Dixie State professor, local entrepreneur team up to share message about mental health

Co-founders Rowdy Reeve and Dave Harris shoot a video for the Positive Empowerment Initiative's YouTube channel in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Arielle Cabrera, courtesy of the Positive Empowerment Initiative, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two high school friends have come together to create an organization focused on spreading positivity and awareness.

The Positive Empowerment Initiative is a nonprofit organization that uses social media and other online forums to spread positivity and bringing more awareness to the importance of mental health.

Co-founder Rowdy Reeve, owner of Rowdy’s Range, approached Dave Harris, a professor at Dixie State University, about starting a podcast in December. Harris agreed to the idea without hesitation, Reeve said.

A month later, the pair met in person to discuss possible topics. Reeve said the original idea was to produce a comedic, lighthearted podcast about everyday life.

“In high school, I don’t know if you would call us class clowns, but we were goofing off, like most teens do, I guess,” he said.

Photo by benjavisa/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Reeve said that’s when the duo started talking about their own experiences with mental health.

Harris has lived with depression for the last several years, and while he was speaking about his experiences, Reeve said the “whole mood in the room changed,” and that’s when he said they knew that was the route they would take.

He said when they started the initiative, the goal was simply to get positive content onto social platforms and publicize the message of “it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, but there is hope.”

Now that the pair has started their research and gotten the message out, the initiative is shifting its focus to expand its reach and increase engagement, he said, adding that he invites people to engage with their social media posts and share their stories in the comments because as more people share their stories others might feel less alone.

“Personally, that’s my goal,” he said. “We want to reach out as far as we can and help as many people in our community – and eventually outside of our community – as we can.”

Reeve said he had a personal experience in 2014 that illustrated the genuine and overwhelming pain experienced by those living with mental illness. As the co-owner and operator of a gun range, he said he and his associates had been warned that individuals might use the location to harm themselves, which he had been told averaged at least once each year.

Rowdy’s Range and Shooters Supply, 610 N. Industrial Road, St. George, Utah, July 18, 2014 | File photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

On Feb. 21, 2014, a matter of months after Rowdy’s Range opened its doors, Reeve said a man walked into the shop, spoke to the staff and rented a lane for the hour. He said he remembers the man being “a normal customer.”

When the hour was nearly up, the staff at the range alerted the customer to the time. Reeve said the man thanked the staff member, who returned to the front, then he stepped back into his lane and turned the gun on himself. He died from his wounds.

“You walk out and you see what’s going on, and everything is happening in slow motion, you don’t have time to process it,” he said. “It’s one thing to hear about it; it’s a completely different thing to see the human side of it.”

Reeve said the idea that someone was hurting so badly that they felt suicide was the only escape stuck with him. It was a hard thing to get through, and it inspired him to get involved with Southwest Behavioral Health Center as a prevention specialist and mostly recently to start the Positive Empowerment Initiative.

The organization was recently granted state approval and can now accept donations. Reeve said donations will initially go toward equipment for recording and sending out messages. Starting near the end of summer, he said he is hoping to have the initiative host events throughout the rest of the year to educate the community on a number of topics including depression, suicide and prevention.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @AvereeRyann

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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