How Josh Rivedal, Creator of the i'Mpossible Project, Advocates for Mental Health Awareness
In honor of World Health Day, I want to introduce you to my good friend, Josh Rivedal, creator of The i’Mpossible Project. Back in 2011, after almost taking his own life and thankfully getting help, he decided to dedicate every day going forward to bringing awareness to mental health issues, suicide prevention, diversity and social change. In 2014, he launched The i’Mpossible Project to encourage others to share their stories. Two years later, he published the project’s first volume of stories, “Reengaging with Life, Creating a New You.” Volume two, “Changing Minds, Breaking Stigma, Achieving the Impossible” will be released this upcoming November 2017.
Josh and I connected through The Mighty. He asked me to contribute a chapter to this latest volume and I happily obliged after learning more about his mission. You can read my story, “Kicking Postpartum’s Ass” and 49 other extraordinary stories of survival by preordering your copy now.
Meet the incredible and incredibly inspiring Josh Rivedal!
Q: Who is Josh Rivedal?
A: “I’m originally a New Yorker living in Los Angeles the past 15 months. I am a former actor (Broadway, regional and I still do voiceovers) and playwright. I have three books out, all on mental health in one way shape or form, and have a fantasy novel series I’m working on selling where all the spells are in Spanish. I created a mental health based curriculum called “Changing Minds,” which incorporates lecture, storytelling and improv theater. I like boy bands (don’t judge), bacon, playing the piano, writing and my kids have two bunnies and a guinea pig that make me smile. The kids make me smile, too.”
Q: What’s The i’Mpossible Project?
A: “Our mission statement says, ‘we’re an organization that creates seminars, workshops, curriculum, books, music and plays designed to entertain, educate and engage on suicide prevention, mental health, storytelling, anti-bullying and diversity.’ Yes, I wrote that for our website so we could look a little fancy schmancy because sometimes that’s how you have to roll. But basically, I started this project back in 2014 first and foremost to help other people tell their stories. I had already been telling my story for almost three years and it was saving and changing lives. I wanted to give back and make my work go beyond and last longer than just me, Josh.”
Q: What is your story?
A: “For more than six years I’ve been telling my personal story via an autobiographical, 30-character, one-man play paired with training in suicide prevention and mental health, ‘Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt.’ I’ve toured internationally with my one-man show in theaters, high schools, universities, juvenile detention centers and one college biology lab. Following my father’s suicide in my early 20s, a lawsuit from my mother over my father’s inheritance and a break up with my long-term girlfriend—all in the span of 20 months—I fell into isolation, silence and melancholy that eventually had me contemplating taking my life. But I got help, first from my mother and then through trusted friends and professional counseling, all because I took a risk and opened up about my pain. Now, after each presentation, I talk about my recovery process and how I found a way to reengage with life. After nearly every show, incredible people — complete strangers who might feel voiceless or worthless or simply unheard — confide in me powerful, personal stories on how they’ve overcome tremendous odds in their lives. These stories not only change my life for the better, but also the life of the storyteller. We each took a chance on ourselves and said, ‘I am possible.’ These stories are a means of celebrating the human spirit, inspiring others to say ‘I am possible,’ and ultimately contributing to improving mental health of its readers.”
Q: What led you to write the book?
A: “Initially it was a blog and then I saw an opportunity to go beyond the web and create something on a different platform that could be passed along from one hand to the next. I saw possibilities that went beyond it being just a book, but more so as a Swiss army knife of sorts or a multi-pronged tool, one which would enable research that would educate on both the art and science about why storytelling is an important component of a healthy society, inform peers and clinicians on how to tell stories more effectively in an effort to leverage action from the listener, demonstrate how stories can be used to drive change from top down (administrators, clinicians, assistants, to consumer) and bottom up (consumer, community representative, legislator), provide framework for peer advocates to tell stories in order to provide hope and healing and to drive change to better inform media messaging (blogs, copywriting, film, ad placement, marketing) on social justice issues, specifically mental health, suicide prevention and diversity. #booyah.”
Q: What stories can we find in volume two?
A: “This one is all on stories of mental illness with hope, healing and humor sprinkled in. These true tales from real people who have achieved incredible feats in the face of overwhelming odds, showing ‘impossible’ is just a state of mind and anything is possible. An entrepreneur using his battle with alcohol abuse to empower others, an award winning high school student who battled bullying, self-harm and an eating disorder to become her best self and an actor who calls his depression ‘my frenemy Dewayne.’”
Q: How did you choose your authors?
A: “Selecting storytellers wasn’t super easy. I knew about half the people in the book and the other half were a mixture of people whose work I was a fan of, bloggers or people doing good work in their field.”
Q: What’s the ultimate goal for The i’Mpossible Project?
A: “Ultimately I’d love to have a multi-volume book series (at least one per year and a minimum of ten different volumes). I want our messaging, seminars, curriculum and media work to help reduce or eliminate the stigma around getting help for mental health conditions and speaking out about social justice issues. I’d like to reduce the suicide rate to zero. And I’d like our curriculum to be adopted in schools and workplace setting all around the globe.”
Q: What’s one last thing you’d like to leave us with?
A: “Be the change you want to see. Someone had to create change for it to be the way it is now. Why can’t you be the spark that lights the fire to change the world? No one is too insignificant to do big things — a mosquito would be considered insignificant until you spend the night with it in your sleeping bag. Get your inner mosquito on and change the world in any way you can.”
To learn more about The i’Mpossible Project and preorder your copy of “Changing Minds, Breaking Stigma, Achieving the Impossible,” click here!
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via contributor.