Text, Talk, Act Draws Kids Into Mental Health Discussion

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“The point is to get young people talking about mental health and mental illness and about the gaps in their knowledge.”

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“The point is to get young people talking about mental health and mental illness and about the gaps in their knowledge.”

For the second time,Text, Talk, Act is engaging young people in a texting event to create conversations about mental health. People join the April 24 event this year by gathering four of five people and texting “START” to 89800.

The event is sponsored by Creating Community Solutions, Part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health and the Born This Way Foundation, a project of recording artist Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta.

“The point is to get young people talking about mental health and mental illness and about the gaps in their knowledge,” said Jillian Edelstein, program associate and youth director of the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County in Florida.

The goal also is to initiate action. The text event is part of a larger effort by Creating Community Solutions to convene local meetings around the country, involving youth development and many other organizations.

A result last year in Connecticut was a New Canaan High School gathering in which teenagers talked about the pressures they felt at school and the lack of support they felt from the school and community.

The meeting involved community organizations including the New Canaan YMCA, Darien Human Services Committee and the Fairfield County Community Foundation.

TXTTLKACT_InfographicThe teens recommended specific actions at the school, including making school psychologists more visible, increasing communication among teachers to limit the number of tests on any one day and limiting parent access to electronic grade books.

Several community conversations in South Florida initiated by Edelstein focused on keeping kids with mental health issues out of the legal system.

More than 100 community meetings have taken place nationwide since Creating Community Solutions was organized last year, said Raquel Goodrich, online engagement manager at theNational Institute for Civil Discourse.  Creating Community Solutions is a coalition that came together after President Barack Obama in June 2013 called for a national dialogue on mental health. The National Institute for Civil Discourse, a member organization, was founded in Arizona after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.

The one-day Text, Talk, Act event is intended to increase the number of youth in the discussion. Goodrich estimates that 5,000 young people could participate.

“They can grab three to four friends, classmates or family members,” she said. As they begin their text conversation, they will receive polling questions on mental health. They get a link to a website where they can see poll results. The text conversation can last up to an hour.

Last year, kids made suggestions that were compiled online.

Specific directions for participating in the event are available here.

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