Tag Archives: mentalhealthmatters


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!


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!

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 (sova.pitt.edu):

  • 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 (wisesova.pitt.edu):

  • 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:

SOVA: https://sova.pitt.edu/new-user-registration

wiseSOVA: https://wisesova.pitt.edu/new-user-registration/

Here’s how you can help spread the word!

  • Like our Facebook Page and share our posts with your friends
    • (Our settings are such that others who view our Facebook page can’t see that you liked our page unless you are already Facebook friends)
  • Follow us on Twitter and retweet us
  • Talk with your colleagues and friends about the study