Founding Thoughts: Finding Our Way

It’s been eight years since my friend, DJ Smith, asked me to join the founding board of Lost & Found

What a journey, my friends.

I’ll never forget feeling like I had joined something that could change the world. Since 2010, I’ve had a front row seat to watching Lost & Found touch countless lives.

My role has changed several times over, but never have I been prouder to be where I am now: leading a new generation of students and volunteers as we build resilient communities and people.

DJ and I (2011) led a team that launched Lost & Found while attending our alma mater: the University of South Dakota.

Lost & Found has changed tremendously in eight years but has remained committed to ending suicide for young adults in the United States. There is a feeling of whiplash, at times, when I think about how much Lost & Found has changed and accomplished. It’s not the bad kind of whiplash, though.

We’ve been able to create awareness about the issue of suicide and its impact on America’s young adults online and through several presentations throughout South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and beyond.

We’ve seen over 100 students take a leading role in prevention work at three campuses in South Dakota through our student chapters. Student leaders have hosted a number of 5K runs and remembrance walks, a “Battle of the Bands,” and several rounds of Finals Week, National Suicide Prevention Week, and Mental Health Month programs.

We’ve changed our mission (more than a few times!) to one focused on resilience as a means of helping young adults overcome suicide (Our Purpose).

We’ve attended funerals and vigils, hugged and held the hands of those who have lost loved ones to suicide, and offered support to friends and peers struggling at the intersection of depression and anxiety.

Lost & Found cares about these things because being present makes a difference. These visible actions show what Lost & Found is, does, and impacts. Our philosophy, all along, has been rooted in co-founder DJ Smith’s focus on making a difference, one life at a time (read more here!).

What you have not seen are the countless hours of work behind the scenes to cement Lost & Found’s legacy in South Dakota and beyond. We’re not the same suicide prevention organization we were when we started. Today, we focus on building personal and community resilience and amplifying the work of our partners in the field, both in South Dakota and around the nation.

What does Lost & Found do today?

Our student chapters (Find a Chapter) continue to deliver quality awareness programming to help peers find the help they need to overcome stress, depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. New to the chapters is our focus on developing resilience for self—an understanding of building skills and support systems critical to living your best life—while actively building resilience for others and community by attending training, providing peer support, and leading advocacy efforts.

Lost & Found partners with campus counseling centers to develop an understanding of student needs through research and assessment. Starting at South Dakota State University, we help create a clear picture of a campus environment and what can be done to best support students in a time of intense demand for counseling services (read more).

We seek to provide validated mental health and suicide prevention training to community members, parents, students, administrators, and the general public. Our goal is to add to the efforts made by states to increase training accessibility (read more) through our own staff and through our partners.

As you might imagine, our approach takes tremendous effort on behalf of our team of students and volunteers, and there are so many updates, stories, and ideas we want to be able to share with you.

That’s why we’re launching our blog, entitled “The Ampersand.” On the blog, you’ll hear from me, our terrific team of students and volunteers, our founders, and our partners about our experiences, our work, and our desire to make the world better for our next generation(s).

The Ampersand might give you (good) whiplash from the variety of posts, but our goal for the blog is clear: keeping you informed about the work we do to end suicide for young adults.

I’m looking forward to sharing more with you and, more importantly, helping you join the conversation about building resilient people and communities. We are here, and we are ready to make an impact.

See you on the blog!


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