Team Spotlight: Kaitlin Glover

Meet Katilin Glover, one of our Master of Social Work graduate interns.  We interviewed Katilin to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.


What are your educational aspirations?

I am working on my Master’s in Social Work with a certificate in mental health. Someday, I would also like to enter a doctoral program. I am interesting in working with young children or adolescents in the mental health field. I am also interested in research about the LGBTQ community and how it affects mental health.

Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now?

I see myself having a job in the field of research or clinical populations. I also will hopefully be close to receiving my doctorate. One of my main goals is to move to North Carolina after graduating because I love the weather!

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

I’m working on graduating with my MSW. I am also in the process of converting to a more active and healthy lifestyle by running 4 miles a day, lifting, and eating better foods!

What do you like about the SOVA project?

I think it’s awesome that we are trying to create an online community. There are so many barriers for treatment and by creating an online environment we can increase the avenues to access greatly. I love the idea of people being able to communicate with others who are feeling just like them, with just the click of a button.

What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed?

I think with any new project starting out, it’s hard to find the first few individuals that are going to use the site. I have confidence that it will pick up tremendously once people get to know navigating the website and feel comfortable sharing personal experiences anonymously.

What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has?

The SOVA research team is such an awesome and motivated group of people! It really makes working on this project enjoyable and exciting. The SOVA and WISESOVA pages are also very user friendly. The information is very interesting and I can see it helping a lot of people!

Team Spotlight: Katrina Keane

Meet Katrina, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and one of our Masters of Social Work Graduate Interns.  We interviewed Katrina to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.katrinakeane_sova

That are your educational aspirations?

Right now I’m in my first year of the MSW program at Pitt, I’m very excited about the COSA curriculum and to really start to dig into that as my year progresses. COSA is the Community, Organization, and Social Action concentration program with in the MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh. I don’t have any Ph.D aspirations at this point, but the future is fluid!

Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now?

I currently work at the YMCA doing childcare, but my goal is to transition to a different role there once I complete the MSW program; hopefully, starting with the residences at the YMCA. I want to work at the YMCA forever! I think it’s a great organization with a lot of career flexibility to do some amazing work with many different populations because each YMCA location is tailored to the community that it is in. Which is something I love about it.

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

My husband and I are in the process of transitioning a teenage foster-adoptive placement into our home. I’m very excited about this, I’m nervous about becoming a “new mom” and my goals are to engage in self-care daily and to continue to work toward balance in my life.

What do you like about the SOVA project?

I really like how supportive everything is, and how it is very positive for everyone involved, including the research team!

What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed?

I think that getting people to know about this amazing project and engage on the website will be difficult at first. But I also don’t see that stopping us from doing some meaningful work with a fantastic population!

What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has?

I think the research team is motivated, kind, and really cares about the research and positive outcomes for the youth we are engaging with!

Internet Interventions in Behavioral Health

eHealth Seminar on eHealth Interventions in Behavioral Health with Dr. Lee M. Ritterband, Ph. D. from the University of Virginia

Dr. Ritterband recently did a short lecture at the University of Pittsburgh on how the internet has helped change the way we can help people. It’s amazing how much the internet has changed over the past 20 years and how much it has transformed our lives.

Lee M. Ritterband, Ph. D. Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences

By using proven Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques Dr. Ritterbrand’s team has developed a large number of online programs that are highly structured, semi-self-guided, interactive and tailored to the user for a number of conditions. These websites include: UCanPoopToo, for pediatric encopresis; SHUTi, for insomnia; and BGAT, for blood sugar monitoring, among others. His lecture was very informative and shed some light onto topics I hadn’t yet considered while doing Internet Interventions.

I was excited to learn so much about Internet Interventions because of the work we do on the SOVA project.  I hope that we can carry some of the information we learned from Dr. Ritterband into the work we do here so that we can Support Our Valued Adolescents!

SOVA Feasibility Study

SOVA Graphic

We are excited to announce that we are now in our recruitment phase of the Supporting Our Valued Adolescents (SOVA) feasibility study!  In this phase of the SOVA project we are hoping to find if it is realistic to recruit an online community of 100 users to each of our sites.  This would mean 100 adolescents on our SOVA site and 100 parents of adolescents on our wiseSOVA site.

