Meet Gabby Frost! A junior music industry major at Drexel University, she founded a nonprofit called Buddy Project which promotes mental health awareness and suicide prevention by “providing positivity, companionship, resources, and education, in order to reduce the stigma of mental illness, bullying and negativity on social media.”
1.) What led you to create Buddy Project?
When I was 14-years-old, I discovered that many of my friends from school and online were going through mental illness, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Because of this, I began to educate myself about mental health and started my journey as a mental health advocate. A year later, I was on Twitter late at night when I discovered that 3 people I was following were thinking of suicide. I immediately tweeted them support and began thinking of ways to prevent this. I got the simple, yet effective idea to pair people together with a buddy based on similar interests and build a community where people could openly talk about mental health.
3.) How has Buddy Project grown over the years?
We started off as a social media movement but grew into a nonprofit organization in 2015. Since then, we’ve been able to raise over $45,000 through various fundraisers. We mainly raise money through the sale of our shirts on Bonfire. There’s multiple designs available, including our newest shirt “Kindness Matters” for Giving Tuesday and the holidays. We also have “You Have a Purpose,” “You Are,” and “You Are Not Alone.” We’re trying to do more in-person fundraising events and did a bowling and a designer bag bingo fundraiser in May and September, respectively.
4.) Why do you think Buddy Project is so successful for teens struggling with metal health issues?
I think teens aren’t given many resources to go to when they’re struggling with their mental health. Most of the time, teens don’t even know what they’re going through is mental illness and they just need a place where they feel accepted and supported. I think it helped that I was a teen when I created Buddy Project. People who signed up definitely trusted a community made by a teen for teens. Now that I’m 21, I still feel like it helps because our main demographic is now teens and young adults. Young people need communities and initiatives led by people just like them. We don’t want to be talked down on or spoken for by older adults, as we have different struggles and experiences compared to them.
5.) What do you see for the future of Buddy Project?
We want to launch an app that will automatically pair buddies, as I currently manually pair buddies together. I’ve been doing this for the past 5 ½ years and have paired over 228,000 people together. We want to give everyone more control over who their buddy is and allow more than one pairing per person at a time. Right now, people can sign up more than once, but they have to wait until we update again to receive another buddy.
6.) What is one thing you wish everyone knew about mental health?
I wish more people knew that everyone has mental health, not just people with mental illness. Mental health affects us all and we all need to prioritize it and give it attention when needed. Anyone can have mental health struggles regardless of their situation, and no one should feel ashamed for seeking out help.