Hope For The Day: Inviting People To The Conversation Around Mental Health With Jonny Boucher

Hope For The Day: Inviting People To The Conversation Around Mental Health With Jonny Boucher

OYM Johnny | Hope For The Day

 

Mental health issues are very much affecting so many people around the world. However, the problem is the way we start our conversations around it—talking about it in response to and not ahead of it. In this episode, Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D., brings someone who has been empowering the conversation on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. He interviews Jonny Boucher, the founder of the non-profit organization, Hope For The Day (HFTD). Here, Jonny shares the importance of mental health education with us, letting us in on the events they are doing to invite people to the conversation rather than isolating them. Listen in to this important talk, sparking up conversations that help people understand that it’s okay not to be okay and, most importantly, to ask for help.

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Hope For The Day: Inviting People To The Conversation Around Mental Health With Jonny Boucher

Hope For The Day is a nonprofit movement empowering the conversation on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Hope For The Day is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by Jonathan Boucher.

Welcome, thanks for being here.

Thanks for having me.

It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. We’ve talked on the phone before but I’m excited to hear about this. I was introduced to you by a friend. I’m curious, how did you get into this work?

Like many people who are impacted in different ways, I lost my boss, Mike Scanland, to suicide in 2010. Mike and I had worked in the concert promotion business for many years because my background before starting Hope For The Day was completely focused on the music industry and the place that I thought I was always going to be. Sadly, Mike jumped off his fifth-floor balcony here in Chicago. It opened my eyes to a lot of things, a lot of the pains that he was going through that he was concealing deep down inside. He’s covering up with things like cocaine and alcohol abuse. At the bare bones of it all, Mike was the guy that I thought I wanted to become. He was my Robin Williams and I wanted the lavish lifestyle. I wanted all that.

I wanted to keep putting on concerts because concerts are important to me. That community aspect has been such a huge part of my life for so long. It opened my eyes to how scary it could be but then it got me thinking. The bigger picture was that Mike is number 9 on a list of 16 people that I’ve personally lost to suicide. At that point in time, I was also a year out of college trying to figure out what my next move was. My dad and I had gone down to Mexico. We were starting to work on a line at tequila with a family friend at the time. That’s when I got the call about Mike and I flew back from Mexico with a different perspective on life.

I told my dad I wanted to take some time to challenge myself on what my next move was going to be. On May 25th of 2011, I officially filed and started Hope For The Day. It was simply about empowering the conversation around mental health and suicide before it adversely impacts our lives. To answer your question, out of tragedy comes opportunity. The opportunity has only truly taken advantage of if you see how this tragedy that’s impacting your life isn’t just impacting you. It’s impacting many. If I have my choice, I’m going to live out all my days until I’m old, letting people know it’s okay not to be okay. That seems a lot cooler than the life that I thought I wanted, which wasn’t what I had in my deck of cards. I’m grateful for that. Every day that I wake up, I’m not fighting for those who were providing education or doing outreach with. It’s for those who I’ve lost and for the many people that we’ve all lost to suicide.

Out of tragedy comes opportunity. Click To Tweet

That’s a powerful story. I want to thank you personally for that. As the Journey’s Dream team, we’re actively trying to rewrite the narrative on mental health to one in which mental health is optimal health and wellbeing. It is possible and expected, and where these diversions from solid mental health become transformative rather than tragic. It’s a delight to find that there are more people out there like you doing this. What can you tell us about what you’ve created at Hope For The Day?

I love the real brass tacks story of how when we got started, I needed to dive in and figure out where our place in this community was. There are a lot of people that work in mental health. There is plenty of work to go around in suicide prevention as well. I saw an issue with how we address competitors in the mental health community. The first year and a half of doing Hope For The Day, I had been closing a lot of the doors that I had still opened in the music industry from marketing and advertising contracts that I would do from major festivals to artist management and whatnot.

I had to still spend some of my time during the day focusing on that as I was weeding it out. The other time of the day, I was always focused on getting to know who were the community members who work here locally in Chicago versus nationally. Also seeing what work is being represented internationally as well when it comes to mental health. The first 1.5 years was a research and development phase. It was also me compiling lists and seeing who the players were but also, where can we serve the most? I didn’t want to compete with other people. I wanted to compliment them because one of the core values that Hope For The Day is community. We work in the community and with the community because it breeds collaboration.

