has only just begun...
When Project Proactive’s story began, Shoshana Mehler was working part-time at a hospital as a Behavioral Health Councilor for patients with mood, anxiety, and eating disorders. The other part of the time, she worked and volunteered for a nonprofit called “Hope for The Day” as a Project Manager. Shoshana was inspired by HFTD’s youthful and trendy approach and felt that the Jewish world could benefit greatly from adopting some of their methods.
While the Jewish community rallies together effectively in reactive circumstances, Shoshana felt that building a community founded on proactive education, awareness, empowerment, leadership development, unity, and authenticity would be transformative to the emotional well-being of the next generation.
In April of 2017, Shoshana created an Instagram account (@project_proactive) to try to bring this message to the Jewish Community. As the account grew faster than expected, Shoshana realized that she could not work, go to school, be a mom, and continue to run this growing Instagram account on her own. She asked Rebecca Shapiro, a Marketing and Communications Consultant with a background in Education, Curriculum Development, Graphic Design and Illustration, to join her volunteer efforts.
The timing was right, and Rebecca was excited to get involved in a project that had so much meaning and potential for impact.
Together, they generated a growth plan, that has not only gained incredible traction, it has placed Project Proactive in the spotlight as innovators in the Jewish Community’s mental health world.
In 2017, I started Project Proactive because I saw a gap in society that needed fixing. At the time, I was working part-time as a behavioral health counselor for patients with mood, anxiety, and, eating disorders and part time at a nonprofit startup proactive suicide prevention organization called Hope For The Day. I realized that I was spending much of my time breaking stigmas and disseminating resources for the general public, but was not doing much for my own community- the Jewish community.
My goal was to raise the visibility of the Jewish resources that were already out there. I wanted to make it trendy and normal to speak about mental health openly. At the time, I had not seen anything like that on social media and was determined to be the change. A few months later, Rebecca Shapiro joined and brought the account to the next level. We have continued to grow and impact many people over the past few years.
When I am not working on Project Proactive and continuing to build mental health resources and programming, I am spending time with my husband and 2 sons, and studying for my medical school classes.
My favorite hobbies are refinishing furniture, scrap-booking, and pretending I know how to be a photographer. I am passionate about making a difference in the world and thrive off of doing my best to make the most of every moment.
I’ve always hated the idea of psychologists.
Everything about it sounded cringey to me… the vulnerability, the lack of control, opening up to a stranger with your most personal details. The first time I saw a psychologist was in college after I had a panic attack in front of my college guidance counselor about an interview coming up. I went reluctantly, knowing I would not get anything out of it. I probably made her cry that night. Did you think this story would end with me telling you that the experience opened my eyes, helped me with my anxiety, and changed my life forever? WRONG.
Even though I now work in the field of mental health and have learned a lot more since my initial “I hate psychologists” mindset, there is always a part of me that recognizes that the topic feels uncomfortable.
But that’s just it.
The impact that the stigma has is not fair.
It’s not fair to the people who need to navigate mental health crises on their own, it’s not fair to the teen who has no one to turn to because they don’t have access to resources, it’s not fair to the next family who has to deal with the pain of a child who overdosed or committed suicide… all because the topic is “easier” when hidden.
We have no choice, but to be proactive.
Every life matters.
We save lives by speaking up early, by being proactive, and by normalizing the topic of mental health.
As a closet perfectionist and self-proclaimed expert in multitasking, I keep pretty busy raising 4 boys, trying to spend time with my husband between both of our crazy schedules, working with multiple clients as a communications & marketing consultant, while writing, editing, illustrating, advocating, entertaining, and praying (on good days).
My undergraduate degree is in the field of Education and I hold diplomas in Graphic Design and took courses to upgrade for Digital Marketing. Curriculum development and writing are my passions, and I have had the good fortune to help develop some pretty life-altering materials that have had a wide-reaching impact. Most recently my work with Margaret’s Legacy is positioned to shift school cultures in a huge way with cross curricular, SEL & value-based Holocaust education.
In my spare time, I enjoy thinking too much, hot yoga (when I actually make time for myself), nature, writing, taking amateur photos from weird angles, museums, history, art, and I am quite obsessed with reading pop-psychology books and drawing parallels to Torah & educational concepts.
In our late teen years, my husband and I began to lose friends to suicide and overdose. In fact, the month before our wedding alone, we lost two friends.
Over the years, we have experienced this more than we should, and have been impacted either personally or second hand (through friends and family) with infant loss, child loss, infertility, mental illness, abuse, trauma, and untimely deaths.
With an immense amount of faith, good friends, the ability to talk openly about emotional challenges, and some really good therapists, we have been able to support ourselves and others through challenging periods as best we can.
And sometimes we can’t help.
Sometimes we don’t know we should help.
Sometimes it’s not within our capability to help.
Sometimes we just weren’t in the best place ourselves to help.
It took a lot of counselling to learn that we can’t be everything to everybody, that there should be no shame or guilt in that, and that establishing healthy boundaries is the key to it all.
So, once I learned I can’t be everything to everybody, I had to establish my priorities. Since now my children are teens and exposed to the same types of tragedies I was at their age, my priorities MUST be to create a better world for them. While I can't prevent all tragedies, I can help their world feel a bit safer with open dialogue and advocacy.
Advocacy for a society that people can talk about their emotional pain in the same way they can talk about the pain of their broken leg.
Advocacy for a world that no one should ever feel shamed or weak for having any type of thoughts or feelings, should never feel judged by a community to the extent that they don’t seek help, should never judge themselves to the extent that they feel unworthy.
With your help, we can make this happen.