iFred is proud to announce a new Ambassador of Hope. Miss Kenosha, Kaitlyn Rhey, currently in the running for Miss Wisconsin, plans to raise awareness and end the stigma of depression and anxiety, both of which she personally experienced as a teen. The 23-year-old is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nursing and wants to educate youth that it is OK to talk about mental health, and that anxiety and depression are treatable.

The problem is widespread and urgent. A new study just released by RAND presents this startling statistic: 36% of all young women either have had or currently have depression. What’s more, among young women, suicide is also now the leading cause of death. This is tragic, and reversible, as depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. Early intervention is needed to counteract this trend.

Learning to hope

Kaitlyn, using her platform, is reaching out to Pre-school and Elementary School students with lessons from iFred’s Schools for Hope program, a curriculum of lessons and activities, that educate children on being hopeful. Kaitlyn is also taking lessons to the Middle Schools, teaching adolescents about actions that can create a hopeful attitude. Students will define hope, learn the importance on giving back, and set realistic goals towards hopeful pathways. She also is working to engage the communities and other nonprofit organizations by planting sunflowers and to raise awareness and posting signs to educate the community on the need to shine a positive light on this important issue.

Kaitlyn shares her experience teaching hope, “I have found the Schools for Hope curriculum to be a useful tool in developing and working on my platform. The lessons have allowed me to talk with our youth about mental health in positive ways, the meaning of success, how to become resilient, and ways to create hopeful pathways in life.

There has been a tremendous response from the students I have worked with in both elementary and middle schools. One school had the children write letters explaining why they wanted to plant sunflowers, and their responses amazed me. Some students felt comfortable sharing their stories with me, others expressed they need positivity in their life, and some even described having symptoms of depression and anxiety themselves. My goal is to let them know that no matter their situation, they can create their own hope, and it’s okay to talk about their feelings. This experience for me has demonstrated how necessary it is to discuss mental health at an early age, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with iFred, helping our youth with mental health.”

Kathryn Goetzke, iFred Founder, says, “We are thrilled for Kaitlyn to get on board and help work with the youth as an Ambassador. She is reaching out to young kids with our curriculum for Hope, a skill based on research that it is teachable and, we believe, key to prevention. We know that having an advocate like Kaitlyn, with such a public platform and media spotlight, shows young women it is OK to talk about and if necessary, seek treatment, ultimately ending stigma so people get treatment. We absolutely must reverse these trends we are seeing today, and courageous leaders like Kaitlyn, using platforms for social good, help us get closer to that goal.”

Schools for Hope is a new curriculum project developed by iFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. It is based on research that suggests hope is teachable. The program is focused on prevention through practical tools and exercises. Kaitlyn Rhey is using the curriculum and you can too. It is a beautiful project, but you don’t have to be a beauty queen to get involved! Join us in teaching kids by downloading the free curriculum, with 10 lessons, and share them at your church, with your girl scouts, at your school, or at home. For more information go to schoolsforhope.org. Help shine a light on depression.

Vote for Kaitlyn today going to the Miss Wisconsin Website. Each vote is $1, and people can vote as many times as they want. The contestant with the most votes will be guaranteed the 11th spot in the finals and a $600 scholarship.