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Start-Up Mental Health 'Outlet' Gaining Tallahassee Community Support

The_Outlet.jpg
Jessica Palombo
/
WFSU-FM
The Outlet's founding members (L to R), Nicole McCaffrey, Rosie Richeson, Kirsten Harvey, Whitney Sigall and Chanel Letourneau meet at Bread and Roses.

A group of young people in Tallahassee are working toward opening a nonprofit mental health center. They’re calling it The Outlet, and they say the community support for their vision has been overwhelming. 

The Tallahassee band Mystery Date is a duo that's getting critical acclaim in the national music press. One half of the band is Rosie Richeson. She’s also officially the director of the mental-health group called The Outlet. But she’s not big on titles.  

“It wasn’t even my idea," she says. "I just found out about this place and asked the community if they wanted it, and they said, ‘Yes,' so we made it happen as a community.”

The place she found out about is a nonprofit center in Athens, Georgia, called Nuci’s Space. Its mission is preventing suicide. 

“It was founded in Athens because a boy named Nuci took his life after struggling with depression for five years and not having the right resources to deal with it," Richeson said.

She and the rest of The Outlet board of directors want to bring those resources to Tallahassee.

They’ve been meeting at the Bread and Roses food co-op every Monday night for about three months to shape their plans.

Whitney Sigall, one of the core Outlet members, says the group hopes to be able to eventually help members pay for professional counseling, but that could take years to achieve.

“But right now what we are capable and willing to offer the community is referrals to different therapists in the area that do work on a sliding scale," she says.

The group also wants to offer what they call a ‘safe space,’ where all community members are welcome to hold meetings. Other plans include hosting alcohol- and drug-free activities, hosting workshops led by mental health professionals and facilitating peer-to-peer counseling.

Sigall explains, the idea of peer-to-peer counseling comes from a national movement called The Icarus Project.

“That focuses on external causes for mental oppression and mental illness and uses things like art, as well as activism, to empower and advocate for yourself and the other people within that group," she says.

To financially sustain all of this, The Outlet will also host a music venue. But member Kirsten Harvey says the location is still to be determined.

“A relatively large space is what we’re looking for," she says. "We’re still in search, we’re still applying for nonprofit status, still doing what we can to provide ourselves with funding, so it’s definitely a process.”

The Outlet has held a house show and a music fest sponsored by several local businesses, which helped raise more than $1,500.

Richeson says, she thinks because similar mental-health groups have failed to get off the ground in the past, The Outlet’s supporters are willing to give them an extra push. 

“I think we have a lot of support in our community, and it’s just kind of up to us to get it going," she says.

The group’s core members range from age 20 to 24. Half are students. But Richeson says, unlike other start-ups she’s seen come and go, The Outlet is in it for the long haul.

"We’re all planning to stay here," she says. "We love Tallahassee, and that’s partially the reason we’re doing this, is to make it better. So we’re definitely sticking around. So don’t get tired of us.”

Even though it doesn’t have a venue yet, The Outlet is holding its first peer-to-peer counseling session on Oct. 21 behind the Leon County Library at 4 p.m.

Visit The Outlet's Facebook page.