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.’ ”
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.”
“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.”
ReachOut.com integrates youth-generated, expert-reviewed information and real-life stories with opportunities to connect with others in a supportive, safe environment.
Each page on http://us.reachout.com 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 (www.facebook.com/samhsa, www.facebook.com/ReachOutUSA , www.facebook.com/AdCouncil) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/samhsagov, www.twitter.com/AdCouncil), as
well as the Ad Council’s new social media site, My.AdCouncil.org.
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.
13- to 17-year-olds
Inspire USA Foundation
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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