Trigger Warning: suicide
The mental health community is always in dire need of more hard working advocates to supply mentally ill people with the positivity, support, and help that are essential for their recovery. Fellow young mental health advocate Nicole Vana strives to accomplish just that. Nicole has founded two projects, Spread The Love and Project 2020, complete with two popular Twitter accounts and a Youtube Channel all dedicated to helping those who suffer from mental illnesses. Read this interview to learn more about Nicole’s impact she is making on the lives of mentally ill people everywhere.
Q: What inspired you to create not only one, but two mental health oriented projects?
A: “My account for Spread The Love was actually originally made as an anonymous vent account, separate from my personal account, during some of my darkest days. When my mental health started to improve, I decided to change the name of the account and use it to help others. If you would’ve told me that the account would be where it is today back when I first created it as a suicidal and depressed 17 year old, I would never have believed you. Project 2020 came along when I was 18, about a year after my Spread The Love account was created. I was inspired to make Project 2020 after I did some research on suicide and came across a prediction made by the World Health Organization that said by year 2020 there will be 1 suicide every 20 seconds with 1 attempt every 1-2 seconds. After reading that prediction, I couldn’t let it go and immediately founded Project 2020 to begin raising awareness.”
Q: How do you get your message out to those in need?
A: “It helps a lot that I have more than 70,000 followers on Twitter, but unlike most accounts, the number of followers isn’t important to me on the basis of popularity. The more people that I can get to join my movement, the better chance we have at changing the world of mental health and also the more people I can reach out to and not only help, but also educate. It is very beneficial for me to have gone though many of the issues that I tweet about; they are all things that I understand and truly come from my heart. Many of my followers can sense that and I believe that it greatly helps in getting my messages out to those in need of hearing them.”
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through Project 2020 and Spread The Love?
A: “Ultimately, I wish to change both the conversation of mental health and the world. I’m hoping that as my movement and project continue to grow, more opportunities will open up for me to advocate for important issues, such as the stigmas that surround mental illnesses and suicide. At the end of the day, I just want to save as many lives as I can and let people know that they are not alone. If I am able to inspire or help just one person in this world through my movement and project, I will be very happy.”
Q: How can people support or participate in your projects?
A: “Unfortunately, I’ve taken a break from Project 2020 because I am working on an app (My Pals). It’s very difficult for me to juggle my project, movement, Youtube channel, and work for my app all the while being a college student-athlete. I do the best I can though! However, you can certainly support Project 2020 by following the page on Twitter (@RealProject2020) and spreading the word around. I hope to continue to sell bracelets and more merchandise in the near future in order to expand the project and eventually turn it into a non-profit. As for my movement, Spread The Love, you can support it by following the page on Twitter (Spreading_L0ve) and subscribing to my Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb8sHuLz_ndU8mkP_Sll8Dg). The more people that join the movement, the stronger we will become in changing the conversations surrounding mental health.”
Q: What are your hopes and plans for the future of Spread The Love and Project 2020?
A: “Well first, I hope to get my app, My Pals, launched by 2017. My Pals is something that I’m very passionate and excited about. I’m certain that it will save many lives. As of right now, that is my major project for the future, but new ideas are always coming to my mind. As for Spread The Love, I plan to continue to watch it grow as I keep educating as many people as possible. I’ve had many of my followers reach out to me to talk as a guest speaker at their school, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also started thinking about publishing a book sometime down the road to inspire and educate others. I have lots of plans for my movement and project to spread awareness!”
Q: Do you have anything to say to those reading this interview who may be having suicidal thoughts or mental health struggles?
A: “You aren’t alone. When I was struggling, I honestly thought that I was the only one. My movement put into perspective how many people in this world truly are struggling, just like how I was. There are thousands of people with mental health troubles and I talk to many of them on a daily basis. I also see so many of my friends and family in my real life that struggle too. You need to realize that you are worthy of love, happiness, and an awesome life. Sometimes life is hard, but we all struggle and we are all human. It’s not stupid or weak to ask for help. We are all just trying to survive in this difficult world. No one is perfect. Don’t give up, people do love you.”
Q: How can people best contact you?
A: “My Twitter DMs are open to anyone on my Spread The Love account. Although I have lots of followers, I made a promise to myself to help those who directly ask me, no matter how big my account gets. So, I am typically very good at responding to those who need me!”