We will be recruiting:

Adolescents/Young Adults (

  • 14-26 years old
  • experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past
  • not have current active suicidal thoughts (have a plan to act on these thoughts) or past suicide attempts

Parents (

  • Has an adolescent/young adult (ages 14-26) who has experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past

In order to sign up all participants will need to do is register through our sites:



Here’s how you can help spread the word!

  • Like our Facebook Page and share our posts with your friends
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  • Talk with your colleagues and friends about the study


Preparing Our Students for College


7184808054_faa7bac3f1 Photo Credit: Illinois Springfield via Compfight cc

Recently, the JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The Jordan Porco Foundation released the results from a study showing how young adults transition from high school to college. Many challenges arise at this tough time that can greatly affect how your future plays out. If we, as healthcare providers, know what these challenges are, we can help intervene!

The Harris Poll of 1,502 U.S. first-year college students found that emotional preparedness- which is defined by the ability to take care of oneself, adapt to new environments, control negative emotions or behavior, and build positive relationships– plays a major role in students’ success during their first year of college. Students who are less emotionally prepared for college were more likely to have a lower GPA and label their college experience as terrible or poor. 60% of the students wish they had more help with their emotional preparedness for college.

One of the major issues is that the support they wish they had was not there. 51% of the students said they found it difficult to get emotional support at college. So where do these students look for support when they need it?

76% turn to their friends for support

64% turn to their family for support

24% turn to the university staff for support

While some students are seeking support, 65% of first year college students say they tend to internalize these feelings about such challenges. Here at SOVA, we are determined to figure out a way to bring this percentage down. Our goal, via technology, is to provide another mode of support. Creating a safe and anonymous environment online, can give adolescents a way to out their challenges without feeling embarrassed. An online support community can also be extremely accessible at all times, unlike most of the other support systems.


New Team Members

kaitlin2We are pleased to have two Master of Social Work Graduate Interns to our SOVA Project team! Katilin Glover has her Bachelors degree in Psychology & Sociology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Currently, she is working on her MSW with a focus on mental health at the University of Pittsburgh.  She has an interest in creating a safe and equal environment for all LGBTQ members everywhere and destigmatizing mental illness.

katrinakeane_sovaKatrina Keane has a BS in Political Science from East Carolina University, and is a Licensed Massage Therapist, and foster parent. She currently is working toward her MSW at the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA).  If Katrina had a magic wand she would eliminate child abuse in all its forms forever and have free ice cream everyday.


Halloween and Mental Illness Stigma


Photo Credit: ms.Tea via Compfight cc

First of all we here at SOVA want to say “Happy Halloween!”, and we hope everyone has a safe and fun weekend.

Unfortunately with each year comes stigmatizing and hurtful costumes. Mental illness is not a Halloween costume, in fact with 18% of the population suffering from anxiety, and 17% from depression it is a common experience and hardly something that should be portrayed as “scary”, especially since evidence has shown those with mental illness are no more violent than those without mental illness. 

At SOVA we want to reduce the stigma that adolescents facing mental illness encounter in order to receive treatment they need. Can you imagine what it must be like for an adolescent to see their friends dressed up as “Gone Mental”, for example?  Adolescents need to see positive examples of experiences and treatment with mental illness and the earlier they seek treatment the better their outcomes are likely to be.  Attitudes and stigma saying that these kind of costumes are acceptable are what may prevent some teens from getting needed treatment.

I found this guardian article to provide some truthful insight into this frustrating issue.  How do they suggest you create a accurate mental illness costume for Halloween?:

For Depression:

To dress like someone with serious depression, just wear your normal clothes. But you should take several hours to put them on due to a chronic low mood and almost complete lack of motivation. It may be hard to replicate this sensation if you don’t actually have depression, so try wearing a rucksack filled with anvils and bowling balls to get a sense of the effort required to do the most basic task.

