Gabrielle Frost is out to bust stigma and inject even more compassion and empathy into conversations surrounding mental health.
Gabrielle created the Buddy Project with people suffering from mental illness in mind and love in her heart—and decided late one night that she was going to connect and teach the world about mental illness and suicide prevention. She’s a leader who is on the ground doing important work that is saving lives every single day.
What is the key impact that you hope your non-profit makes on society?
The key impact that I hope Buddy Project makes on society is having a hand in the de-stigmatization of mental health. The stigma surrounding mental health is the biggest contributor to suicide, untreated mental illness and the lack of access to mental health care. If the stigma is erased or diminished greatly, I definitely think that the amount of suicides would decrease and the amount of people given proper mental health care would increase.
What non-profits helped or inspired you while you were in the process of creating your nonprofit?
In April of 2015, I was flown to San Francisco as one of PB Teen’s Extraordinary Teens. While I was on the trip, I met three other Extraordinary Teens: Lulu (LemonAID Warriors), Nick (Gotta Have Sole), and Riley (Rainbow Pack). All three were founders and CEOs of their own non-profit organizations. After getting to know them and their organizations, I was inspired to change Buddy Project from a social media initiative to a non-profit organization.
If you could reach out to one famous musician to write and produce a song about raising awareness for mental health, who would it be and why?
I would definitely reach out to Demi Lovato. She was one of the biggest influences on my life when I created Buddy Project, and I feel like she’d be the perfect person to write and produce it. Although she has songs that relate to mental health, I think it would be even more powerful if she wrote a song that explicitly addresses “mental health,” “mental illness,” or anything directly related to either. Demi is already an outstanding mental health advocate and if she had a mental health-related song, her work would have even more of an impact.
What advice or lessons helped you through the rough times while creating Buddy Project?
When I was creating Buddy Project, it was a complete on-the-spot decision. I had the idea to pair people as buddies in order to prevent suicide at 1:37am on a school night. A lot of my followers back in April 2013 were really into the concept, so I decided I would go through with it and try to make an impact.
Ever since I began Buddy Project, the roughest thing I’ve had to go through was being taken seriously. A lot of people don’t believe in young people who want to make a change for some reason, especially young women. Instead of thinking I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to because of my age and gender, I constantly told myself that I didn’t need these negative people in my life. Whenever I go through rough times, I tell myself that I need to just surround myself with people who believe in me and support me. I know that when I surround myself with these people, I will eventually come out of rough times and be able to flourish again.
What do you wish everybody knew about mental illness?
I wish that everybody knew that mental illnesses are different for everyone. Mental illnesses aren’t like cookie cutters — everyone experiences different symptoms and effects. A lot of people don’t realize that, even people who are mental health advocates. These people need to know that just because someone doesn’t show the same symptoms as another person with the same mental illness, it doesn’t make their mental illness any less valid. Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different and we need to let people be more open about their experiences.
What are your goals for the future of Buddy Project?
My biggest goal is to create an app that will pair buddies automatically. I’ve been manually pairing buddies myself for the past four years and think if an app was created, it would give the users a better experience. I’d also like to somehow connect Buddy Project and my career in some way. I’m a Music Industry major and want to get a job in the music business, preferably marketing. Music is a great outlet for people living with mental illness and is one of the biggest connectors on Buddy Project, so I would love to do work that involves artists and mental health.
What is your relationship like with the members of the Buddy Project?
I have a great relationship with the members of Buddy Project. I’ve become friends with a handful of them and have met some of them in person. I really enjoy talking to different members of Buddy Project and even have a group chat with Buddy Project’s Campus Reps. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the Campus Reps and I think it’s cool to hear everyone’s experiences with Buddy Project and mental health. When I created Buddy Project, I never envisioned making strong connections myself.
Have you thought about collaborating with another non-profit in the future? If so, which organization?
I’ve thought about collaborating with a lot of different non-profits, even ones not directly related to mental health. I’d love to collab with mental health organizations like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, To Write Love On Her Arms and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It would be cool to collab with Girls On The Run, which is a girl’s empowerment program and one of my sorority’s national philanthropies.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Ambitious. Leader. Empathetic. Understanding. Open-minded.
Emily Murphy is a senior Mass Communication major at Winthrop University. If she's not daydreaming about taking vacations to islands with names she can't pronounce, she's binge-watching Netflix and splitting her split ends. She stalks the Instagram newsfeed more than she would like to admit, and constantly wishes she was eating an avocado. In her spare time, she loves to hang out with her friends, write stories and tell people corny jokes. Follow her on Instagram: @emilysmurfy