Welcome to ‘Five Question Fridays.’ This unique interview series features some of the most influential thought leaders, executives, advocates, and experts in the Health and Human Services sector. Our last guest was none other than Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. Linda went into detail about her role in Mental Health First Aid and show she plans to continue the growth of National Council.
Our guest this week is Gabby Frost, President and CEO of Buddy Project. Gabby founded the Buddy Project back in 2013 in an attempt to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. Gabby grew Buddy Project from the ground up, and her organization currently helps almost 200,000 people around the world talk openly about their mental health by providing them with companionship, resources, and education through a unique ‘buddy system.’ Gabby’s work hasn’t gone unrecognized, as she is the recipient of a Shorty Award, a feature in ‘O, the Oprah Magazine,’ and has earned a chair on numerous advisory boards. Not bad for a 19-year-old!
Check out our ‘Five Question Fridays’ interview with Gabby Frost below:
Gabby, you founded Buddy Project at the young age of 15 in an attempt to prevent suicide and raise awareness for mental health for those around you. Buddy Project now has over 185,000 people around the world signed up to be paired with a buddy. Could you shed some light on how the buddy system works and how’ve you seen your organization evolve since its inception four years ago?
For the past four years, I’ve been pairing buddies manually all by myself. The way buddies are paired is quite simple, as I pair them up based on the interests they select on the sign-up form. I also take their age into account and make sure pairings aren’t more than three years apart.
I’ve seen Buddy Project evolve tremendously since its inception. I started it as a social media initiative and never thought it would transform into a non-profit organization only two years later. I’m really excited because it’s about to transform again, but this time it will be the buddy pairing system that changes. Buddy Project’s official app will be coming out soon, and I can’t wait to share more details about it. Basically, it will make finding buddies much easier and give users more control over their buddies.
Back in July, you launched your “Music and Mental Health” campaign that focuses on mental health in the music industry and how music can help those dealing with their own mental health issues. How did you come up with this idea and what can we expect to see from this campaign in the future?
I came up with this idea after the death of Chester Bennington. Although I’m not the biggest fan of Linkin Park, seeing so many people affected after his death made me want to shine a light on mental health and music. I started making a growing playlist of songs that explicitly talk about mental health or relate to mental health as a direct result of his death. A few days later, I had the idea to create a campaign out of it. I’m a Music Industry major, so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to combine my major and Buddy Project for a while.
It’s still mainly in the works, but I hope to interview singers and bands about mental health and give a platform for fans whose mental health has been positively impacted by mental health.
You recently announced that you’ll be a part of Mental Health America’s first ever Collegiate Mental Health Innovation Council, a program that focuses on students and recent graduates that are finding ways to make a difference in their communities. Can you tell us about what this means and how you got involved?
The Collegiate Mental Health Innovation Council (CMHIC for short) will help me connect with other student leaders from across the country and we will all give each other advice and input in order to strengthen the impact we’re all making.
I got involved by applying for it on Mental Health America’s website and luckily got accepted to be on the CMHIC! I’m really grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to working with everyone else on the CMHIC.
Our 2017 State of Workforce Management Survey received responses form hundreds of nonprofit Health and Human Services executives regarding their current challenges, short-term obstacles, and long-term plans. What have been some of your biggest challenges thus far as a CEO of a nonprofit in the mental health field?
One of my biggest challenges is being a young woman. I haven’t been taken seriously by some people since I first started Buddy Project, and it’s mainly because I’m a teenage girl. It can also be tough to fundraise and raise awareness for my organization. Mental health can be really hard to talk about sometimes, which makes it more difficult to get people to share their story and raise awareness for mental health.
You’ve received countless awards, been recognized by numerous prestigious publications, and have spoken at multiple event for your work in mental health treatment and awareness before your 20th birthday. How do you plan to build on this success and continue the impressive growth of Project Buddy?
I’m really excited to finally say that Buddy Project will grow by launching an app in the near future. I’ve wanted Buddy Project to have an app for the longest time and can’t wait for everyone to see it. Other than that, I want to continue fundraising and help give back to local behavioral health facilities. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of government funded facilities don’t receive a lot of funding for their inpatient and outpatient programs, and I want to help places like these out. People deserve access to treatment that will benefit them, and I want to make this treatment more accessible to everyone.
We’d like to thank Linda for her participation and incredible insight. Make sure to follow Gabby and Buddy Project on Twitter for more updates. If you’re interested in participating in our interview series, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This DATIS blog may not be shared or repurposed without permission.