The more that we’ve grown, the more that I’ve seen that there’s a lot of good that we can do. Sadly, sometimes the people that are navigating at the head of the ship have a different agenda. Maybe it’s personal and what have you. For us at Hope For The Day, we want to be complementary to the entire community and lift it up by our work. We know that we can’t be everything and anything to the whole mental health world. If we play our part and help build those bridges to resources, if we provide and produce consistent education opportunities for communities, stemming from fifth-grade students all the way to level five penitentiaries, that we can do exactly what we strive to do every single day. That is we meet people where they’re at and not where we’re expecting us. We then focus on raising the visibility of those resources that are available in their community.

When Hope For The Day closes up shop for the day and moves on to the next city if we’re doing a national outreach tour, which we’ve been doing for years, we need to know that the time that we invested in that community is going to be able to make an impact. It allows those people to be equipped with the tools to go back into their communities, households, schools, places of work, and simply wrap their head around this idea that you can talk about mental health. Mental health isn’t scary all the time. There are good things and there are bad sides to it too, but it’s about creating balance. That’s where we thrive. At the end of the day, Hope For The Day’s mission is to empower the conversation on suicide prevention and mental health education.

We probably do it in 28 countries. We do it by working with others to make sure that we’re culturally appropriate as well. We’re doing things the right way and not right away because we want to be the first ones to talk about mental health in places like Rwanda. It’s about making sure that anywhere we go, we do the right job to figure out what the lay of the land is. Not everything is like here in America, especially when you’re traveling internationally. It’s making sure that is appropriate and also respectful. It’s easy to say mental health is this one thing when it’s so complex. People’s experiences with trauma and life in general help navigate and build people’s tools sets on how to take care of themselves or sadly build more masks.

It’s a scary place in the world but it’s an important thing to know that we’re able to bring people together. Our goal is that they live better, whether that’s having more resources, having more tools in their toolbox and knowledge from our education. It’s knowing that if a point of crisis gets put in front of them, that they can react to it in a proactive way and not a reactive way. You and I both know that in society, when do we talk about mental health? When did we talk about suicide? We only talk about it after some high-level profile person dies or tries. We hear about it in our neighborhoods and our communities but it’s still always in response to. Our job at Hope For The Day is to try to get ahead of it and make it easier to talk about mental health so people can understand appropriately when it is time for them to ask for more help, which is it’s okay to ask for help.

OYM Johnny | Hope For The Day
Hope For The Day: People’s experiences with trauma and life in general help navigate and build people’s tools sets on how to take care of themselves or sadly build more masks.

 

You mentioned tours and events. Can you give us an idea of what one of those events might be? Let’s keep it here in the US.

In 2014, we started working with Live Nation and the band’s work tour. We were bringing our message to over 500,000 youth on one summer run. Every day, it was in a different city and a glorified parking lot with thousands of music fans. One of the things that I realized when I started Hope For The Day is that I had all these great opportunities still working with my colleagues in the music industry and entertainment and that we could partner on things. Maybe they had a band or a musical act that was passionate about mental health that we could team up on it. That became a good model for us to keep focusing on because we were able to partner. We’re able to make an impact.

What we’ve been known for especially within our live concerts and festival outreach is having a 10 x 20-foot pop-up tent, half of it has a massive, “It’s ok not to be ok,” which is Hope For The Day’s copywritten slogan. On top of that, we speak from the stage all the time. We create partnerships with artists and different bands to take the 1 or 2 minutes of their set and go out and talk to their fans and get the crowd riled up. You could call it the height man of hope but it was what I always said, we were going fishing because we were presenting this message before an important event for a couple of thousand people. The band was able to reiterate, “If you give it up to our friend, Jonny, or whoever came up on stage talking from Hope For The Day, their tent is right over there.”

It was about navigating people to those resources. It’s by way of meeting people where they’re at out on the road, we’ve been able to distribute millions of resources to people and have conversations about life. Instead of it being talked down to from a doctor or a therapist, it was having a conversation human-to-human. We could equip them with those tools to go out there and ask for appropriate help, whether it’s simply seeking out a counselor or maybe going a little further in-depth and saying, “Maybe I got to explore my family’s DNA and genetic history and everything because I’m feeling some type of way.” It’s always about inviting people to the conversation instead of isolating them.

