The Buddy Project breaks the stigma of mental illness, one Buddy at a time.
In modern society, mental health has become a widely discussed and debated topic amongst many, including today’s youth, teachers, parents, and various other groups. The urgency to discuss such a topic can likely be credited to the abundance of conditions affecting a myriad of high school and college students across the globe.
While the majority of these conditions are genetic— including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and autism — a large sum can also occur due to various environmental factors that may negatively impact an individual. These factors can cause or aggravate existing conditions such as anxiety, depression, several different types of panic disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder, most of which can also be hereditary. Because these conditions can caused/aggravated by environmental factors, they can also thankfully be prevented through a plethora of resources.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a tremendous stigma surrounding mental illnesses, particularly amongst today’s youth. Subsequently, there are several organizations attempting to combat this dilemma by breaking the stigma and promoting a variety of resources for those facing mental illness. Among these accessible resources is The Buddy Project, an organization designed to partner students across the nation with someone of a similar age and background in order to offer alternative forms of support from fellow students facing various forms of mental health issues. In recent years, former Spartan and Buddy Project Ambassador Anja Oss has made a tremendous contribution in her mission to break the stigma surrounding mental health through her work with The Buddy Project as a Brand and Campus Ambassador at Pacific Lutheran University. Oss explained, “Essentially, The Buddy Project’s goal is to provide a community with resources for students struggling with mental illness as well as breaking the stigma around discussing such things.”
The Buddy Project was started by a high school student facing the same everyday pressures that affect the vast majority of students. Five years ago, Gabby Frost, the founder of The Buddy Project, discovered that students with mental illness often need support from other students with mental illness. Frost found that support in creating The Buddy Project, an online resource that matches people of similar ages and interests so they can flourish through each other’s support. Oss went on to explain, “A lot of kids these days are under a lot of pressure with school, jobs, trying to get into college, and a bunch of other stuff. There’s all these expectations that could weigh really heavily on people, and even if you don’t have a diagnosis for mental illness, it’s very important to keep an eye on your mental health. Programs like the Buddy Project help people connect to each other and start talking about things that are kind of taboo still, and really shouldn’t be.”
Ultimately, student involvement in such programs is highly encouraged, regardless of whether students have experienced or are currently experiencing mental health issues. Although The Buddy Project has made quite a name for itself, there is still plenty of room to grow. Students can get involved by visiting www.buddy-project.org, where they can match with a buddy or apply for an ambassador position.