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Don’t Stop Believin’: Coping with the Loss of Cory Monteith

by RO_Meredith College, TV and Film

corymonteithThe sudden loss of 'Glee' star Cory Monteith hit a lot of fans hard this past weekend. Among them was our summer intern and devoted Gleek Andres Gutierrez, who shares his personal experience below and reflects on the unique challenges around grief and substance abuse. 

I was having a relaxing Saturday evening when I found out about Cory Monteith’s passing. After a fun day of shopping and hanging out, the last thing I expected to hear was that kind of news. So maybe that’s why when I woke up on Sunday morning I was surprised again when my boyfriend reminded me. The rest of the morning was a blur as I tried to comprehend that someone so important to me, who I would consider a friend even though we had never met, was gone. A numbness and shock overcame me, preventing the truth from sinking in fully.

I didn’t know Cory, but I knew Finn Hudson pretty well. On the TV show "Glee," Finn, played by Cory, was a leader. He was the main character, but he was so much more. He became a teacher to his peers, he supported his step-brother Kurt when he was bullied, he inspired his girlfriend and friends to reach for their dreams, and he helped his friends learn to accept every part of themselves. One of the most touching moments for me was when he tried to help Santana come to terms with her sexual orientation -- his performance of, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” still brings me to tears. As a Gleek, I struggle to imagine what the show will be like without him.

Cory’s passing brought forth other feelings and memories for me as well. A few years ago, my mother, who was struggling with substance abuse and had been in and out of rehab, passed away suddenly. Much like Cory, who was in rehab earlier this year, she tried to seek help for her problem. Their passings are unfortunately paralleled in my mind and in my heart. Although there isn’t the same emotional connection with Cory as there is with my mother, I recognize the similarities in their lives and in their passings. They each had their struggles and made some choices that were not always for the best, but they also tried to use the lessons they learned from those experiences to share something better with the world.

"Glee" is a show for young people that is meant to make everyone feel special and realize how important their voice is and how powerful their presence can be. My mother raised me on the values of respect and equality and taught me to be a force of love and positive energy in the world. When my mom passed it felt like I was only supposed to speak about the positive things from her life, which left me feeling uncomfortable because her substance abuse had been such a major part of my life. Likewise, with the passing of Cory, I know that as a celebrity and as someone who played such an iconic character, his problem may either be forgotten or excused. I realize, though, that these two individuals were not great because of, or even in spite of, their problems; they were great people who happened to have problems. As such, I believe that the best thing that I can do is acknowledge them completely, learn from them and move forward with my life spreading the message that I believe they were hoping to teach me.

What about coping? For me, coping comes in many different forms and it depends on what I need at the moment. Sometimes it means that I listen to music, sometimes, like now, I write and sometimes I sit on the couch and watch "Glee" with my boyfriend. Coping happens differently for everyone at different times and maybe for you it means something else. Maybe this passing brought up different memories for you, like it did for me, and coping might mean revisiting strategies that worked in the past. Whatever works for you, provided that it’s safe both physically and emotionally, do it. And if there is something that I take from all of this, it’s that when I need help or when I see someone who needs help, I will reach out.

You may also find some of these fact sheets helpful:
After someone has died how you might feel
How talking to someone can help
Experiencing-grief

Do you have thoughts, feelings or a favorite Finn moment that you’d like to share? Or have you found or made tributes to Cory that you would like to share? Comment below or join our discussion in the ReachOut Forums.

About Andres
Andres Gutierrez is excited to be starting an internship with ReachOut.com this summer! Andres will be entering his senior year at Stanford University in the fall where he is pursuing a degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a focus in Education and Counseling. He finds writing to be one of his favorite forms of self-expression and stress-relief and is also hoping to complete a minor in Creative Writing. At Stanford, Andres has worked as a Peer Counselor, a mentor in the LGBT Center and as an Outreach/Communications Coordinator with a partnership focused on raising awareness of mental health and wellness across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations.