We still have a massive presence within the Live Nation world. It’s simply because music is one of the many ways that we choose to express ourselves. That’s another tool that we are constantly utilizing. We’re creating partnerships with things that people already relate to and resonate with when it comes to taking care of themselves. That’s why we have our coffee shop because coffee is such a huge part of people’s day. It’s also a great opportunity to have a conversation. We’re the only mental health organization in the entire world that probably releases beers with craft breweries all around the country and soon to be internationally because people are going to drink.

We can say that alcohol is a depressant but if we’re going to live by our rules here at Hope For The Day and meet people where they’re at and not where we’re expecting to be. It’d be a disservice to only have booze at our gala to get our donors a little tipsy so they spend more money and we raise more money when you can simply present the conversation in many different ways. Let people know, it’s okay not to be okay. That’s a beautiful thing and that’s where we’re at in society right now because sadly whatever has been going on with mental health in the last 40, 50 years has been great. We’ve been able to get a lot of research. We get to understand our brains a lot more but it’s still not going to be productive if you shame people. I would rather build more tables and chairs in this country instead of building more walls and kicking people out.

Right on the primary page of your website, Hope For The Day or HFTD.org, you talk about how the suicide completion rates have surged to a 30-year high. Despite whatever research about brain functioning and various therapies, and there has been a tremendous amount of progress made, you still have to look at the results. Some things are getting missed. That’s why an organization like yours as you talk clearly about going out and meeting people where they are is important. Another thing is that you’ve got a blog. Can you tell us about that?

It's okay not to be okay. Click To Tweet

We push out a lot of stories. We love hearing from our community and the thing about Hope For The Day is that at a high level, we are completely peer-led and lived experience-based. We have a clinical oversight committee that regulates everything we do. We try to think outside the box with the stories we’re sharing, the inspirational stuff that people can tangibly relate to. With our blog, we’ve always had that beacon for good testimonials of people who fell down and got back up. That’s the best way to always say it because that’s the journey of mental health. You get to a point where you need to break down and you need to have that help.

It’s how you got back up and how you’re pursuing it, how you’re staying resilient is important. Our website serves as many different tools for it as well because you have the blog that’s more like story sharing. There are a bunch of stories that are about to come out here with a new program that we’ve been rolling on for a little bit. On top of that, you can get educated on our website. You can find resources by typing in a ZIP code on our find help button page and seeing what’s around you. It comes down to our investment from our team is into our community and giving them a tool that they can rely on when the timing is rough for them.

It’s about also presenting in a fun and energetic way and it is staggering. When you go on our website and you see 30 years, that’s bad but it’s the harsh reality. If we are going to get ahead of this situation, we need to understand the situation where it is now, where we’re moving towards and what we’re fighting against. Before we were experiencing things with COVID-19, this was a big problem. Now we’re seeing another surge of people reaching out to our hotlines and support networks more than ever. It’s because people are trying to figure out what’s going on. When we start to neglect our mental health and our physical health, things get hairy. For us, everything that we do is we try to present it in a way that allows people to feel invited to the conversation despite the things that they’ve been through.

It’s fabulous. I was going through your site before and I’m glad you brought this up. You have that link where if you get help, you type in your ZIP code and it lists options for free or reduced food, housing, goods, transit, health, money, care, education, work and legal. It’s quite an extensive list. If our audience goes there, it’s Hope For The Day, HFTD.org.

If you google it, it’s findable. The bigger thing too is that from a standpoint of this since we’re not clinicians, but we do brush shoulders with a lot of clinicians. It’s understanding that mental health is not just able to be categorized anymore as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, things like that. We need to look at all these things that shake up our bottle. That’s why when we were looking for how to build out the most robust resource system in America, it was, how do you showcase all the things that contribute to our mental health? It could also be factors that would persuade us maybe not to get help because sadly we always hear, “There are no resources that I can afford, counseling is so expensive,” all these other things.

It’s how do you get to the front line of those service providers that can provide for you in this time of need, despite your situation. That’s always been our focus is that when there’s a will, there’s a way. We understand too that the process and the experience of getting to ask for help are terrifying and we respect that. We like to tell people all the time that, “If you’re going into therapy and it’s not working out, find a different therapist, that’s fine. That’s okay.” A good counselor is going to say, “I might not be a good fit for you, but because your journey shouldn’t end after seeing one person.” It’s a reoccurring thing and there are many amazing service providers in your community. It’s important to understand that help is a lot closer than you think.

