Lost&Found is a South Dakota-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that aims to do more to eliminate suicide among young adults in the United States.
WHY WE “DO MORE”
In 2009, two 16-year-olds debated on Facebook whether writing the word “love” on their arms would be enough to help their friends struggling with mental health and suicide ideation. Over 10 years later, their spirit and idea – to do more to prevent suicide – has guided Lost&Found to apply proactive measures to serve young adults in South Dakota and the surrounding region.
Lost&Found “does more” to prevent suicide by partnering with community leaders to train peer advocates and mentors, evaluate and measure community prevention outcomes, and deliver digital education and policy tools that are relevant to young adults and their support networks. We apply comprehensive, evidence-based tools to help local leaders confidently choose suicide prevention programs that meet the needs of young adults and their support networks.
When we put young adults at the center of prevention efforts, we can do more to build resilient communities now and for the future.
Our work is about more than just saving lives. We focus on what it means to live life well: with resilience and hope.
Lost&Found delivers comprehensive, data-driven, and resilience-focused suicide prevention and postvention programs and services for youth and young adults (ages 10-34) and their support networks.
We envision a world in which no young adult dies by suicide. We also envision a world where tools and support for developing lifelong wellness are easily accessible.
Caring for others is at the core of who we are. Each member of our team possesses a deep concern for the well-being of others, and our lived experiences inform the way we seek to address suicide.
To help individuals and communities build resilience to suicide requires approaches that meet the needs of all within a community. Our mission commands any person in contact with L&F experiences belonging.
We value understanding of the problem of suicide and relevant risk and protective factors, while also recognizing that communities and individuals are not static. Our work requires us to understand this work and create timely, appropriate, supportive evidence-based systems and tools for meeting new challenges.
When we describe ourselves as a “comprehensive suicide prevention” organization, we know that there is not universal understanding of what that means – or what suicide prevention is.
Lost&Found’s approach to suicide prevention follows a handful of core principles:
Our team applies evidence-based practices for suicide prevention. Using guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lost&Found’s scope of work falls within seven suicide prevention strategies that are researched and determined to be effective. Learn more about these factors.
Risk factors for suicide include both mental health and environmental factors–often beyond our control–and we address both. Though much of our work focuses on mental health and wellbeing, we recognize that suicide prevention also includes efforts that acknowledge trauma, economic circumstance, and healthy relationships. In other words: we must acknowledge that suicide risk affects each of us differently. Learn more about risk factors for suicide here.
Suicide prevention happens in collaboration with a variety of providers at different points in the prevention, intervention, and postvention spectrum. Lost&Found’s work primarily focuses on efforts that prevent suicide before a crisis intervention is needed (prevention) and after someone has experienced trauma related to a mental health crisis or suicide attempt or death in some way (postvention).
We seek to create impact in suicide prevention in ways that are measurable and consider all elements of a person’s relationship with self, others, and community. Lost&Found applies prevention programs through a comprehensive view of resilience that contributes to stronger individuals, support networks, and communities.
Resilience for Self: Skill development and involvement that help individuals build resilience
Resilience for Others: Training for individuals to form networks that can provide peer support
Resilience for Community: Use and application of data, advocacy, and partnerships to strengthen communities of care and prevention
A Facebook argument turns into an organized, online support group.
16-year-olds Dennis “DJ” Smith of Mitchell, South Dakota, and Kayla Roszkowski of Dearborn, Michigan, create a Facebook group titled “Doing more than writing ‘Love’ on my arm” to organize friends and peers to actively help people struggling with depression or suicide ideation. Over a year’s time, more than 3,600 people joined the group to complete four goals meant to reach someone suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. (Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/jessicarone)
Lost&Found is born as a student project.
DJ Smith engages Facebook group in organized “random acts of kindness” work and presents results at Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) national conference in Chicago. On the way home, DJ assembles five high school students to form a South Dakota nonprofit organization with the legal name “The Lost and Found Association.”
Lost&Found goes to college and gets involved in a big way.
As the original board members start their college journey, Lost&Found discovers its greatest strength and foundation: helping college students find their voice and advocate for mental health services. The first Lost&Found chapter was born in 2011 at the University of South Dakota, with new chapters following shortly after at South Dakota State University and Dakota State University (Madison).
Lost&Found transitions leadership while it builds up its campus support efforts.
Board President and co-founder DJ Smith passes the torch to co-founder and current Executive Director Erik Muckey. Lost&Found continues to focus its attention on growing campus mental health needs, creating new training and guidance for student chapters in South Dakota.
Lost&Found becomes a recognized 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.
A new generation of Lost&Found board leadership injects new life and energy into the organization and brings its suicide prevention efforts to a new level by becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The changes set the stage for Lost&Found to increase its impact and become more active in supporting campus mental health partners.
Lost&Found sets its sights on a new vision for impact.
Erik Muckey brings Lost&Found to a Social Entrepreneurship graduate course at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs to examine its program model. Discovering that “resilience” provides a more proactive, inclusive way to bring together students on the topic of mental health, Muckey sets a groundbreaking vision for Lost&Found while retaining the same principle: “doing more” to prevent suicide.
Lost&Found finds new ways to engage students through support from new funders.
With a newfound vision for the organization, Lost&Found forms new chapters in its home city–Sioux Falls–and begins to grow its resource partnerships to better serve the needs of college students and campus counseling centers. Led by a fellowship funded by Bill and Susan Sands and the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, new funders and advisers support Lost&Found, resulting in the organization’s first staff.
COVID-19 creates new challenges and opportunities for mental health and suicide prevention.
The global pandemic comes to the northern Plains, shutting down campuses and amplifying an existing problem: growing mental health conditions and suicide ideation among young adults. In response, Lost&Found discovers new ways to reach young adults struggling with increasing mental health conditions through social media and video content, reaching more than 750,000 people and building new programs for the years to come.
Lost&Found “does more” than ever to prevent suicide by introducing new programs and support services.
New student programs are introduced–the Peer2Peer Mentorship Program and L&F Advocates–and new program divisions are formed to build on Lost&Found’s comprehensive mission. Beyond training student advocates and mentors, Lost&Found applies public health and evaluation services for mental health programs, as well as creating and delivering engaging, digital mental health content and education programs.
Lost&Found is a comprehensive suicide prevention nonprofit serving young adults and their support networks.
Lost&Found reaches more than 2 million social media users annually with digital mental health content while partnering with 9 institutions of higher education and more than 100 mental health and community resource providers across two states. A team of over 10 staff and countless volunteers continue to respond to community needs and deliver impactful programs, research, and policies to put an end to suicide.
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