Paul Falcone: Founder, Executive Director
I’m Paul Falcone, a guy in his mid twenties from central Massachusetts. I’ve been fighting depression, anxiety, and insomnia since I was 13 years old. It’s not easy, nor has it ever been. But I’ve become stronger over the years and every day like to think that I grow closer to accepting who I am with my condition. This site began as a class project in early 2015, but quickly gained momentum and a following that blossomed into a community of people wanting to share and educate anyone willing to listen about mental health conditions. My mission has become to create a community where people can share stories of hope or pain, triumph or failure, fiction or reality, or anything that relates to mental health or personal struggles. Because the biggest thing to remember is that you are not alone.
And you are loved.
Apart from running this organization I’m a musician, writer, and photographer. Occasionally I’ll post some of my work on here, and you can find the two albums I’ve recorded here and here. Almost all my work is directly related to my depression in some way. Although there are other happier topics I do come across every once in awhile.
Think I’m interesting? Follow me on twitter: @PaulFalcone_
Want the long version of my story? Read my entry in the Coping series.
Want to see my photo project depicting the internal struggle of mental health conditions externally? Check out the “Consumed: Mental Illness Through Photography” series.
Sandra Mercer: Editor-in-Chief
My name is Sandra and I am the newest member of the Dear Hope team! I graciously stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief in June of 2017, and hope to grow with my team members and the beautiful community they’ve built as we look toward the future.
I’m currently a senior at Westfield State University studying Elementary Education and English, where I am involved in student government, a cappella, the newspaper, and my class council. This fall, I start my full-year student teaching placement where I will be working with 4th grade students in Holyoke! When I’m not editing, watching someone else’s kids, writing lesson plans, or sleeping, I’m probably doing one of the following: bingeing something on Netflix, reading anything in the YA Fiction genre, writing about my own life or lives I’ve made up in my brain, laughing at stupid things with my friends, or scrolling endlessly through the many mind-numbing social media accounts I have. I also have a cat named Chandler Bing (we all know he’s the best character on Friends).
I discovered Dear Hope when I was a sophomore in college, and fell in love with the honesty in people’s stories and the hope that they provided. As someone who had previously struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and poor self-image in secret, seeing other people bravely share thoughts I related to and similar experiences I had gone through made me feel significantly less alone. As an editor for my school’s newspaper, The Westfield Voice, I first did a feature on the Dear Hope team members and the site itself. A few short weeks later, I found the courage to write my own Coping: This Is Who We Are Piece and submit it for publication. I was overwhelmed with Facebook messages, comments, and texts from people I knew, people I didn’t know, people I hadn’t talked to since I was small, and people I never thought I’d talk to again; they all gave me the love and support I’d been craving, and the hope and comfort I’d never knew I could ask for.
Joining the Dear Hope team is one of the best decisions I have made in my 21 years. I believe, whole-heartedly, that the community that has been built through this site is something that all of us–neurodivergent or not–can find solace and comfort in. My hope is that we give you hope.
You can read my Coping piece here: Defining Normal: Finding Myself Through Depression and Hospitalizations
You can read my latest submission, a poem, here: Questions as Daggers, Questions as Saviors
Amanda Canale: Social Media Manager
I’m Amanda, a 22-year old senior in college studying Communication and Women’s Studies who has been struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-doubt for as long as I can remember.
In high school I struggled with suicidal thoughts, and over the years have taken drastic measures in order to try to lose weight. For a large part of my life, I have felt that I was unworthy; of love, acceptance from others, self-acceptance, success, and other things. It wasn’t until college where I discovered that there are others like me – people who find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, who find it hard to be happy, and who are also fighting inner demons. I learned that I was not alone.
Through research and connecting with people who not only understood my struggles, but supported, loved, and accepted me as well, I’ve been on the path to loving myself. I have had my trying moments and rough patches, but I am proud to say that I am nowhere near where I used to be.
I cannot thank my support system enough for constantly pointing me (and occasionally, dragging) me in the right direction, and always reminding me that I am loved and worthy. I still have my moments, but I know that they will not last. I know my worth. I know that I have a place on this earth and that I deserve to stay. And I know you do, too.
Follow me on Twitter @mandaax125
Danny Kochanowski: Assistant Editor, Author
Hi, my name is Danny. My journey has been one full of self-doubt and loathing, breaking points, anger, sadness, and a whole lot of numbness. For so long, the way that those around me talked to me, and the way I talked to myself, left me feeling inadequate, expendable, and worthless. For over a decade now, I’ve experienced every symptom of depression, fluctuating through periods where I identified with that diagnosis, and others where I found it not helpful at all.
Since college, my experience around mental health has been vast. I was my campus’ Active Minds President for two years, facilitating events and discussions surrounding myriad mental health topics. I worked as a peer bridger with the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community for most of 2016, challenging the chemically-based model I had been indoctrinated with by working with many folks who had been harmed by the system. Now, I aspire to become a Social Worker to bring as much humanity and compassion that I can to the profession.
At Dear Hope, you’ll find a profound community of individuals that grows daily. The people we continue to meet in this space constantly challenge us to change the way we view the world through placing us in their shoes. Struggle is real, and struggle is okay. If you’re ever doubting this, we are here for you, in whatever way you need it. You deserve it, whether or not you are ready to believe that.
Peace and love,
Alaina Leary: Author, Editor, Content Producer
My name is Alaina Leary, a 22-year-old Boston native studying in a Publishing and Writing graduate program at Emerson College. I’m also currently a magazine editor and writer for several different publications. My goal is to become an editor at a book publisher or a female-positive print or online magazine. When I’m not busy playing around with words, I spend my time surrounded by my girlfriend, our two literary cats Blue Gansey, or at the beach. I can often be found re-reading my favorite books and covering everything in glitter.
In my freshman year of college, I was raped in a campus dorm room. Since then, a large part of my life has been about advocating on topics of consent, rape, sexual assault, rape culture, and safe sex. I volunteered as a SafeSite for the American Condom Campaign for three years and distributed condoms and safe sex information to college students. Surviving rape changed my life, but it also showed me that there is reason to live even when you may think there isn’t. I hope to use writing and publishing to show others that they aren’t alone – that we all go through difficulties, but that we can come out of the other side stronger.
No matter what you’re struggling with, you are never alone.