I’m glad you’re mentioning that. I tell people in a first session, even after they’ve come to see me that in order to have any chance for success in therapy, you have to have two fundamental things. Someone that knows what he or she is doing and someone with whom you’re comfortable. You should be interviewing the therapist as the therapist is interviewing you and figure out, if you don’t have those two fundamental things, please feel free to search again. You can have the best therapist in the world but if you’re not comfortable with her, you’re not going to go to her long enough that she could help you or tell her the things that she needs to know to help you. On the other hand, you can have your best friend in the world and be up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning several nights a week talking about everything that’s ever bothered you. That’s nice. It can be helpful but that person doesn’t have the professional distance and the professional training to do for you what therapy can.

OYM Johnny | Hope For The Day
Hope For The Day: When we neglect our mental health, and when we start to neglect our physical health, things get hairy.

 

You’re hitting such an important point. We offer 1 and 4-hour mental health education workshops. We touch on that point often that you as the person that might be the listener for your friend only have so large of capacity until your mental health and sandbox starts to get shook up. It’s important that you build those boundaries because that is being supportive in an interesting way for your friend or family member who might need you. It’s also the simplicity of listening non-judgmentally. It’s trying to allow that person to express themselves so then you could be more helpful. We talk a lot about asking what instead of why. It’s simply because what screams solution, why screams guilt. When you understand that, then you also understand that you have your own boundaries. You have the ability to keep navigating the system with your friend or family member.

It comes down to this too. If one of your self-care tips is every day you go home, you snuggle your dog, and that helps you, that’s great. On the day that you are like, “This isn’t working. I’m going to my local pet shelter and I’m going to snuggle 100 dogs,” and you snuggle 110 dogs because there are ten more dogs that came in that day that need help and it’s not working. That is when you need to go, “What more should I be doing now? What further help?” Maybe some professional help because self-care comes in many different ways and so is therapy. To get to that place of recognition of understanding that there might be a couple of layers to this equation and it’s okay to ask for help, then you should be able to ask for help.

It’s also on the person who’s being the listener. It’s a disservice to your friend or family member for you to be like, “I’m good all the time. Call me whenever.” You might fall asleep or your phone might die or what have you. If you give that and the person reaches out and they don’t get that, it causes people to go back into that place where they feel like, “No one cares about me. I’m worthless. I shouldn’t be here anymore.” By building out that in our education as a big real takeaway, many people have been able to say, “I understand how to be so much more supportive for people in general by having a boundary box because it protects myself.”

We’ve seen the other side of that too where you are that go-to person for that person for so long, then sadly the emotions change from compassionate to, “I’m done with this. Figure it out on your own.” That person goes right back to where they thought they originally were, which was worthless, not worthy of living, and no one cares about them. It’s important that in everything, we understand that we only have so much capacity regardless if we want to be superheroes or not.

In this find help directory that you put together, which is a wonderful thing and it looks like it’s fairly well-populated. For somebody who’s reading who might be a provider or might know of a program, how can they make sure they get listed in your find help directory?

You could simply reach out to Hope For The Day and say, “I am a service provider. This is where I’m at.” Give the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why. From there, we communicate with our internal system to put any service provider that we work within our system. It then gets into a process. The reason why this system is robust and works well is that it has a consistent follow-up and just check in with the service providers to make sure that they’re still there. The hours haven’t changed.

Maybe they’re no longer accepting sliding scale or provide low-cost services. It’s about making sure that people are being presented with the most appropriate information, which becomes a helpful giving gap between Hope For The Day and the service providers. Please feel free and go on the find help page. If you don’t find your services listed on there, reach out to us and we will work with our platform here to get you your service provider because we want people to know that they can ask for help anywhere in America and in the world. That’s a bigger fish to fry.

It's important to understand that help is a lot closer than you think. Click To Tweet

I had the privilege of interviewing Dan Hostetler with Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center earlier in this show series. I was pleased to be able to find their outpatient services listed in your get help directory.

They’re great people and we love working with them in many different ways.

You have a podcast. Is that the same thing as the blog?

No, we have a lot of different forms of media. We have Conversations Cafe. It was birthed out of our coffee shop, Sip of Hope, which we opened on May 1st of 2018 in the Logan Square neighborhood. Sip of Hope as a coffee shop is an amazing place. We have frontline resources there. All the baristas are trained in mental health first aid to have pure base level conversations with our employees or with our staff and our community members. It’s about the magic that comes out of there. Out of it, birthed Conversations Cafe, which is simply our podcast to bring different intersections and communities together to talk about mental health because mental health is diverse.

