In an effort to promote conversation about difficult issues, ReLyfe created a platform to display stories that people feel they go through alone.
The UCSD Guardian sat down with Hannah Rosenberg, a junior Eleanor Roosevelt College student and the videographer and editor lead at ReLyfe, a mental health startup at UC San Diego, to discuss overcoming challenges and sharing your growth experiences with others.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Guardian: What is ReLyfe? How did it start?
Hannah Rosenberg: “ReLyfe is a startup funded through The Basement [Editor’s note: The Basement is a startup, entrepreneurship, and innovation hub at UC San Diego]. Our founders, Payal [Kela] and Namrata [Doshi], were talking over coffee back in 2018 when they realized they wanted to help share the stories of everyday people passing by. They recognized that every person at UCSD has a unique story and probably has advice they would give to people going through similar things and that sharing these stories would have the potential of positively impacting someone else’s life. They started conducting video interviews with a small team and got funding from The UCSD Basement starting last school year. They graduated last spring.
ReLyfe is for students and by students. Our mission is to ‘re-humanize.’ We call the people who we interview ‘re-humanizers.’ Our school, like a lot of school systems, is set in a format that doesn’t initiate connection. There is a lot of isolation and not knowing where you fit in. Our videos are accessible instantly and can hopefully bridge the time between waiting for a CAPS appointment for three-plus months.
You can find them on our website, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.”
The Guardian: What are these videos like?
Rosenberg: “We interview our ‘re-humanizers,’ who are the people who are willing to share any struggle they have overcome. It can be as small or as big as they want, and it can be anything from school stress to chronic illness, depression, anxiety, a coming-out story, OCD, and the list goes on. Our goal is to build a catalog of every mental health topic possible and have multiple stories for each one because everybody experiences things differently.”
The Guardian: How do you find people to share their stories?
Rosenberg: “Most of our interviewees meet us through campus events, word-of-mouth, or through social media. They will then fill out a form on our website. It just asks for general information and a short explanation of your story. We then set up a time to film, assuming it is going to be a good fit. The cool part of it is that both sides benefit. The person telling the story gets a platform to share their story and feels a sense of purpose because they know they are helping people, while fellow students are able to hear from a peer who might be going through a similar thing. Everyone benefits and it really is a win-win for everyone involved.”
The Guardian: Has anyone ever wanted to be anonymous while sharing their story?
Rosenberg: “That has happened. We’re toying with the idea of possibly starting a podcast, animation series, or putting out some sort of blog-style publication. Something that doesn’t require face identification. We’ve also had people come to us who were willing to show their face and just didn’t want to be identified by name which still works for our video format, but we really want to create an outlet for those with stories who don’t want a camera on them at all.
We’ve definitely been wanting to cover that gap because there are a lot of people who have amazing stories and they, for many reasons and completely understandable reasons, don’t want to do that so I think it’s an important future step.”
The Guardian: What do you specifically do?
Rosenberg: “I’m the videographer and editor lead, so I film and edit the videos, and we as a team plan out, based on the story that was given, how to best do justice to their stories and present them in a positive light. My heart was beating just thinking of doing this because it is a huge responsibility and one that I want to fulfill with the utmost care. Twice a month we have film days and we usually try to do back-to-back interviews. We have had students request to film more than one story since people inevitably go through more than one life challenge.”
The Guardian: How did you get involved in ReLyfe?
Rosenberg: “I met the two founders during Spring Quarter of 2019 and heard they were trying to establish a new team of people to keep ReLyfe going in the school years to come. I applied and landed the position. They interviewed for all the roles before graduation, making sure to choose a team with a passion for the mission. Now, this new team has been around since the beginning of this school year. We hope to keep growing.”
The Guardian: Are there any specific stories you’d like to hear?
Rosenberg: “I would love to make videos on academic stress and to have an expanded collection of videos about dealing with chronic illness while in college because that’s something that I’ve personally dealt with and it’s the closest thing to like — I don’t want to talk about myself — but it’s the closest thing to impossible I’ve ever done and I look fine on the outside so no one would know.”
The Guardian: Is ReLyfe working on any new projects?
Rosenberg: “We are trying to put out videos at a quicker pace because right now it’s just me shooting and editing. We’re looking to grow the videographer/editor team specifically so that we can produce more content. We’re also always pitching ReLyfe to various campus orgs, and the two COOs just pitched ReLyfe to a meeting full of medical professionals at Student Health [Services].
We’re starting a series called ‘Questions of the Month.’ The first one we did hasn’t been published yet, and the question was ‘When was the last time you cried?’ We got really interesting responses. The whole point was, again, just to deconstruct the walls that we’ve built and show how everyone is way more similar than they are different. We tend to forget that at the end of the day we’re all just human beings.”
The Guardian: Going forward, what are ReLyfe’s future goals?
Rosenberg: In the future, our goal is to expand to all UC campuses. Late last spring, the founders were invited to the UC Mental Health Conference, which was a really big deal because they were the only students invited. We are an official CAPS partner as well. Our goal is to have a presence on campus so everyone knows about ReLyfe just as well as The Zone or any other resource.”
The Guardian: What has student feedback been like?
Rosenberg: “Some of the team members including myself have personally received messages over Instagram and social media saying ‘Thank you.’ ReLyfe’s accounts have gotten thank-you comments and DMs, which is always a good feeling. It’s crazy to think that our videos have impacted students we’ve never met. Many mental health professionals have been really supportive as well.”
The Guardian: What would you say is the most rewarding part of this experience, being part of The ReLyfe team?
Rosenberg: “The best part has been getting to do what I love with a mission in mind and getting to make a real tangible difference on campus that is combining two things that I care about: video creation and getting to improve people’s quality of life as both students and humans navigating the uncertain world in front of them.”
Photo courtesy of ReLyfe.