The hope for IfYoureReadingThis.org is that it will host enough letters for any student to scroll through, stumble upon a letter written by somebody they know, and not only feel supported in that moment, but also know that they have an understanding friend to talk to in the future.
The fear of stigma or judgment often prevents students from reaching out to friends and family when they are struggling with anxiety or depression. A support network is an integral part of mental health, along with professional counseling, and sometimes medication. However, building this support network can be hard, especially when students feel uneasy about whether or not they’ll be met with support and positivity.
Therefore, IfYoureReadingThis.org seeks to have friends come forward first and share that responsibility of being vulnerable. We shouldn’t have all of the hard work be on the side of the disempowered position. IfYoureReadingThis.org functions to close the gap between students with mental illness and the people that care about them. This is a place where we come forward to show our support first. This is a place where we can use our voices to touch the lives of those around us.
It is our hope that IfYoureReadingThis.org will serve as an open-ended university-wide support network to help students struggling with anxiety and depression. Our goal is to help students with mental illness feel comfortable talking to somebody, by identifying the people who want to listen, and by showing an outpouring of love and understanding.
If you're reading this, you are loved.
IfYoureReadingThis.org was created at the University of Virginia by founder Alexandra Pentel in the fall of 2016. Alexandra noticed that social media campaigns, though well-intended, did not do much to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Additionally, students often feel that professional counseling somehow lacks a deeper connection, but fear reaching out to their friends, as they are afraid of feeling like a burden. Fearing judgment, this search for support can be discouraging and perpetuates the culture of suffering in silence from depression and anxiety.
Alexandra sought a solution to these problems, and came up with IfYoureReadingThis.org: A place where the support comes forward first that meets mental illness with action. A place that brings people together beyond a hashtag.
Through outreach efforts across the different communities of the university, IfYoureReadingThis aspires to develop the initiative into a sustainable, university-wide support network.
MARCH 21st, 2017
IfYoureReadingThis.org is recognized by The 21 Society at The University of Virginia with an accompanying donation. "On the 21st of every month, the 21 Society delivers a letter of recognition and encouragement to a group or project that has positively impacted our community. As a project that started this past fall and came to fruition this semester, IfYoureReadingThis.org has already made a difference at this University."
APRIL 10th, 2017
The Cavalier Daily, the second best college paper in the nation (Princeton Review), publishes a feature piece on IfYoureReadingThis.org. Student Council President, Sarah Kenny, commented, "I appreciated it that people I respect and work with in the community shared their stories because it really breaks down the image of untouchability. I felt a responsibility to help break down that narrative in the really powerful way that [IfYoureReadingThis] had been doing through this work.”
APRIL 12th, 2017
IfYoureReadingThis team members speak at Voices of 2018, a TedTalk style event which highlights new projects, research, and startups by members of the University of Virginia Class of 2018.
We hope to update this page as our organization grows and reaches new milestones.