Comedian Jenny Jaffe launches Project UROK, a mental health site for teens and young adults
While Jenny Jaffe’s first love is comedy, she hasn’t always been the one laughing. Starting in early childhood, she was diagnosed with a number of mental health conditions that led, at one time, to suicidal thoughts.
Her health history prompted her to found Project UROK, which launched in April. Pronounced “You are ok,” she admits that the alternative reading — “You Rock” — fits well, too.
Targeted at teens and young adults (ages 12-22), the goals of the non-profit are to de-stigmitize mental illness, combat isolation, create an online community, and reduce teen suicide. Featured on the organization’s website are videos from young adults — many of whom are comedians like Jenny — talking about their struggles and what’s helped them cope. Jenny describes the website as a “safe video platform.”
That the founding of her organization comes on the heels of a number of teen suicides on the Peninsula is not lost on Jenny. “I’m still formulating my thoughts on the reasons for what’s happening,” she said. “But it really bothers me that there’s a lot of press given to the idea that stress and educational pressure are causing kids to take their lives.
“The fact that serious mental illness is what causes suicide is not something people are willing to talk about. There continues to be a premium on how things should appear to the outside world. That we’re not talking openly about mental health issues concerns me.”
Growing up in Atherton, Jenny’s interest in comedy started early, although she says few of her classmates at Menlo School, which she attended from sixth grade through high school, would have thought of her as funny. “I was pretty quiet,” she says. “But comedy is a great way to get people to respond positively.”
Even with the effort required to launch Project UROK, Jenny has not abandoned comedy and still does gigs around New York City, where she now lives. “Founding the non-profit was the way the doors were swinging,” she said. “But my first love will always be comedy, and I believe I’ll find myself back there. My goal is to get Project UROK to a place of sustainability, where I can be the face of the organization without management responsibilities. Then I will be able to pursue comedy in earnest again.”
Pictured with Jenny is her friend’s dog, Potato