Kaleb Wood ’21 (right)

Kaleb Wood ’21 — This summer, I am fortunate to serve as an intern at Hope For The Day in Chicago, Illinois, thanks to the generous support of the G. Michael Dill Fund. Hope For The Day (HFTD) is a non-profit focusing on proactive suicide prevention by providing outreach and mental health education. They spread the message that “It’s Ok Not To Be Ok” in order to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

By focusing on proactive prevention, Hope For The Day takes a unique approach to mental health. If you sprain your ankle, for example, you know to apply ice and rest so that no more significant injury develops. This is the same approach we want to take with our mental health. We want to raise the visibility of resources and start the conversation to disrupt the highest risk factors for suicide.

So far this summer, I have been focused on helping structure and grow HFTD’s Agents of Impact program, the sustainable, grass-roots initiative for proactive suicide prevention. This initiative gives others the knowledge and resources to spread HFTD’s mission and education programs throughout the world, currently spanning all 50 states, 26 countries, and 17 languages.

In addition to my work with the Agents of Impact program, I help serve as a volunteer throughout Chicago at our Outreach actions. This has allowed me to get involved outside of the office and have a direct impact on the community. I have had conversations with people of all ages and walks of life about how mental health challenges have impacted them. I have heard some stories of heartache, and some stories of hope. It has opened my eyes to the widespread impact of mental illness, and how just one conversation can help discard the shroud of stigma.

This opportunity has been a greater experience than I could have ever asked for. It has completely reshaped how I approach mental health, both for myself and those around me. I have even had to confront my own stigmas and am a more empathetic person because of my experience with Hope For The Day. I have learned how to have conversations about mental health in a more thoughtful and effective way, and most importantly, I’ve learned that It’s Ok Not To Be Ok.