Photo by David Tonterias

Announcing The Reach Out Reelz Video Contest Winners!

by RO_Admin Mental Health, TV and Film

Today's guest blog is from Emily O'Brien, Inspire USA's youth programs manager about the recent ReachOut Reelz competition.

From July to October, The Inspire USA Foundation, in collaboration with AIR (American Institutes for Research), Youth MOVE and SAMSHA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), hosted Reach Out Reelz, a short video contest. Youth from across the U.S. were invited to create a short video for the ReachOut.com website to help their peers to get through tough times and lead happier lives. Winning videos were selected based on their ability to convey a positive mental health message to young people. The winning videos will be showcased at the Youth MOVE National Federation of Families and Children Conference in Washington, DC, on November 18th and 19th 2011. Winning entrants also received prize money to purchase digital products and pursue their interests and talents in digital media.

Madison CARES Youth Group, from the Madison School District in Rexberg, Idaho, won 1st prize ($500) for their video “Make a difference, save a life.”  Madison Cares Youth Group’s video is a collection of student interviews. The messages from students remind the viewer that reaching out to others makes a big difference. Watch the 1st place video here!

Brandy Miller, a student at Lewis & Clark College, in Santa Maria, California, was awarded 2nd prize ($250) for her video ‘“Discover your opportunities.” Brandy’s moving video is about moving away from darkness to discover what fulfills you. Three young adults share what gives them fulfillment. Watch the 2nd place video here!

UMATTERR Kidsnet Douglas, from Cobb County Community Service Board in Smyrna, Georgia, was awarded 3rd prize ($100) for their video “Dreams.” In this video two teens' lives overlap to demonstrate how counseling, believe, and the support of friends can help you rise above a tough time. Watch the 3rd place video here!  

Please check out the other amazing entries as well:

Stephanie Garcia
A New Direction
Life The Journey
Optimism

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest!

Inspire Yourself

by RO_Meredith Mental Health, School, TV and Film

This summer Inspire USA, the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) Factory program for teen filmmakers made four short films that were unlike any others you will see on this site, and possibly anywhere else. These films were the result of local San Mateo County residents whose courage, resilience and giving allowed them write and produce films together, to help others get through tough times they have experienced, but know can be overcome: Inspire Yourself

Earlier this year, we asked teens and young adults in San Mateo County California to write a story about what got them through a tough time. These stories were turned into films by graduates of the BAVC Factory program, a summer-long film making intensive course that gives teen filmmakers the resources, experience and expertise to make top-notch videos. What's better is that all the videos are made for non-profits doing great work in their own local or national communities. After the stories were collected, the filmakers wrote scripts that preserved the stories and breathed them into moving films, like "Write it Out" above. We owe a massive thanks to the folks in San Mateo County for funding this project. We also could not have pulled it off without our 3 filmakers Raymundo Archila, Fifer Garbesi and ReachOut Youth Council member Lauren Lindberg and to Jason Jakaitis & Ewen Wright at BAVC for producing these films with us. If you liked the videos, please leave a comment on our Youtube videos showing your support!

On Saturday, August 27, the stories were screened at the Pacific Film Archive to a crowd of hundreds of teens, young adults and the usual assortment of creative, inspiring people found hanging around BAVC. It was great to see these films get their due props and for Fifer, Lauren and Raymundo to be recognized as the insightful and promising artists that they are.

This was my last project working as Inspire staff, and I will never forget the help of Christina Vo ("Getting Perspective"), Louvenia at Canyon Oaks Youth Center and Katherine at the YAIL/CAMINAR program in Redwood City for their support and role in encouraging local youth to participate in this project. Anastasia Goodstein, our rocking, non-stop and generous Director of Digital Programs was also invaulable (as were the many lessons you helped me learn along the way!). Till the next episode!

What do you think of these interpretations of real stories submitted to ReachOut.com? How might you be able to help someone else with what you have learned?

