PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sarah-Ashley Andrews is a doer.
“I can’t chill,” she says, “there’s too much stuff to do, too many people to help.”
The 30-year-old is founder of the non-profit Dare 2 Hope. Andrews started the organization five years ago after a close friend took his own life. He was just 25.
“That’s the first time that suicide ever impacted me so closely,” she says, “but what I learned, it’s pretty common.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals age 25-to-34, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s the third leading cause of death for young people age 15-to-24.
“Suicide is such a taboo topic,” says Andrews, “and I didn’t know– and I didn’t want others not to know.”
A licensed minister, Andrews educated herself about suicide and mental illness. She learned about bi-polar disorder, depression, and the other causes that leave individuals feeling such despair, that they feel taking their life is the only way to end the pain.
“I prayed. I asked God what to do,” she says, “and I had a vision, I had a dream- and I couldn’t not do it.”
Andrews has worked with youth for years, while a student at Bloomsburg College, so working with young people was not new.
The North Philadelphia native soon got her certification in mental health aide counsel, with a focus on young people and got to work.
“I had relationships with teachers and administrators at schools,” says Andrews, who picked up the phone and offered her services. “I called them up- and said let me come in and talk to the kids.”
Since Andrews started, she’s reached 3500 young people, mostly teens.
She goes into schools, holding workshops about self-esteem, depression, and other mental health issues. She says she learned quickly, many young people are carrying major burdens.
“In the Black community we have put a stigma on getting therapy, and on mental health,” says Andrews, “these kids, they are so guarded, they hold everything into themselves.”
Andrews had her own personal struggle with anger. It took her until she was 28 years old to get help with anger management classes. She uses her story as an example.
“I used to spaz or go off and then I expected everyone to act normal once I calmed down,” she says. “I am so much better on the other side of anger management– it was so needed.”
Andrews believes many families keep mental health issues secret from young people. She says she was 29 before she learned some of her family members had faced challenges.
“All my life I never knew that,” she says, “and all he had to do was go get help.”
Bringing awareness of mental health issues is Andrews passion. Her programming is in three Philadelphia schools, and she’s already been asked back next year.
In addition, she’s partnered with the Sean Carter Foundation, bringing suicide awareness to the Made in America Festival. She also brought in rapper Nikki Minaj to inspire the kids.
“She took an interest in it,” says Andrews, “she didn’t have to come, she didn’t have to talk to them- and she even stayed in touch with them afterwards.”
Dare 2 Hope has a big mission, according to Andrews. They want to conquer suicide by making the discussion of mental health commonplace.
One of the ways she hopes to bring this vision to reality is by creating “Hope Centers,” which will provide wellness and mental health services to under-served communities.
“It would be a no-judgment zone for students who are depressed, who have schizophrenia, bi-polar, a place strictly for them,” says Andrews, “that’s my goal.”
In the meantime, she’ll keep changing the game by giving kids hope.
“I want to get kids to dare to hope,” she says, “dare to live past that one moment of despair and know, there’s more to life.”
For more on Sarah-Ashley Andrews and Dare 2 Hope, go to http://www.dare-2-hope.org/.