It also allows for us to have a live podcast in this coffee shop. The shop is closed. We’ve been doing more Conversations Cafe recordings than ever. We do them every Thursday and we do them live so people can tune in live through our live stream of that. They’re also all available afterward through an amazing platform. The thing is that it grows so well because many people are able to come there and find themselves there instead of it just being a generic mental health podcast. We do a good job of trying to bring in as many people from the community to give that perspective. I’m proud to say this as often as I can that I’m a white privilege man who is never going to be able to understand how to navigate the world as a female, as a person of color, as someone from the LGBTQ community, like a unicorn if anyone identifies a unicorn.

It’s a disservice if we say that mental health is what you see right here. With our podcasts, it’s grown. We’ve got many amazing different walks of life there. On top of that, during these pandemic times, we’ve launched a buy or two times a week, we do a thing called Coffee Talk. It is on our Instagram Live with friends of the organization, whether it’s been creatives or people from bands and whatnot. It’s about constantly creating community wherever we go. With how we’re being told to stay home, it’s important that we are able to still provide those things and those great opportunities for people to feel a little bit more normal. It’s exciting to know that we have those platforms to also dive into. On top of that, we’re also offering our one-hour mental health education workshop free to the public. It’s virtually twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Everyone can show up and get involved. Our education team is amazing.

Where does that happen? Is that online?

OYM Johnny | Hope For The Day
Hope For The Day: We talk a lot about asking ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ simply because ‘what’ screams solution and ‘why’ screams guilt.

 

Yes, absolutely. Everyone can go on to Peervention.org, which is our term for peer-to-peer proactive prevention. It takes you right there to the page to register. You’re able to get locked in and you are presented an opportunity to get educated by one of our amazing team members. It is the start of your journey with Hope For The Day.

Is that a group online thing or one-on-one?

It’s a group. We do limit them because we want to make sure everyone feels seen and heard. It is a group thing. We do offer companies and workplaces the same opportunity as well to do it privately.

How do you get funding for all this work you’re doing? Where are the fabulous websites and these different programs and your staff? If somebody wants to figure out how to support you and they don’t have mental health expertise or experience with substance abuse or mental health issues, but they want to contribute, what’s the way that you bring your money in?

Our accountant and our auditor always chuckled for a year because we’re a very unique organization. We don’t receive any state or federal funding as an organization, which during these trying times is proving to be a big strength of ours. We do a lot of fundraising through third-party events with a lot of our community partners, which we call partners in prevention. That can be anything from raising money to releasing a beer to doing a big event, to doing a bigger online giving campaign with companies.

That’s a big way that we drive revenue in. We have amazing donors. Anyone that donates $1 is part of that team and all the way up. It’s about third-party donations and individual donors. We go after some grants but we like to navigate and steer our ship. It is important if anyone is interested in supporting Hope For The Day and the work that we do, we are a tax-deductible charitable organization. We also love to prove to people where our money goes and how we spend it.

We have four core values at Hope For The Day, which is important. I already touched on one, which is a community but education is a massive tool. We stand behind education as the way to trump stigma. You have transparency. We understand that nonprofits for many years haven’t been the most honest with where they put their funding and how they spend it. We’d like to be ultra-transparent. Anyone who’s a donor of Hope For The Day gets a nice report saying, “This is how we spend our money and this is the impact.” We love to show what happened with your dollar. On top of that is tangibility. It is key and important to us because a lot of nonprofits don’t understand how important this factor is. When you neglect it, you miss a great opportunity to be able to allow people to feel that they’re part of what we’re doing here at Hope For The Day.

Education as the way to trump stigma around mental health. Click To Tweet

That’s why we created our coffee bag. That’s what we do. We try to provide great opportunities for people to make contributions and also receive merchandise because people want to wear things like this on their body. It’s great. It’s about being able to show that but at the same time, we do have some programs for high-level donors that get to see a lot more underneath the hood, our projections and where we’re heading. It’s a huge teamwork opportunity with our donors. That’s what we love to do. Anyone that would love to, we invite you to not only invest in mental health with us but also see the ROI, which is human impact.

I appreciate that the donate button is easily accessible and visible on your website. I’ve had some wonderful organizations that aren’t that easy to find, so that’s great. Getting near the end of this interview, what’s an area that I haven’t even asked you about yet that you want to make sure we get in here to our audience?

