EMU student launches nonprofit to provide financial aid, community support for mental health

A new Brighton-based nonprofit created by an Eastern Michigan University student aims to provide financial assistance and community support to people with mental health challenges.
The Sunflower Project was created last year by Eastern Michigan University student Hannah Palmer, a five-time suicide survivor who has interacted with over 50 service organizations since she was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2015. Palmer found that people repeatedly asked her how they could help their own friends or family members experiencing mental health challenges. She was also often asked about dealing with social stigma and the financial challenges of addressing mental health concerns.

"As I kept on researching the best ways to answer people's questions, I realized that there were gaps that needed to be filled," Palmer says. "I'd always wanted to start something like The Sunflower Project and finally decided the time to do something was now."

The self-described "broke college student" says starting a nonprofit in the midst of a pandemic is especially "daunting." However, she says the additional mental burdens people are facing during COVID-19 call for immediate action to be taken.

"Even in better times, getting mental health care is financially hard," Palmer says. "I actually haven't even been in therapy myself since the start of the pandemic. My sessions were $150 each and my therapist didn't take insurance. Unfortunately, that's the case for many people."

In the coming months, Palmer will be actively working on the financial support aspect of her organization. She's currently booking speaking engagements in Washtenaw, Livingston, and Ingham counties in exchange for donations. She aims to raise $10,000 to provide scholarships for people with diagnosed mental conditions who need help paying for treatment, or who need assistance paying for school because they're unable to apply for other scholarships. 

Donations will also go toward the costs of certifying people in Mental Health First Aid. The training course educates people on how to help someone in crisis until appropriate professional help is secured. 
"I'm really excited about being a voice for those who believe they can't speak up, for whatever reason, about their mental health," Palmer says. "I'm hoping that people will reach out and help me build more positive conversations around mental health in our community."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Palmer.