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MSU Student Runs Non-Profit to Publish Anonymous Letters About Mental Health Journeys

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

I sat down to talk with MSU psychology and English student Grace Carney about Life Letters, a non-profit she founded that allows people to submit anonymous letters about their mental health stories. The organization’s mission is to de-stigmatize mental illness while increasing awareness of oppression and privilege. Carney says the biggest part of their mission comes from encouraging people to talk about their struggles and experiences.

“The more we see these experiences, the more people are like this is not a random thing,” Carney said. “It’s important, real, it needs to be talked about.”

She says that one of her personal goals is to make sure people feel validated, adding that working with her team has allowed her to not feel alone.

“They are all so busy but still make time to give back,” she compliments on their behalf, “They’re super sweet. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in trying to accomplish what I’m trying to accomplish.”

Carney has a team of about 30 interns that help run the social media and website. Life Letters has a social media team, a content/video team, a research team, a writing team, and an editing team. The writers help submit letters to the website by journaling, and then the editors edit all the letters to make sure they’re readable; the editors also put content warnings on all the letters and organize them by social identity via keywords. This way, someone looking to read about the Black experience, for instance, can easily find letters that they’re looking for.

Her research team makes surveys that seek to improve the importance of certain mental health aspects. For example, they measure self-care’s impact on people’s mental health—measuring things like anxiety and depression as dependent variables. The content team will send in screen recordings of them playing games and an audio recording of them reading the letters. The social media team helps the research team list stats on topics; every semester, there are awareness topics picked out for each month and split up by week. Teams also look up email addresses for organizations that could interested in a collaboration. 

Carney notes the persistence it’s taken to create a non-profit as Life Letters reaches its first anniversary. She talked about how she’s always been passionate about mental health, explaining how she considers her business to be her way of helping people.

“I had the idea [for Life Letters] in high school,” Carney said. “I made a Wix site for it, but at that point, it was a different idea. I think the idea was people write to us and then we’d have people sign up for an email list. And then send letters to people on that email list. But things changed so people could come on the website and anonymously look at the letters. We also rearrange the letters in different categories. I went through with it because of Michigan State; If you give back to the community, they give you funding for it. They gave me 5,000 dollars. The Cube at Michigan State offered to make the website for me.” 

When detailing what the future of Life Letters will look like, Carney says, “I hope we further fight against oppression. Mental health is inextricably combined with oppression and privilege. I hope that we can educate people on how important this is.”

She also noted how she wants to help people improve their empathy for other social identities. You can send letters to life-letters.org, contact the @lifelettersmi Instagram, or email projectletters@gmail.com. Telling stories is the first step to de-stigmatizing mental health – you never know who might benefit from your experiences or how you might be impacted by another.

Sydney Savage is a graduate of Michigan State University with a BA in psychology and a BA English (with a creative writing concentration). Part of her novel called "I Love You More Than Me" is published at Red Cedar Review, and an excerpt of her other novel, “Just Let Me Go” is published at Outrageous Fortune magazine. She will be getting her Masters in Social Work at the University of Michigan and volunteering for CAPS. She plans to work with adolescents and eating disorder populations. Along with this, she'll be continuing her passion for novel writing and pursuing her dream of publication. She hopes to bring more mental health and body image themes into the book publishing market. She is a current member of Michigan Romance Writers. You can read some of her works on her personal blog and website: https://sydsavage13.wixsite.com/sydwriter13 Her twitter is @realsydsavage13 and her writing insta is @sydwriter13