This month, The Nan Project would like to highlight Margaret Parkhurst in our Peer Mentor Spotlight! Margaret has been working with us for over a year now, and her story leaves her audiences with a message of hope. She has presented her story numerous of times to schools all across Massachusetts! Thank you Margaret for being apart of this Peer Mentor Spotlight!

1. Hi Margaret! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview you for the Peer Mentor spotlight! I want to start off by asking you how you heard about The NAN Project (TNP) and why you decided to apply?

I found out about The NAN Project kind of on my own. I was on an email listing from another organization called “GIFT” and TNP happened to be featured on the bottom of that email. I looked into it and I thought it was a good fit for me. I have had some public speaking experience in the past so I knew I could thrive in it. I especially love to help and inspire others, so I knew this would be exactly what I was looking for to be able to achieve that.

2. Thank you! That was a great answer. It has been over a year now that you’ve been working for TNP! Time flies! What has been your overall experience with us? What have been the challenges or rewards?

I would define it as being incredible! This job came to me at a time when I needed The Nan Project. I was starting to go down a bad path again and I stumbled across this opportunity and it really changed my life and helped me. It reminds me every time I speak that ‘I am okay,’ and that I am strong enough to help others to make sure they’re okay too. I also find this job as a privilege. Unlike other jobs, TNP cares about us. Other jobs don’t care about someone’s mental health but you guys care about our mental health. I specifically appreciate how you guys understand if we’re having a rough day. I’m never obligated to share if I don’t feel ready.

3. For readers who may be unfamiliar with your story, can you highlight some of the coping skills you’ve learned over the years to take care and overcome your mental health challenges?

First of all, I love to ride horses. I have been riding for 20 years now! The specific horse I’m riding currently is very sensitive. She can sense my emotions and if I’m in a bad mood, she senses it and becomes a pain in the butt! I also do acupuncture; I own a dog walking business; I use grounding techniques with nature; and, I have recently started holistic therapy!

4. Wow Margaret! You have so many coping skills in your tool belt! I know in your story you talk about your dog, Chester. Can you tell the readers a little bit about him and why you find him so therapeutic?

I got Chester two days after being in a residential treatment facility for seven months. My parents rewarded me with him. We had got him in hopes that he’d become a service dog for me, but we came to find out he doesn’t like people! He loves me though. He has also caught on to my emotions and has helped stop panic attacks. He also likes to do stupid things or annoy me to get me out of a funk. My family and I joke that he could pass the service dog training if only he liked people!

5. That’s funny! Chester sounds like a very silly dog! Could you tell me what you thought was your most meaningful/ favorite presentation and why?

One school that stuck out to me had a class full of students that didn’t speak English. They had to have a translator come into the class to assist our presentation. It was eye opening to me because even though those students didn’t speak English, they still wanted to engage in the conversation around mental health

6. What do you hope for in the future?

I hope that in the future The Nan Project can reach more schools to be able to start this conversation around mental health. Especially right now, while the world is turned upside down. People who didn’t experience mental health struggles before the pandemic are definitely experiencing some sort of mental health issue now.

7. And lastly, what are you grateful for right now?

I’m grateful for the experience TNP has given me. This job has really helped give meaning to my life. During COVID-19, I have been especially grateful for what TNP has done to keep the Peer Mentors active. They’ve had consistent zoom meetings weekly with the Peer Mentors, and that has been very helpful on my mental health. I am a person who likes structure and COVID-19 took that away from me. When TNP started to do weekly zoom meetings with the Peer Mentors, it made me feel better knowing that I had a priority to do.

Well thank you Margaret for being able to do this Peer Mentor Spotlight with me! It was a pleasure speaking with you!

Thank you Elli for using me as your peer mentor to spotlight!

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