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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
March/April 2010, Volume 18, Number 2 

Image of We Can Help Us

Helping Teens Through Tough Times

How do you build a national campaign to help address attempted suicides and suicidal ideation among teens? Getting the message right is the first step.

Accepting the challenge, SAMHSA, the Ad Council, and the Inspire USA Foundation went right to the source—teens age 13 to 17 in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

“Suicide is a preventable tragedy,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “That is why we have made it a top Agency priority to reduce the risk and increase the protective factors. This new public service advertising campaign is a critical step in raising awareness among young people that there are places where they can turn for help.”

In one-on-one interviews, teens revealed what they looked for when seeking help and support for personal difficulties. Ethnicities included Hispanic, African American, and Caucasian. Urban and suburban teens of both genders participated.

Overall, these young people expressed an interest and a willingness to:

  • Engage with peers in an anonymous online space.
  • Hear real stories and hopeful messages from real teens who made it through tough times.
  • Learn ways to cope with tough times.

While causes of suicide vary, these tragic occurrences are preventable. Many teens face tough challenges, ranging from family conflict or relationship problems to mental health problems such as self-harm and depression. All these problems and more can escalate to situations where teens consider ending their own lives. With support and reliable resources, however, troubled teens can be empowered to start the process of coping with what’s going on in their lives.

“By listening to teens directly, we discovered an opportunity to use online and digital media to help teens cope with personal and mental health issues,” said SAMHSA’s Mark Weber, Task Lead for the Agency’s Suicide Prevention Work Group and Associate Administrator for Communications. “Our key message to teens is ‘Relief is closer than you think.’ ”

Positive Outcome

The desired outcome of the campaign? To convince teens they are not alone—especially teens who are stressed, depressed, or who may have considered suicide. This is achieved by sharing stories of peers who have overcome similar struggles.

The positive, optimistic, and authentic tone on the Web site encourages young people to share their own stories, hear from other teens, and learn from those who made it through.

“Our campaign with SAMHSA and Inspire USA connects with teens by identifying with the various challenges they are facing, while empowering them to cope by showing them how their peers have made it through,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “These ads and our online resources will give teens hope, and this campaign has the potential to save many lives.”

Tools for Teens: Why

“Walk into any American high school classroom and the odds are that two of the young people before you will have attempted suicide over the past 12 months,” said Jack Heath, president of the Inspire USA Foundation. “Through our collaboration with SAMHSA and the Ad Council, the We Can Help Us campaign can bring a message of hope to literally millions of young Americans having a tough time.” integrates youth-generated, expert-reviewed information and real-life stories with opportunities to connect with others in a supportive, safe environment.

Each page on includes a prominent call-out to SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a resource for individuals who are in crisis and need immediate help and support.

To extend the reach of the PSA campaign to teens nationwide, the Ad Council and SAMHSA will be collaborating with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), and a number of other youth and mental health organizations.

The campaign will also be promoted on social media channels including Facebook (, , and Twitter (,, as well as the Ad Council’s new social media site,

Campaign Objective

To reduce the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among troubled teens by conveying that they are not alone in their struggles with emotional and mental health problems.

Target Audience

13- to 17-year-olds


Ad Council
Inspire USA Foundation

Campaign URL
Online Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Previously in SAMHSA News on Suicide Prevention

Cultural Competency Matters

Innovation in Gatekeeper Training

Suicide Prevention on Campus: Keeping Students Connected

Gatekeeper Training Update: Syracuse University

TIP 50: Addressing Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

Substance Abuse & Suicide: White Paper Explores Connection

Suicide Prevention: New Media Increase Options

Veterans: Commitment to Suicide Prevention, Mental Health

  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Take Action in Your Community

Take Action in Your Community

Three new campaigns bring powerful prevention messages to communities.

  From the Administrator  
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

Considering Language in Our Field

Do you use certain terms to describe our field? See terms.

  More on Underage Drinking  
Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

The STOP program is making a difference. Read about grantees in Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Town Hall Meetings Continue To Expand

Nearly 1,800 communities across the Nation recently met to discuss underage drinking.

State Estimates on Underage Drinking

State by state, the numbers differ on children and alcohol use.

  Women & Substance Abuse  
Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Gender makes a difference. TIP 51 can help providers offer women effective, up-to-date treatment.

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Comparing data from 1992 and 2007 on admission rates.

  Treatment Updates  
Uninsured Workers: Recent Data

Uninsured Workers: Data

Who needs treatment for substance abuse?

Free Treatment Available

Some facilities offer substance abuse treatment at no charge or a sliding scale fee.

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Methadone maintenance, buprenorphine maintenance. What are the similarities and differences among OTPs?

  Evidence-Based Practices  
Evidence-Based Practices KITs

Evidence-Based Practices KITs

The Knowledge Information Transformation (KIT) series offers new KITs.

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

The Agency outlines a budget request totaling $3.7 billion.

More on the Budget . . .

Established programs, new initiatives, and SAMHSA’s Budget Authority by Activity and the Agency’s Congressional Justification.

  Grants Updates  
Promoting Mental Health Recovery

Promoting Mental Health

Five behavioral health care provider associations recently received funding.

  Media & Messages  
Art & Children’s Mental Health

Art & Children’s Mental Health

Every day is Children’s Mental Health Day: “My Feelings Are a Work of Art.”

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

Share the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Minds on the Edge

Minds on the Edge

Facing mental illness is the subject of a PBS program.

  Recovery Month  
Flyers Available

Flyers Available

For 2010 celebrations, the flyers are available in print and online.

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Thousands of children age 12 to 17 with pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma used inhalants.


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration – 1 Choke Cherry Road – Rockville, MD 20857
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