‘Finding Kind,’ Lauren Parsekian Takes on Girl-Against-Girl Bullying

by RO_Meredith Interviews, TV and Film

We’ve heard a lot about bullying over the past year – especially bullying of gay teens and cyberbullying. ReachOut recently discovered a very cool looking documentary by two young women called “Finding Kind,” which focuses on “girl-against-girl” bullying. It’s part of a larger movement called the Kind Campaign, where young people can get involved in preventing this type of bullying. Check out the trailer, and contact for more information about screenings near you.  ReachOut caught up with Lauren Parsekian, one of the campaign’s co-founders, to find out more about what inspired the film. Have you experienced or witnessed girl-against-girl bullying? Share your experience in the comments.

You have a very real experience with girl-on-girl bullying and have described middle school as the “hardest period of your entire life.”What advice would you offer a young woman who is trying to cope with the same situation today?  

Lauren Parsekian: I think it’s really hard for girls in school to see outside of the school halls and realize that there is so much more to life than what you are currently experiencing.  I remember being in middle and high school thinking that was my whole world, and that the social anxieties I experienced were going to be a part of my life forever.  The reality is, there are so many chapters in our lives and so many amazing people that will come and go within each chapter.  It’s important for girls to know that what they are experiencing in school is NOT their entire life story and it WILL get better. Realize that you are not alone too.  

Within the last two years we have spoken with tens of thousands of girls who share your experience.  We have all been on both sides of this issue and it really comes down to each individual taking a look at themselves and taking responsibility for our actions.  We are not suggesting that everyone has to be best friends because that isn't realistic.  We are simply asking girls to be conscious of the things we say and do to other females in our lives because the drama we create is not fun.  No one likes coming to school or the workplace feeling worried about what another girl said about you or feeling worried that a friend is going to find out about the rumor you started.  When it comes down to it, this is a very simple thing to change. We have all heard it from our mothers a million times but, "If you don't have anything nice to say, DONT SAY IT." It’s as simple as that.  

On your site, you suggest that female “cattiness” is something that, surprisingly, never really goes away as we get older and even lasts beyond college for some women. What ways have you found to create and maintain healthy friendships with other women despite this “mean girl” tendency?

Lauren Parsekian: There are always going to be people in life that you just don't see eye-to-eye with.  It took me a while to realize that reality is perfectly fine.  We don’t all have to be best friends with each other.  As I have grown up, there have been females in my life I who have realized are not positive influences or people who are going to love, respect and support me.  As I have matured I have realized that it is okay to eliminate certain relationships from my life.  That doesn't mean I go around talking badly about the person or start some campaign to get everyone to turn again him or her.  It comes down to taking a look at the friendship and having enough respect for myself and that person to just walk away.  I have learned to surround myself with girls who don't talk badly about other people.  My mom used to always tell me, "If she is talking about other people to you, she is probably talking about you to other people."  It’s so true and something that I stay very aware of in my friendships with other girls.  

Another important thing is to talk to your friends when you have an issue.  Just because I have an amazing group of girlfriends doesn't mean we don't get into arguments or hurt each other’s feelings.  But again, it comes down to having the confidence to just sit down with the person and talk to them about the issues you are having rather than going to all your friends to talk about the problem.  That is when things get messy and the drama starts.  Girls would be surprised to see how easily an issue can be solved by simply pulling the friend aside and having a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.

While filming “Finding Kind,” you interviewed male and female sources, of all ages and walks of life, on the issue of girl-on-girl bullying.  Why is this issue so widespread, affecting not only the girls involved but the community at large?

Lauren Parsekian: This is an issue that has gone on for generations and it affects females and males alike.  It has been swept under the rug and adopted as a "rite of passage" for women and girls.  The media has done a really good job portraying females as "catty, backstabbing, untrustworthy..." and it needs to stop.  Unfortunately it has taken several suicides over the last year for people to wake up and ask WHY this is occurring and has motivated society to speak out about this issue.  Through our work with our documentary and school program we have seen immense change take place and have a lot of hope for the future.

Follow the Kind Campaign (@kindcampaign) and ReachOut.com (@ReachOutinUSA) on Twitter and Facebook, Kind Campaign on Facebook ReachOutUSA on Facebook