think of Buddy Project as a supportive community where people can express themselves the way they really want to and can receive support for what they want to do in life. I want Buddy Project to be the reason why people speak up about their mental health and stand up for others going through mental health struggles.
Do you have any new projects, news, or developments people should be looking out for? And where can people find you if they want to learn more and stay connected?
We’re hoping to put out a Buddy Project app soon that will allow people to find buddies instantly. Other than that, we plan to do in-person fundraising events in the Southeastern Pennsylvania area.
Feel free to use the following links to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.