It comes down to this. I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t the only one who has been impacted by mental health the way that I have. It’s not cool at all to say, “I lost sixteen people personally,” like it’s some medal of honor or something like that. It sucks and all sixteen of those people are my people. I’ve known countless hundreds of thousands of people who’ve struggled because we’ve spent so much time on the road and navigated the system of how to talk about mental health in 28 countries as an organization that is American-based.

It comes down to simply this. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one and anyone who’s reading has been impacted in some way, shape or form. I hope that people can be inspired from the work that we do to go out and start their own version of Hope For The Day, whether that’s fighting one of the other many different unfortunately diseases that impact our communities every single day or by joining forces with Hope For The Day. We are stronger together. We’ve been saying this for years, that we are in this together. It’s because I simply want people to know that out of tragedy comes opportunity.

It is up to you to make the impact and to have the voice of the voiceless be heard, especially if those people that you’re trying to speak for are no longer here because at one point in time, they felt that it wasn’t important that they’re here. It comes down to you can do anything that you want in life and it may sound cheesy. I started this organization out of nothing. I gambled a lot on the probability of positive outcomes and a lot of it has worked in our favor. It hasn’t been easy and it’s never going to be easy, but if you’re hung up in the job or the place you’re at in life, look to how you can take your time here on earth and make an impact.

I appreciate your taking the time. I know you’re busy. We tried to hook up a couple of times before. I appreciate that you did make the time for us and you’re sharing the work you do. I also appreciate the fabulous website and outreach programs. It’s a pleasure to meet you and to know about this work. I have a plan to reach out in about a year and see where Hope For The Day is and do another interview.

The world is so unpredictable. You’ve got to have hope. Click To Tweet

I can’t wait because the world is so unpredictable. When you got this tattooed on your knuckles, “You’ve got to have hope.” You choose to think differently every single day. I’m excited to have that conversation a year from now as well.

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

I appreciate you. I’ll talk to you soon.

Hope For The Day is a nonprofit movement empowering the conversation on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Hope For The Day is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by Jonathan Boucher. In 2010, Jonathan’s boss and mentor, music festival promoter, Mike Scanland, completed suicide. He was the ninth person Jonny personally knew to have completed. Mike’s passing was a final straw moment and compelled Jonny to take action. Hope For The Day was created as a way to honor not only Mike but all of the friends and family members Jonny knew who had died by suicide.

The organization began as a modest idea and put out flyers with national suicide lifelines and other resources. They distribute them within the music industry event venues around Chicago that Jonny was familiar with as a manager and promoter. Jonny started getting on stage to say a few words and encouraging others to reach out for help. He noticed something kept happening. The more he spoke out, the more people would come forward to speak up because he had pierced the silence surrounding mental health and suicide. He recognized that once the silence was broken, others felt empowered to communicate their own challenges.

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About Jonny Boucher

OYM Johnny | Hope For The DayHFTD is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 2011 by Jonathan Boucher, who grew up just north of Chicago and got involved in the music industry at the age of 13 by putting on punk metal shows and creating community spaces where people felt they could belong.
In 2010, Jonny’s boss and mentor, music festival promoter Mike Scanland, completed suicide. He was the 9th person Jonny personally knew to have completed. Mike’s passing was a final-straw moment and compelled Jonny to take action. Hope For The Day was created as a way to honor not only Mike, but all the friends and family members Jonny knew who had died by suicide.

The organization began as a modest idea, printing out flyers with national suicide lifelines and other resources to distribute them within the music venues around Chicago that Jonny was familiar with as a manager and promoter.

Then, Jonny started getting onstage to say a few words, encouraging others to reach out for help. He noticed something kept happening: the more he spoke out, the more people would come forward to speak up, because he had pierced the silence surrounding mental health and suicide. He recognized that once the silence was broken, others felt empowered to communicate their own challenges.

We have come to understand that suicide arises when someone perceives there are no resources available to end their suffering. Arriving at the point of suicidal crisis can stem from many different paths, all of which share a difficulty to communicate and address the psychological impact an experience is causing in someone’s daily life.

Recognizing this, Jonny rapidly formed a diverse coalition of suicide survivors, lived experience peer supporters, clinicians and advocates, who shared his pressing sense of urgency to create tangible action on suicide prevention.

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