For Anxiety:

To dress like someone with serious anxiety, just wear your normal clothes. But you should be fearful of how people will react to your clothes, for no discernible reason.You should be constantly afraid and on edge, for no discernible reason. Occasionally, you should be so overwhelmed by inexplicable fear that it becomes incapacitating. You may try to offset this unreasonable fear by feeling compelled to perform constant repetitive actions which feel as though they help despite there being no real logical justification for this. You shouldn’t stop thinking about them though.

Most importantly the article concludes:

You may think that the “costumes” described here don’t sound at all enjoyable, making it seem like serious mental illness is no fun at all.

Yes. Funny how that works.

If possible, please speak up this Halloween season if you see anyone wearing an offensive costume.

If you are interested in reaching out to companies selling these costumes, Mental Health America has some great information on who to contact.

Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art

VGQOCW85M2 (1)Photo: Stocksnap creative commons

Two weeks ago SOVA was excited and honored to share a little bit of our project during the Health 2.0 event titled “Behavioral Health and Disruptive Technology Innovations” organized by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Contemporary Craft.  What a great opportunity! We were so lucky to be able to learn about other behavioral health technology innovations and able to meet and learn about a number of different agencies and individuals doing such amazing work in behavioral health right here in Pittsburgh.

This event was held around an exhibition currently on display at Contemporary Craft in the Pittsburgh Strip District called “Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art”. This free (yes, free!) exhibition is a must-see for any local Allegheny county residents. From the website, the project describes this experience:

Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art explores the impact that mental illness is having on society, and the role the arts can play to both encourage positive self-expression and guide effective mental health promotion and treatment. Mindful examines creative responses to mental health conditions through the inclusion of artworks made by artists who have been diagnosed with or affected by mental illness.

This exhibition will be on until March 12, 2016 at Contemporary Craft in the strip district of Pittsburgh (2100 Smallman St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222), and can be seen  Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm.  But this is worth checking out sooner rather than later!

At SOVA we  know stigma and isolation are just some of the barriers those with mental illness face to getting the treatment they deserve, and creativity is one great way to break down and explore these barriers and encourage self-expression.  We immediately felt connected with this Mindful Project, as we also have a mission  break down barriers of isolation and stigma through peer connections and factual mental health information on our moderated social media websites. We look forward to continuing to learn and grow from other innovative behavioral health innovations as well as creative projects such as Mindful.


New Survey Reveals Mental Health of Allegheny Teens

The Allegheny County Health Department, in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Pitt Public Health, conducted an anonymous telephone survey of more than 1,800 teens, the results of which were released in August.  This survey was called the Healthy Allegheny Teen Survey (HATS) and was completed due to the lack of available data on our adolescents here in Allegheny County.

For us working on SOVA project this information was especially startling.  The depression and suicide questions in particular found:

  •  During the last 12 months, 19% felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row so they stopped doing their regular activities. [30% nationally]
  •  10% report that they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months [17% nationally]
  • Of those 10%, 42% report that they attempted suicide one or more times in the past 12 months.
  • 35% report that they have hurt themselves on purpose in the past 12 months (no national data available)



On some points Allegheny is doing better than the national average. However, at SOVA we think that 19% of our adolescents feeling sad or hopeless every day for two weeks in a row and 35% having self-harmed is 19% and 35% too many. Our adolescents deserve so much better.  SOVA was created in order to link adolescents and their parents to positive interactions with peers in a moderated environment and correct information about mental health to reduce barriers to treatment. With one fifth of our adolescents in Allegheny stopping activities they love due to depression, and over one third of our teens coping with self-harm we know there is still a lot of work to do.


Post-gazette: Survey reveals concerns, positives in health of Allegheny county youths

ACHD: Allegheny County Health Department

National Suicide Prevention Week



Did you know?

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24
  • Every day there is an average of over 5,400 suicide attempts by adolescents in grades 7-12
  • It has been found that four out of five people had shown  warning signs before committing suicide

National Suicide Prevention Week was formed to raise awareness and advocate for these alarming statistics, and corresponds with a global effort.  This year the national dates are September 6th- 12th.

Here are some national campaigns you can take part in to show support for preventing:

Sources: AFSP,  Jason Foundation

Supporting Our Valued Adolescents