Tag Archives: excitement


Meet Amie DiTomasso, our Moderator Supervisor. Amie is a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh in the Combined Public Health/Social Work program. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Her main interests include: working with adolescents and young adults, promoting positive health, playing the guitar, and teaching or practicing hot vinyasa yoga.

We interviewed Amie to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.

Amie Face

What are your educational aspirations? 

Right now I am very focused on completing my dual master’s program in Public Health and Social Work at Pitt. I am currently working on draft two of my master’s thesis! I plan to graduate in August and jump right into work. Longer term, I aspire to achieve a Ph.D. in Public Health.

In addition to my academic aspirations, I hope to continue my yoga certifications. Right now I am a registered yoga teacher (RYT) in a 200 hour program. I would love to complete my 500 hour certification in the future.

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

            Ten years from now I hope to have completed my Ph.D. and would like to be jointly working in the non-profit and academic sectors. I want to design, implement, and evaluate healthy lifestyle programs (especially geared towards positive reproductive sexual health) for adolescents. I would love to teach part-time for undergraduate or graduate level students who are interested in community and clinical research. In addition, I hope to create and evaluate a combined behavioral health and yoga therapy program geared towards helping young women who have experienced interpersonal violence.

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

            Well, not long agAmie Yogao I was working on a stable handstand yoga practice! Recently however, I needed surgery on my foot and am currently focused on healing (it is important to listen to your body!). I’ve also been working on singing while playing the guitar which, in my opinion, is very challenging but a lot of fun!

What do you like about the SOVA project?

            I love the overarching goals of the SOVA project! I think creating a safe online community for young people is SO important! There is so much information out there and it can be so tough to sort through all of it. I think SOVA is doing a fantastic job at posting accurate, useful, and relatable information. I really like that SOVA encourages users to get involved through blogging and commenting and that SOVA welcomes all feedback, positive or negative!

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

            It can be tough to put yourself out there and share your experiences with others. I think it’s challenging to get SOVA and WiseSOVA members to engage with each other, but it’s helpful to remember these are sites that promote peer support! On the backend there is so much hard work that goes into every little detail, once the SOVA team works out some of those tiny details (or kinks) I believe the project can soar!

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

First off, I think the SOVA team is superb! Our team members have a variety of backgrounds and experiences that we can use to share and learn from one another. I think a major project strength is the usability of the website and the continued efforts to make improvements. The project has the ability to reach people from all over the place and is such a great resource for young people and even parents. In addition, the project already has a number of all-star users who regularly engage with the site and the team. I am very excited to be a part of this project and can’t wait to hear from you!


Crisis Text Line

A year ago we posted about the development of the Crisis Text Line and how it’s a transformative tool for people to be able to text someone when they are in crisis. Since the Crisis Text Line’s inception, they have had 16,185,952 messages exchanged since August 1, 2013.

Which, as Nancy Lublin notes in her TED talk:

“That’s the volume, velocity and variety to provide a really juicy corpus. We can do things like predictive work. We can do all kinds of conclusions and learnings from that data set.So we can be better, and the world can be better.” 

Furthermore, CrisisTrends.org has been launched to share ALL THIS DATA with us! Crisis Trends aims to empower journalists, researchers, and citizens to understand the crises Americans face so we can work together to prevent future crises from happening. From the TED talk:

“This data is also making the world better because I’m sitting on the world’s first map of real-time crises.Think about it: those 6.5 million messages, auto-tagging through natural language processes, all of these data points — I can tell you that the worst day of the week for eating disorders: Monday. The worst time of day for substance abuse: 5am. And that Montana is a beautiful place to visit but you do not want to live there, because it is the number one state for suicidal ideation.”

From: CrisisTrends.org
From: CrisisTrends.org

With this information, we can know when people are most affected by certain mental health issues, and we can create better interventions.

NAMI Conference

This past Saturday a few people from our team went to the NAMI Southwestern PA Annual Education Conference! We took the SOVA FullSizeRenderproject with us! We had a table where we shared materials, talked about our project and made a lot of connections with other groups and individuals in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We hope that by spreading the word about our research study that we can get more youth and parents involved in developing this supportive online community!

At the conference we heard from many different speakers and IMG_0011panels about early onset psychosis, mental health and self care, and doing advocacy work! Be on the lookout over the next few weeks as we give you an update about what we learned!



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!


Texting That Saves Lives: Nancy Lublin’s fascinating Ted Talk on the incredible power of texting

Check out Nancy Lublin’s TED Talk on the incredible power of using texting to collect real-time behavioral data from teens.  Nancy discusses the prevalence of texting among teens, noting that not only are 3000-4000 text messages sent a month, but those texts are opened 100% of the time.  She tells the story of why and how a crisis text line was created for teens, and discusses the success dosomething.org has had with texting over emailing.  Nancy suggests we all start seriously considering this powerful tool when communicating with young adults and teens struggling from depression.





Just in time for Spring– Growing our Peer Community

Greetings and Happy Thursday!

Thanks so much for all of the feedback we have gotten on the site and our latest posts.  As we continue to work out the kinks, it’s super helpful to hear about your thoughts or any issues you may find.

Next week we will begin an exciting new phase of our project– participant recruitment!  One important part of SOVA and WiseSOVA is the community of peers who have experienced depression themselves or been a parent of a child who has experienced it.  With the help of this peer community, we will be able to best tailor the content and design of the site for our intended site users.  We hope that when we start using the website for the research study, we will have built an active peer community of partners that can provide a helping hand to those currently experiencing problems with depression.

We still have many questions like, can we engage more people in discussion if we write about depression in different ways?  For example, sharing someone’s personal story vs. discussing more general ideas of what experiencing such an issue can be like.

Next week we start recruiting from the Adolescent Clinic and we are excited to learn what happens.  Stay tuned as we begin building our community!


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

We Are Going Live!

After months of hard work and research, we are thrilled to announce that we are finally going live!

Orange Desk 2.12.15

We will be using this site to post updates on our project, share the latest findings in mental health research, distribute relevant articles we find compelling, and keep you abreast of any upcoming events we hear about. Coming soon, we will be posting various projects to the site that we would love your help with.  All of our collaboration can be done right through the site.  For quick updates on what we are working on, follow us on Twitter @sova_project.  If you’d like to be on our mailing list, please email us.