San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) January 15, 2014
How do we stomp out bullying in our classrooms? Reduce the prevalence of shootings in our schools? Stop young adults from ending their lives too soon?
One word: Empathy. By challenging young adults to take the time to listen, understand, and relate to one another, we can grow the next generation of rational decision makers.
Spill, an anonymous network for peer encouragement, is announcing the expansion of its college ‘empathy engine’ to high school students and post-grads. With the simultaneous release of its iPhone and Android apps, users can now “spill” confidentially about personal problems at any time in any place through their smartphones, and receive encouraging messages from fellow peers.
“We all go through hard times,” co-founder Heidi Allstop explained. “Whether it’s getting your heart broken for the first time, figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, or even just feeling like you don’t fit in, growing up isn’t easy.”
Allstop started Spill when she found herself struggling to adjust to college life. Not wanting to bother her new friends with her personal problems, Allstop looked to the school counseling center for help, only to be told she had to wait two weeks for an appointment. A psychology major and crisis counselor herself, Allstop decided to take matters into her own hands. She pulled together some classmates to create a safe, confidential network where students could connect with fellow classmates around personal hardships. When students from other colleges began requesting the program, Allstop decided to pursue the mission full-time.
The company has since expanded to 150 college campuses and trained thousands of peer responders in active listening skills. Though there are networks for sharing confessions anonymously, Spill’s emphasis is not on broadcasting secrets, but on growing both spillers and responders in managing vulnerability and practicing empathy.
“It’s very reciprocal,” Allstop explains. “About 70% of our users start out as responders—volunteering to give support and advice to others--and become spillers themselves. The act of communicating authentically is kind of addicting.”
Responders choose which types of issues they’re comfortable responding to (ex: romantic relationships, anxiety, roommate problems, career decisions, etc.) and can also indicate how frequently they want to be ‘assigned’ spills. Responders can even earn community service hours for their participation.
“Helping other people on Spill has been one of the most valuable things I’ve done in my college career,” a student responder from University of California, Berkeley weighs in. “I like that I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives rather than just ‘liking’ photos.”
Though not intended for crisis situations, Spill has helped hundreds of at-risk students get touch with crisis professionals who were able to intervene or assist them further. It was awarded first place for this impact in suicide prevention during the Global Social Venture Competition, and has been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms in college students (2012).
During the month of January, Spill is running an IndieGoGo campaign to choose the next 20 high schools and 30 college Spill communities. Parents, students, and alumni can nominate schools that could benefit from Spill for $20-$100, creating localized support networks for those campuses. It is also accepting donations to launch its military communities for active-duty service men/women, veterans, and spouses in 2014.
More information on becoming a responder can be found by visiting spillnow.com or by downloading the mobile apps. Individuals interested in bringing Spill to a high school or college can nominate the school here. Other inquiries can be sent to info(at)spillnow(dot)com.
ABOUT SPILL, INC.
Spill, Inc. is a TechStars startup based out of San Francisco, CA, that was created to help students get honest encouragement and support from peers. It quickly gained traction quickly on college campuses across the US and Canada, gaining coverage everywhere from the New York Times to MTV. The company was the 2012 winner of the Global Social Venture Competition in California, and has just launched its mobile app, as well as additional networks for high school students, post-grads, and adults.
For additional information, please contact Heidi Allstop at 320-760-1154, heidi(at)spillnow(dot)com, or visit http://www.spillnow.com.