Tag Archives: a little help from our friends

Share our posts!

If you are someone who likes to share blog articles you enjoy with your social network, feel free to look through our articles on sova.pitt.edu (intervention site for adolescents) and wisesova.pitt.edu (intervention site for parents).  We were excited to share with you a couple weeks ago the reasons we opened up our blogs so that anyone can read the articles. If they would like to comment, then they have to log-in and enter the study.  The current phase of the study is to get feedback on the sites to continue to improve them, and to build our user community.

We’ve added easy to use share buttons at the bottom of each blog article, so feel free to share away even if you are not in the study! Thanks for your continued support!

Project Uplift

Last week when we attended the  NAMI Southwestern PA Annual Education Conference. One of the speakers was Zach Valenti. Zach is a filmmaker, Voice Actor, and Mental Health Activist who believes that the power of communication and mindfulness are life changing.

While an undergraduate, Zach studied film and what makes people “care” in a film setting. He used these skills and tools to interact with his fellow students at organized events and created a carnival around mental health awareness. He found that adding an element of fun, meeting people where they are and engaging naturally was the best way to reframe conversations around mental health.

He started Project Uplift in 2013 as a way to “gamify” stress reduction through a neurofeedback installation piece. He wanted to make mental health fun, and not a chore. Here’s his TEDx talk about how he came up with the idea for Project Uplift.

One thing Zach announced at the NAMI conference was that Project Uplift is Open Source – free for anyone to get the plans to make their own Uplift Tower. By wearing a headset and being guided through a simple breathing exercise, when the wearer relaxes, the brainwaves trigger the fan to lift up a globe themed beach ball. By going within and uplifting themselves, they are lifting up the world.

Zach’s speech reminded us that burnout is a real issue and that leadership starts with self-care.  We think that Project Uplift is a great initiative and we’re excited to share it with you!

The Super Power of Empathy

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

In this short animated video she explains the four qualities of empathy: perspective taking, staying out of judgement, recognizing emotion in other people, and communicating that emotion. She goes on to explain, very concisely, how to implement them.

Using empathy is incredibly important in the work we are doing with the SOVA project. While our feasibility study is in full swing, we are seeing comments and connection with our websites. As providers we remain cognizant of our clients needs and emotions as they open up to us.

We recently shared this video on our project websites – what do you think? Did Dr Brown hit the nail on the head? Tell us what you think in the comments!



Team Spotlight: Kripa Venkatakrishnan

Meet Kripa Venkatakrishnan, our new Research Assistant. Kripa is an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Molecular Biology with a focus on cell and developmental biology. With an interest in making healthcare more accessible to the under-served populations of the world. We interviewed Kripa to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.



What are your educational aspirations? 

I’m currently in between two career paths (although they’re closely related in some aspects). For the longest time I’ve always thought and had the desire to go to medical school and become a doctor (in pediatrics or oncology), however, I’ve recently been exposed to a lot of public health issues/cases and it’s really been peaking my interest. I believe that I would also be very happy to pursue a Master’s in Public Health as well. 

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

I can see myself either getting through med school or continuing with clinical public health research. I could also see myself travelling around the world or trying to do something spontaneous like that. 

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

Academically, I really wanted to get involved in some psychological and behavioral research projects (which SOVA is clearly perfect for) and witness as many types of research as I can.  Also, my mom and my dad speak 4 different languages and I’m trying to catch up to them and learn as many more as I can. 

What do you like about the SOVA project?

I think the tie that SOVA makes with social media and depression/anxiety is very interesting and unique in comparison to research studies that I have previously been exposed to. It is more than well known that social media is playing a greater part in our lives by the day, and I think creating a forum where users and moderators can channel social media in a way that’s productive and healthy is very progressive and clever, especially when this forum can eventually be proven to drive positive results. But in addition to just that, the SOVA project hits very close to home for me as I once was an adolescent who also faced depression and anxiety. Helping others to not feel the same way I felt or lessen the duration of their struggles is the one of most driving feelings for me and is what makes me like the SOVA project so much.

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

I definitely think that the biggest barrier would be the marketing of the project to the participants, but on that same note it’s definitely far from impossible. What I believe to be the biggest hurdle for participants is the initial decision to try it out especially at a time in their lives when motivation may be low. However, I think that once that is overcome, participants will realize how much SOVA has to offer to the quality of their life. It’s always just that initial pitch. 

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

The first time I first went onto the SOVA website, I could immediately tell that it was already very established, organized, and up to date which is great from a usability standpoint. But in addition to that, coming into my first day of work, meeting everyone and seeing how supportive, motivated, and committed everyone was, really made the biggest positive impact on me (at least from an outsider’s perspective). I think that the passion that everyone exudes will always be one of the biggest strengths that SOVA will have especially with the nature of the research it’s exploring and I think everyone has so much to offer! 



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!

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Collaboration Projects Coming Soon…

Hi everyone!

Pretty soon we will be unrolling some projects on the collaboration page. Expect to see a wiki-style space for working together on various activities. We plan to keep this fairly private in that those who are interested in participating will need to use the password sent in our weekly emails to access to the collaborative aspects of our site.  If you don’t already receive weekly emails, please email
socialmediastudy@chp.edu and let us know. We also plan to keep all related posts private and only visible to the collaborators. We are super excited to take this next step, as the success of our work is extremely dependent upon your support and feedback.

Stay tuned and we look forward to hearing what you have to say!


Please meet SOVA and WiseSOVA


We are super excited to have both our SOVA site as well as its sister site, WiseSOVA .  Feel free to check them out, but please don’t try to register on the site – still working out some tweaks!  Before we get started with unraveling  our projects, we wanted to give you a taste of how we plan to use each site.


Our plan is to create a peer network of adolescent and young adults (AYA) with a history of depression and treatment that are interested in helping other adolescents currently struggling with depression and trying to decide whether to get treatment.  We would like  to develop a repository of AYA-created personal stories and education that we can use to continuously update the website design.


Similar to the SOVA site, our plan is to create a peer network of parents interested in helping other parents with adolescents with depression.  We will be developing another repository of parent-created personal stories and education.

Periodically, we will also ask for feedback on some of our latest website-related projects:

  • Testing of possible website designs
  • Forming a user community
  • Creating content for the website
  • Participating in a satisfaction survey on SOVA involvement


We hope to start recruiting interested peers in the beginning of March and will continue to update you and ask for your valued input on how this process is going!

We are looking forward to having you on board and can’t wait to start collaborating!

spring pic

Think Alouds

This week, we have finalized the basic look of the adolescent/young adult (sova.pitt.edu) and the parent (wisesova.pitt.edu) sites.  Prashanth, Mitalee, and Anvay from the Information Sciences program at Pitt have been scouring wordpress for the right plug-ins and trying them out on our practice site. We’ve had some wonderful young people and parents volunteer to give the first feedback on the two sites in a process called: “think aloud.” A “think aloud” is as simple as it sounds but sometimes hard for people to do since its not common to say all of your thoughts about completing a task out loud.

Would you be interested in completing a think aloud? 

This is basically an interview where we learn about whether we designed something well. We ask you to complete a task (like if we said to make a piece of toast and gave you a toaster). Then you describe everything you’re doing (I put the bread in the hole, I push the button down…) And then we audio and video record it and see if there is anything bad about the design (toaster) we can fix!
Here is a silly example:

If you are interested, please email Alex!