The NAN Project
We are proud to induct The NAN Project into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
The NAN Project is non-profit based in Lexington which seeks to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs in communities across Massachusetts. The NAN Project was established in 2015 to empower youth to be agents of change in how we talk about mental health. Created in memory of Nancy Cavanaugh, who took her own life in 2012, The NAN Project gives schools and communities the forum, tools and resources needed to tackle stigma and support youth. Since 2015, The Nan project has built a strong team of passionate individuals that work together to promote mental health education. In their short history, they’ve presented stories of overcoming mental health challenges to 37,166 students, staff, and community members.
The core of their work is our peer-to-peer model, where our peer mentors, young adults with lived experience, present their Comeback Stories to students with the goal of opening up the conversation around mental health challenges. The Comeback Stories detail our Peer Mentors’ struggles with their mental health, in addition to trauma, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other issues facing young people. More importantly, our peers discuss the supports and coping strategies they have employed to find a path to recovery. This approach educates them on the steps they could take if they are concerned about themselves or a loved one.
While in the classroom, Peer Mentors engage students and create a judgment free space to talk about mental health. Peer Mentors participate in a guided discussion about warning signs a student might notice in themselves or a friend that may be struggling, answer questions from the audience, and end by encouraging youth to seek support if they are concerned about themselves or a friend. The students always come up with thoughtful questions that remind the Nan project team why they do the work they do. The team has a diverse array of lived experience that enhances their relatability in all of the settings they present to.
The NAN Project team also offers workshops for teachers and community stakeholders, all with the goal of creating a culture of emotional wellbeing within schools. Several of their staff are trained to administer suicide prevention trainings, such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) and Mental Health First Aid, to community members. Their suicide prevention trainings are evidence-based and non-clinical, which means that anyone can learn how to employ these potentially life-saving techniques. They have also developed professional development programs for educators and first responders so that all community members are educated and empowered to support people they serve who may be affected by mental health challenges in a compassionate way.
The NAN Project currently works with over 70 schools in Massachusetts and is starting to get connected to some schools in New Hampshire.