Learn About Us

Our Mission

INTO THE LIGHT strives to rid the stigma around all mental health issues facing teens and young adults.

Our Vision

Imagine a society where people struggling with mental illness, regardless of their circumstances, felt comfortable reaching out for help; where in their worst moments, they were met with understanding, compassion and solutions; where as a result they experienced a greater level of safety, dignity and healing.


“Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character.” Pastor Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Driven Life.

Our Story

Our Dad was a loving husband, father, son, brother and friend. He was a compassionate highly functioning individual with unlimited potential, who shared his gifts with everyone. So, when he took his own life in spring 2016 at age 51, it was difficult to accept that he may have succumbed to a severe condition. Perhaps for our sake he masked and didn’t discuss it. However, many aspects of his life may have been profoundly impacted; the way he thought, perceived, coped and viewed the future could have been distorted by his suffering and anguish. Over time we have realized that a stigma comes from a lack of understanding about what drives suicidal thinking or other behavior sometimes shown by individuals tormented by mental illness.


We were blessed with an outpouring of support during this time when we experienced tremendous grief. That gave us a foundation to think through how we might honor our dad’s legacy while also playing a significant role in elevating the discussion, educating and helping victims, survivors and the public gain access to treatment options and have opportunities to move forward and engage in prevention strategies. In fall, 2017, the first INTO THE LIGHT event for mental health awareness included several speakers and a 5k walk/run. The team effort engaged hundreds of volunteers, enrolled 1300 participants/walkers/runners, and generated more than $85,000.00 to help our partner, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provide research, education, screening, advocacy and support programs locally and nationally. We have unending gratitude for the friends, neighbors and new relationships who have truly lifted our spirits during this journey.

Our Reality

Research and statistics by Mental Health America and National Alliance on Mental Illness indicate the following.

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • The percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is 3.94%, or 9.4 million.
  • Youth mental health is worsening. Rates of youth with severe depression increased from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. Even with severe depression, 76% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment.
  • 11.01% of youth (age 12-17) report suffering from at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year
  • There is a serious mental health workforce shortage. In states with the lowest workforce, there is up 6 times the individuals to only 1 mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses combined.


We can play a role in managing the trajectory between mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

  • According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there is no single cause to suicide. It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.
  • Since 1999, the overall suicide rate has risen 24 percent, according to recent statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists suicide as the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 – 34, behind unintentional injury. In 2015, the 45-54 age group had the highest number of reported suicides (8751).


Reducing the Stigma can yield benefits to individuals and society.

  • A study by Brian K. Ahmedani, Ph.D., MSW has suggested that stigma is one of the largest barriers to treatment engagement, even though treatment has shown to be effective, even in low income countries.
  • A report by Patrick Corrigan of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Benjamin G. Pruss of Emory University and Deborah A Perlick of Mount Sinai Hospital indicates that identifying approaches to addressing stigma can help increase care seeking among those with mental illness.
  • A study by the Rand Corporation found that a California stigma-reduction campaign may encourage more people in psychological distress to seek treatment, which can increase employment and hike contributions to the state’s economic well-being.
  • For every $1 invested in the stigma-reduction effort, the state should receive an estimated $36 through higher tax collections, according to the analysis. Looking more broadly at the state’s economy, researchers estimate the stigma-reduction program could generate $1,251 in economic benefits over several decades for every $1 invested.
Our Process

There are three primary components.
l. Elevate Awareness, Engage, Build Trust

Through peer – led presentations and large scale community events, we engage and involve a large demographic; students, parents, mental health professionals, and others from the private, public, educational and health care sectors that help foster an environment for positive mental health conversations.


Getting involved leads to better conversations. Better conversations lead to better content that leads to better connections. Better connections lead to trust. Trust can be a potent and sustainable way to help those that have a mental illness desire to improve coping skills, help parents, friends and caregivers listen and respond effectively, and reduce the isolation a person struggling with a disease or a survivor may feel.


Matthew Wintersteen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director of Research, Thomas Jefferson University, Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior advocates parents upon observing unusual behavior, ask a child if he/she is okay; use reflective listening and feedback to ensure the child trusts that the parent has a full understanding of how the child is feeling. Upon building the trust, parents can then assure the child that together we can start a path forward, there are treatments that are effective, and access can be provided.


Yeates Conwell, M.D., Director, Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Co-Director, Center for Study and Prevention of Suicide, University of Rochester Medical Center reminds us it is important if we are concerned about somebody to show we care. “The power of asking a question in a way that communicates I understand there is something wrong and I am interested in helping can in and of itself be a lifesaving intervention.”


By providing forums where conversations, connections and trust are nurtured, we may change paradigms and move more hearts, hands, advocates, influence and resources to the efforts that address, intervene and provide solutions to those challenged by mental health issues. As we do this we will fulfill our mission and vision.


“The INTO THE LIGHT (ITL) first 5K run/walk was incredible and I cannot wait for next year’s event. ITL has inspired me to become a more sympathetic and spiritual person. It helped me realize that everyone fights their own battle and we are not alone. INTO THE LIGHT has taught me to be a kinder person and not speak negatively about others.  It has impacted thousands of people and it is such a great feeling to know that this is just the start.” Mike Lino


II. Collaboration
We will collaborate with other organizations. In doing so we will increase our efficiency and effectiveness, accelerate learning and distribute skills and knowledge, strengthen capacity and add depth to community impact. Our collaboration will include:

  • an allocation of a major portion of the funds raised through INTO THE LIGHT to selected partners and specific programs;
  • joint efforts where representatives will participate in peer led presentations, community discussions, events or other forums;
  • and other shared experiences such as advocacy work, building bridges with organizations, decision making about strategy and planning.


III. Stewardship
We recognize that sustainable impact is made through ongoing involvement. To the extent possible and allowable by our stakeholders, to maximize potential, we will provide premium stewardship for those who invest time, financial and other resources in INTO THE LIGHT activities. This will include:

  • prompt and meaningful acknowledgement whenever they become involved or make a gift;
  • communicating in as specific terms possible what program or project the involvement or gift supported;
  • communicating in as measurable terms possible, what was accomplished through that program or project because of the involvement or with the gift.
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