This week's Conversation Corner introduces the Founder of Lost Got Found, a mental health and suicide prevention nonprofit organization, to discuss her journey with mental health and the resources that her organization provides.
I usually start these posts with light-hearted anecdotes, which talk about the messy life of a post-grad (me). I was today years old when I realized that honestly, the humor I use in my writing is how I deflect from how difficult this year has been. Humor gets me through life, making people smile makes me smile, but I preach the importance of openness, so today is going to be different. Today, I present an interview with someone who has changed countless lives and who will do the same today as she continues to be vulnerable and share her own experience as the Founder of @lostgotfound (and a fellow post-grad from my alma mater).
I created Dear Diary at a time when I truly felt lost. Everything that I had been working towards (not just for the past four years in college, but for my whole life) felt like it was slipping away. After interviewing @emilytorchiana, I realized why it is so important to share with you all an organization like @lostgotfound on Dear Diary.
I discovered @lostgotfound on Instagram during my sophomore year of college. I honestly don't remember how I found the account, but I do remember the feeling I had when I started reading the individual stories featured on the account. I felt like I could breathe. Why? Because I knew that I wasn't alone.
That is the undeniable power of @lostgotfound, it allows its followers and readers to feel less alone in situations that can feel extremely polarizing.
Right now, a lot of people feel alone, especially post-grads, so I wouldn't be living up to the purpose of Dear Diary if I did not have important conversations like this one with @emilytorchiana.
*Trigger Warning: Suicide, Sexual Assault, and Mental Health Discussed*
DD: Introduce yourself and Lost Got Found for our Dear Diary readers.
ET: “My name is Emily Torchiana. I grew up outside Philadelphia but went to the College of Charleston in South Carolina to study psychology. I’m 26 years old and I’m the founder of Lost Got Found, a mental health and suicide prevention nonprofit organization, as well as a professional speaker. I currently live in Los Angeles with my best friend from college.”
DD: What was your inspiration behind Lost Got Found?
ET: “During my time in college, I started talking about my experiences struggling with my mental health, as I found that every time I shared, others would share their mental health journeys with me and it made me feel less alone. I later made it my mission to share these stories publicly, with permission, to help others silently struggling to know they’re not alone. I created Lost Got Found in college to educate students about mental illnesses and suicide prevention, with a mental health curriculum for high schools to talk about these topics in an open and interactive way. I currently lead that nonprofit from Los Angeles, but work with schools across the nation.”
DD: What was your own post-grad experience like?
ET: “After college in 2017, my nonprofit was doing really well, due to the amazing support of many donors and community members. I was honored to be able to be a TED Talk speaker and fortunate to be selected as the national Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award recipient, with previous recipients such as Steve Jobs and Oprah. But in 2018, I was sexually assaulted and it severely impacted my mental health, as well as my motivation for the nonprofit. It has been really hard for me to accept because I felt like I had worked so hard to get my nonprofit to the place it had been, and then it all went down the toilet with the sexual assault because I honestly lost all hope for myself, so there was no way to help others when feeling that way. After joining a support group, seeking out therapy, and moving to Los Angeles, I am in a MUCH better place than I was two years ago, but it’s because I’ve been prioritizing my mental health before I can help others (similar to the oxygen mask on a plane- you have to do yours before you can assist someone else). It was difficult for me to make the decision to take a step back temporarily from my nonprofit to work through what I’ve been dealing with, but I’m excited to work more on Lost Got Found once I’m in a better headspace! The nonprofit is still continuing, just at a smaller scale.”
DD: What do you recommend for any post-grads who are struggling with their own mental health?
ET: “You’re not alone. It sounds so cliche but it’s true. And the more you open up to your friends or family about it, the more you’ll find others can relate to the same feelings you have. My biggest recommendation would be to talk about it with anyone, but also a therapist is a great option if you have the means to get one. I also love yoga, so that’s been a huge help to me. Finding what makes you happy (hobbies) and doing more of that can make a huge difference. And to remember that it gets better. Seriously! I attempted suicide in high school and I’m so thankful I did not succeed because I don’t think my 15-year-old self would imagine how happy I am today.”
DD: In 2020, I believe that mental health is more important than ever before, what resources can people look for through Lost Got Found?
ET: “Lost Got Found has hundreds of stories from individuals around the world who have shared their mental health journeys to help you feel less alone. We also have a list of resources and helplines/hotlines on our website to contact! During this pandemic, many more people are facing the struggles of mental health than previously. You don’t have to take on those feelings alone. There are people willing to listen and help you!”
DD: You’ve accomplished so much (even having your own Ted Talk), what is your advice for people who want to start their own organization?
ET: “I appreciate that! I didn’t plan to start an organization ironically, I just had an idea of wanting to help people struggling but had no clue what I was doing (and I still don’t know everything). So, with no business background, I started it. There have been many bumps along the way and learning as I go, but if you’re passionate about something, go for it. You never know how your organization will help or impact others. My personal life motto is if it helps one person, it’s worth it. So, go for it!”
DD: What are you most excited about for next year both personally and professionally for Lost Got Found?
ET: “Personally, I’m excited to be living in Los Angeles. I moved here a year ago and have met amazing friends. I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been, so I’m grateful that I’m where I think I’m meant to be. I want to continue to explore and meet new people. Professionally, I’m taking it easy with the nonprofit. I’ve been working in sales for a company the past two years and have been really enjoying it, so I’m going to let Lost Got Found organically continue to grow, without forcing myself to do too much with it while I’m still healing from my own trauma. But, with my speaking, I’m still traveling to different schools to share my story and educate about mental illness & suicide prevention.”
DD: Our last question, What Now?
ET: “Every weekend I pick something out of a jar and whatever it says, I have to do it. It’s a bunch of different experiences and adventures, and it’s brought me out of my comfort zone and significantly helped my mental health. So, I’d say what now is I’m going to continue finding new adventures, making more connections with people, and living my happiest part of life thus far. And, I’ve been thinking about applying to graduate school for social psychology, so that’s also a possibility!”