Miss Kenosha Shines a Light on Depression as an Ambassador for Hope

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Miss Wisconsin contestant Kaitlyn Ray joins iFred using her platform to share her journey in mental health, bringing the message that depression and anxiety are treatable, reaching out to youth teaching Hope using iFred's Schools for Hope online curriculum.

Miss Wisconsin contestant, Kaitlyn Rhey, iFred's Ambassador for Hope

I have found the Schools for Hope curriculum to be a useful tool in developing and working on my platform. The lessons have allowed me to talk with our youth about mental health in positive ways.

iFred is excited to announce a new ambassador for Hope, Miss Wisconsin contestant Kaitlyn Rhey, currently in the running as Miss Kenosha for Wisconsin. The 23 years old Miss Rhey, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, will continue her education at Marquette University for her Master’s Degree in Nursing. She aims to raise awareness and end stigma of depression and anxiety, both of which she personally experienced in her teens. Rhey wants to educate youth that it is OK to talk about mental health, and that anxiety and depression are treatable.

Over 350 million globally have depression, and a new study just released by RAND presents this startling statistic: 36% of all young women either have had or currently have depression. What’s more, among young women, suicide is also now the leading cause of death. This is tragic, and reversible, as depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. Early intervention is necessary to counteract this trend.

Kaitlyn, using her platform, is reaching out to Pre-school and Elementary School students with lessons from iFred’s Schools for Hope program, a curriculum of lessons and activities, that educate children on being hopeful. Kaitlyn is also taking lessons to the Middle Schools, teaching adolescents about actions that can create a hopeful attitude. Students will define hope, learn the importance on giving back, and set realistic goals towards hopeful pathways. She also is working to engage the communities and other nonprofit organizations by planting sunflowers and posting signs to raise awareness about the need to shine a positive light on this important issue.

Kaitlyn shares her experience teaching hope, "I have found the Schools for Hope curriculum to be a useful tool in developing and working on my platform. The lessons have allowed me to talk with our youth about mental health in positive ways, the meaning of success, how to become resilient, and ways to create hopeful pathways in life.

There has been a tremendous response from the students I have worked with in both elementary and middle schools. One school had the children write letters explaining why they wanted to plant sunflowers, and their responses amazed me. Some students felt comfortable sharing their stories with me, others expressed they need positivity in their life, and some even described having symptoms of depression and anxiety themselves. My goal is to let them know that no matter their situation, they can create their own hope, and it's okay to talk about their feelings. This experience for me has demonstrated how necessary it is to discuss mental health at an early age, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with iFred, helping our youth with mental health."

Kathryn Goetzke, iFred Founder, says, “We are thrilled for Kaitlyn to get on board and help work with the youth as an Ambassador. She is reaching out to young kids with our curriculum for Hope, a skill based on research that it is teachable and, we believe, key to prevention. We know that having an advocate like Kaitlyn, with such a public platform and media spotlight, shows young women it is OK to talk about and if necessary, seek treatment, ultimately ending stigma so people get treatment. We absolutely must reverse these trends we are seeing today, and courageous leaders like Kaitlyn, using platforms for social good, help us get closer to that goal.”

Jen Lagoni, an advisor to Kaitlyn and past contestant, comments, “Many people do not realize that the Miss America Organization, a non-profit organization, is the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States. The young women compete in evening gown, swimsuit, talent and interview, with the interview and talent carrying the bulk of the scoring. The interview is based on a platform, a plan as to how she will dedicate herself to a cause in her community and I am so impressed with all Kaitlyn has done in such a short time to shine a positive light in the community on this important issue. In my opinion, the platform is the most important part of a woman’s journey in our program and it helps her make an impact on her community via her own personal passion or interest.”

Kaitlyn is competing in the swimsuit section and onstage question on June 14th, the talent and evening gown portions on June 15th, and the final competition on June 17th. You can vote for the People's Choice by going to the Miss Wisconsin Website. Each vote is $1, and people can vote as many times as they want. The contestant with the most votes will be guaranteed the 11th spot in the finals and a $600 scholarship.

About iFred:

The mission of International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) is to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education. Its goal is to ensure 100% of the 350 million people affected by depression seek and receive treatment.

iFred is creating a shift in society’s negative perception of depression through rebranding—establishing the sunflower and color yellow as the international symbols of hope for depression, engaging celebrities, and educating on the biology of the brain. iFred also has a curriculum that teaches young people Hope, based on research that it is a teachable skill. Find out more at http://www.ifred.org.

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Kathryn Goetzke
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Kathryn Goetzke
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since: 06/2009
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IFred, International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression
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