Adults have historically been the decision-makers and primary voices on the topic of mental health – educators, health professionals or parents have determined what to say, how to say it and when (or if) the topic will be addressed. Teens deserve a seat at the table – and our voices need to be heard.
We want to help make decisions about what will positively influence our own mental wellbeing. We want to support our peers and feel seen, heard and validated. We know better than anyone else what teens are facing and what kind of support will help us and our peers. Adults just need to ask.
conversation, we see perspectives shift and stigma reduced.
The Zero Reasons Why Campaign was founded on the hope that current and future generations of teens will live in a society more open and receptive to struggles of mental illness and depression, and that suicide rates would drop as a result. But that kind of a world will remain just a hope if teens are not equipped and encouraged to voice our own concerns, opinions, ideas and strategies. This is why we believe so strongly in amplifying teen voice in the conversation around mental health. It’s what sets our movement apart. It’s what’s driven the effectiveness of our Campaign.
To strengthen and formalize teen voice, Zero Reasons Why builds Teen Councils. From developing initiatives and suggested tactics to speaking at public events and encouraging peers to join the conversation, our Teen Councils actively engage in deployment strategies to prevent teen suicide. We collaborate and share our perspective with adults to improve social and emotional wellbeing for teens across the county. We engage our peers and encourage open dialogue in our schools. We’re equipped with the training and resources to engage in this topic in a safe, responsible, and effective way – guided by the Campaign’s three strategic pillars:
- Remove the Stigma
- Build Community Support
- Commit to Education
These pillars of action aren’t abstract solutions to abstract problems; they are genuine needs that we see and feel among our peers and in our schools every day. No longer will we stand idly by as the stigmatization of mental illness and suicide prevents needed conversations from happening. We’re aware of the mental health crisis that surrounds us and we’re serious about making change happen to address it.
The success of any movement depends on which voices are given priority. Think about some of the most successful movements from past and present: women’s suffrage, civil rights, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter. These and so many others were led by those with the most stake in the game. These groups elevated their voices and demanded change, and change happened. When it comes to mental health and suicide among teens, it should be no different. Teen perspective on these issues must be elevated and taken seriously if positive change is to occur. Many teens involved in the Campaign see mental health awareness and suicide prevention as the preeminent issue of our generation.
One teen put it this way, “I think for our parents’ generation, it was uncommon for them to talk about suicide and depression. But now, we’re seeing it’s a lot more common. We’re seeing the effects of suicide and mental illness. It’s taking our friends, our family, our peers. I think that’s why young people are so willing to seek change and speak up about it.”
Our voices are essential to the mission of suicide prevention. If a community wants to address mental health and suicide among their young people, an essential first step is bringing teen voice to the forefront of the conversation.
Learn more about how Zero Reasons Why has helped communities do just that – and has seen a reduction in teen suicide rates as a result.