Empower young people to talk about mental health 

Editorial Note: A Text, Talk, Act community event will be held at 575 Market Street, Suite 1750; San Francisco, CA 94105, on Tuesday, from 4:30 p.m to 7 p.m. For more information and to RSVP, visit: www.texttalkactsf.eventbrite.com.

Mental illness 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, learn to talk openly about mental health and seek help as early as possible.

Some warning signs that may indicate a 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 these signs and have the tools to address mental health challenges, they can step up, contribute to the conversation and, ultimately, help formulate community solutions to issues of mental health diagnosis and treatment.

LivingRoomConversations.org is partnering with Creating Community Solutions in launching the Text, Talk, Act mental health awareness campaign. The event is designed to reach young people where they live through the use of mobile technology and social media. Text, Talk, Act events, which will be occurring across the country, encourage candid, 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.

Participants can gather at any time today in small groups (3-4 people), with one cellphone per group. They text the word “Start” to the number 89800 and receive a series of text messages that guide the group through a 45-minute conversation on mental health. The text messages provide prompts about topics such as why talking about mental health is important and how to help a friend in need.

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

Previous participants have said Text, Talk, Act events helped them better understand mental illness and left them feeling more comfortable talking about mental health. We learned that 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 in the Bay Area 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 and augment our resources.

Come to our event today in San Francisco 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 sign up for the contest, get materials for your event, or learn more about mental illness, visit creatingcommunitysolutions.org/texttalkact.

Editorial Note: A Text, Talk, Act community event will be held at Place™, located at 575 Market Street, Suite 1750; San Francisco, CA 94105, on Tuesday, from 4:30pm to 7pm. For more information and to RSVP, visit: www.texttalkactsf.eventbrite.com.

Joan Blades is founder of MoveOn.org and LivingRoomConversations.org.

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Joan Blades

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