Our Story is Robert's Story

About Coping Kids: How & Why It Started

Robert Barsel was only 5 years old when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack.  He immediately went into group and individual therapy and soon began attending a peer support group for grieving children.  It took him years to regain his footing in life after such a sudden and severe loss. He participated in that group for many years learning the value of identifying and sharing your feelings as a means of coping as well as the importance of helping others (which is a key component of the peer support model).  Throughout his life, Rob has used his grief journey and story to help others feel more comfortable about sharing deep, painful emotions.

Rob began volunteering at Adam’s Place when he was 12 years old after completing an 8-hour training in accordance with best practices as mandated by the National Alliance for Grieving Children. He completed a year-long shadowing process and became the second ever child peer support group facilitator.  He volunteered with that organization every other week for another year and then decided that the skills he was teaching there could benefit all kids, not just kids who have lost a parent.  He wrote his own curriculum over the next 2 years to be non-grief specific. He has been using that curriculum and conducting peer support groups for the last 4 years at 3 separate locations, Nevada Youth Network, Project 150, and his school in 2 of the 3 divisions.  He was offering weekly meetings at his school and biweekly meetings at Nevada Youth Network prior to the pandemic.  It was the isolation caused by the pandemic, however, that made him realize that he needed to do something to reach more kids.  He brainstormed and decided to write a free book offering it to all kids so they could learn about mental health, healthy coping skills, sympathy, empathy, and many more topics.

About Coping Kids

Last year, Rob was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was back in individual therapy weekly. He speaks openly about his struggles and his journey to identify how best to manage his anxiety. The power of peer support groups stems from relatability, trust, and creating a safe, nonjudgmental space. Rob does an exceptional job creating groups (or at times, one-on-one spaces) that epitomizes all those aspects. He’s helped kids with cultural barriers surrounding mental health to identify and articulate their issues and then helped them come up with strategies to deal with them. His grief journey and anxiety disorder are precisely how and why he can reach so many kids. He’s relatable and willing to be vulnerable as an example for others to do the same. When he wrote the book, he used stories of his own so that the reader would feel the same relatability that he offers in a group setting.

The Start of something big

Recent Accomplishments

In December 2021, Rob applied for a grant and received $5,000 to fulfill his vision and create his workbook. In February of 2022, Rob began the long and arduous process of writing a 65-page book, Everyone has Mental Health which you can access here. He used the funds to commission a professional illustrator so that the workbook would be more engaging. He also formed his own non-profit called Coping Kids ( www.copingkids.org) and developed this website so that he can disseminate the free workbook as well as create awareness about mental health. He was recently awarded a $3,750 grant from the Youth Neighborhood Association Partnership Program to write and illustrate another chapter of his book (he has 5 more chapters to complete as he receives funding). Since the workbook went live, over 650 people have accessed it and he has personally worked with over 100 kids in the Las Vegas area.

Rob did not stop there! He is determined to give every child in Nevada the tools they need for good mental health and to be able to cope with life struggles in a healthy manner. Rob researched bills passed in other states which mandate that Mental Health be taught in the K-12 curriculum. He located a California bill passed in 2021 and approached a lobbyist and a senator about his idea. He has now secured both and will be proposing legislation in 2023 that all Nevada schools incorporate a robust mental health curriculum in grades K through 12. Senator Roberta Lange, who is carrying the bill, has already submitted a bill draft.

On May 18, 2022, Rob presented in a 15-minute testimony to the Joint Interim Committee on Education a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the need for this bill with alarming national and state statistics. You can view his presentation here.

Rob has met with the Agassi Foundation, Gaga Foundation, Green Our Planet, Lincoln Dynamic Foundation, and Hope Means Nevada to get outside support for the bill. He has also met with every Senator on the Education Committee who hadn’t seen his presentation last May to explain the need for the bill, answer any questions, address any concerns, and garner their support. Senators Hammond, Flores, and Donate have all agreed to co-sponsor the bill. Rob has also been speaking to kids at schools and youth organizations and requesting their written support of the bill as well as starting a petition.

Rob was the 2022 Governor’s Points of Light Gold winner for Outstanding Youth Volunteer, the 2022 Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Outstanding Youth Volunteer, and has earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award Gold in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 and the Congressional Service Award Bronze Medal. He also wrote Governor Sisolak in 2022 about Youth Mental Health and requested he proclaims May Mental Heath Awareness month which he did. In 2022 he was nominated by the Las Vegas AFP chapter for the 2023 Global AFP Outstanding Youth award to be announced in April 2023.

We're just getting started

Future Goals

He’s inspired hundreds of kids through his workbook and groups. He has spoken publicly to hundreds of people about his initiative and story which has led to destigmatizing mental health issues and discussions.  

With the donations from this website and awards he’s won, Robert plans to complete the remaining five chapters in the workbook – Healthy Relationships, Self-compassion (due end of summer 2023), Self Management, Anger Management, and Healthy Decision Making.  He also plans on translating the workbook into Spanish to reach more children and write a free training manual to teach people how to safely and effectively conduct peer support groups.

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