Letter: Empower young people to talk about mental health



Mental health can be one of the most difficult topics to bring up, but it’s also one of the most important. Given that one in four Americans struggles with mental health issues, and three-fourths of all such problems arise between the ages of 14 and 24, it’s crucial that young people know they’re not alone. People should learn to talk openly about mental health and seek help as early as possible.

Some warning signs that may indicate a young person needs help include frequent sadness; changes in mood, behavior and eating and sleeping patterns; not wanting to go to school or work; fighting with family and friends; drug and alcohol abuse; and feelings of hopelessness, anger or confusion.

When teens and young adults learn to recognize the signs of mental health conditions and have the tools to address them, they can step up, contribute to the conversation and, ultimately, help formulate community solutions to issues of mental health diagnosis and treatment.

With this in mind, the National Institute for Civil Discourse is launching its annual Text, Talk, Act mental health awareness campaign.

The national initiative will host events across the country on April 19, in collaboration with Active Minds’ Stress Less Week, and May 5, in tandem with National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, using the campaign’s text messaging platform to help participants have candid discussions.

These events are designed to reach young people right where they live, through the use of mobile technology and social media. TTA events encourage open, face-to-face discussions on mental health to reduce isolation and misunderstanding and teach teens and young adults how to get and give help, when necessary.

Here’s how Text, Talk, Act works: Participants gather in small groups of 3 to 5 people at any time on/around either of the event dates, with one cell phone per group. They text the word “START” to the number 89800 and receive a series of text messages, videos and social media interactions that guide the group through a conversation on mental health.

During that conversation, the group texts responses to questions (such as why talking about mental health is so important and how to help a friend in need) and sends their ideas for action, which are posted to a live website.

As the conversation comes to a close, participants receive links to resources to continue the conversation and/or seek help.

Previous participants have said TTA events helped them better understand mental health and left them feeling more comfortable talking about it.

We learned when given a safe forum, young people are eager to join the conversation and become committed to being part of the solution.

So, let’s make a resolution to talk to each other.

Let’s commit to learning the warning signs and starting the conversation when a young person needs help. As a community, let’s learn our needs, find out about recovery resources, and explore ways to improve.

Join one of our events or organize your own.

Organizers of Text, Talk, Act events can win $1,000 prizes for their schools or community organizations, and the campaign provides all the materials needed to organize an event.

To find an event in your area, sign up for the contest, get materials for your own event, or learn more about mental health, visit http://creatingcommunitysolutions.org/texttalkact.

Raquel Goodrich

Text, Talk, Act Director

National Institute for Civil Discourse

University of Arizona



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