CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life. 

Luke Shirley, a Lowcountry native, is taking matters into his own hands by giving back to the community he grew up in through a newly approved nonprofit called Quest in Recovery.

Shirley had his own battle with depression through most of his adolescence and especially during college. He also dealt with his family’s addiction struggles.

“I couldn’t ask for help and I think that’s where a lot of young people are stuck,” said Shirley.

Through his experience and knowledge, he is now turning his struggles into strength by creating a safe place for others battling mental illness.

As founder and director of the organization, Shirley’s goal is to mentor those who may be struggling with their mental health or strengthen their mental well-being.

“I think it is super important because you can see any challenge as either good or bad and it’s really how you handle it, how you react to it, and who you have there to help you. I think that makes a difference,” he said.

The seven-week program is still in development, but Shirley says it will involve education, recreation, and community service.

“Anyone can get involved. We are focusing on young adults to whom we offer these resources and mentorship,” he said.

Here is how the program works: mentors will be paired with their mentees based on questionnaires and forms they will fill out with can be found on their website.

“Helping adults find their why, tell it, and never stop pursuing it. Cause I think once you start from there you can build the better habits, the better resources, the sense of community that I think we all need,” said Shirley.

The kickoff event was postponed to Friday, October 14th at Ethos Athletic Club in downtown Charleston from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. due to weather and flooding concerns from Hurricane Ian.

If you registered and are unable to make the event you are asked to pay it forward to a friend, relative, or organization.

There will also be a Quest Educational Workshop on World Mental Health Day which is Monday, October 10th.

The event is being held at Basic Kitchen on 82 Wentworth Street in downtown Charleston from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. 

There will be a panel-style discussion that includes three mental health experts who formally developed and worked in MUSC’s recreational therapy program. Topics of discussion include emotional intelligence and recreational therapy tools.