*Trigger warning: This story contains information about suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help and contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Growing up, Francesca Reicherter struggled with a fear of not being good enough. By 12, she developed severe anxious distress resulting in frequent panic attacks. When she talked about what I was feeling, she was met with criticism for being vulnerable. Following high school, she struggled with this determination to be good enough and be heard. She put a lot of pressure on herself to be the best. While taking a full college course load resulting in graduating in just 2.5 years, her mental health declined.
Her grandparents were in a car accident three weeks before graduation, where she lost her “papa.” She immediately went to her “nonna’s” side and slept in a hospital chair beside her throughout her recovery. Without knowing how to cope with loss or stress, she attempted suicide on Christmas Eve, and 27 days later, her uncle died by suicide. The added loss of her uncle became overbearing, and again without the tools she needed, she attempted suicide two more times, landing her in a psych ward. In the psych ward, she was misdiagnosed and prescribed an antidepressant resulting in a manic episode, revealing her accurate diagnosis: bipolar II disorder. Upon receiving the proper diagnosis and appropriate medication, she began developing the tools she needed to promote and maintain her mental well-being.
Three years have passed. She is currently a student at Pepperdine University studying for her master’s in psychology while running a nonprofit for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. No one spoke about mental health when she was growing up; therefore, she spent so much time suffering in silence and hating herself for it. She turned her pain into action and began developing the tools she never had but always needed to bring hope to those who needed it most. I am an advocate so one day, everyone can seek help without feeling wrong or ashamed and access high-quality preventative and responsive resources.
Francesca is the founder of Inspiring My Generation Corporation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization on a mission of suicide prevention through awareness, conversation, education, and support. They accomplish this through three main programs:
Podcast: Normalize The Conversation is a podcast to amplify people’s voices, information, and stories worldwide.
Encouragement Card Program: They share emotional support by donating hundreds of handmade cards of encouragement to patients hospitalized in psych wards.
Education Program: The Education Program is two-fold, including their workbooks and workshops based on the workbooks.
“You Are Not Alone: The Workbook” is a guide to help youth build affirmations, learn self-love, express emotions, host a supportive mental health conversation, and build coping skills.
“I AM” is a guide to help the reader learn how to identify who they are, how they feel, what support they want, and how to advocate for themselves.
Workshops are built based on the workbooks. Custom workshops are adapted to the audience’s age range and specific needs. The standard workshops include Mental Health Conversations: Learning to Support Others and Reach Out For Support; Learning Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills; and Learning to Love Yourself: A Guide To Building Affirmations and Self-Love Statements. Free virtual workshops are coming soon, hosted by the Peer Support Coalition of Florida.
When asked what we can do better as a society to address mental health issues, Francesca shared that it is crucial to open the conversation on mental health in a supportive way.
“We are not all doctors, experts, or professionals; we cannot all treat someone for their mental health condition; we all can talk about it. We can talk about how we are feeling, check in with our loved ones, offer validation, support, and space for someone struggling, and educate ourselves on warning signs and local resources available.”
It is OK to not know what to do, but it is no longer OK to be silent about something impacting at least 20% of the population.
Francesca shares that kindness saves lives, and it is something that we are all capable of and in need of. Growing up, she was not surrounded by kindness. She was teased, invalidated, and gaslighted when she expressed any form of distress, whether it was sadness, frustration, or fear. If someone had been kind and given her a space to truly feel, express herself, and be heard, she may not have felt like she needed to struggle in silence for 20 years.
Her advice for people struggling with mental health is, “If you are not OK, that is OK, but you do not have to stay feeling not OK, and you do not have to be not OK alone. Reach out. Someone out there will listen to you. YOU DESERVE to feel heard and supported. There are so many people out there who value you and your life. Reach out, know what you deserve, and ask for what you want/need. And always hold on to hope even when you feel hopeless. It gets better, not immediately and not easily, but one day you will start to feel better.”
Currently, she is working on four main projects for Inspiring My Generation:
Workshops. She was contracted by the Peer Support Coalition of Florida to host FREE national virtual workshops in 2023.
Workbook. She is currently developing the third workbook of Inspiring My Generation’s education series. This next workbook is about promoting and maintaining your mental well-being on a day to day.
Encouragement Card Upgrade. She is working on a few updates to the Encouragement Card Program, where people around the world can share virtual supportive and encouraging messages with individuals discharged from psych wards.