On May 7, young people here and around the U.S. will gather friends around a cell phone for Text, Talk, Act, a guided, face-to-face discussion about mental health. Using this innovative approach, thousands of young people in all 50 states have met in dorm rooms, kitchens, cafes and classrooms to discuss why mental health is important, how to care for it, and how to help a friend in need.
Text, Talk, Act is a project of Creating Community Solutions, the national dialogue on mental health. (May 7 is co-sponsored by SAMHSA on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.) National leaders selected Kansas City as one of a handful of lead cities for Creating Community Solutions, and the local effort is co-sponsored by Mayors Sly James and Mark Holland. The project engaged more than 300 people in a day-long dialogue in the fall of 2013, and is currently convening teams to flesh out the community’s action plan.
Creating Community Solutions-KC is excited about Text, Talk, Act. We heard directly from young people how hard it is to talk about their challenges and how demoralizing stigma can be. Engaging any and all young people in discussion about mental health recognizes that we all have hard times, and we all need and can give help. And data show it’s working.
Young people have said that Text, Talk, Act is fun, flexible, easy, convenient, and leads to meaningful conversations that build peer understanding and support. More than 90 percent of respondents to follow-up surveys report an increase in understanding and more than 65 percent of survey respondents report an increase in their level of comfort in talking about mental health.
To participate, just gather three or four friends around one cell phone. Text START to the number 89800 to receive a series of text messages that guide the group through a 45-minute conversation. The text messages include videos, social media interactions, polling questions and discussion questions.
Text, Talk, Act can be used wherever people normally gather, like school clubs or youth groups, or they can be the focus of a larger event in a central location, such as a school cafeteria or rec center. A free toolkit includes things like a teacher guide, sample parent letter, infographics, and organizers guide. Organizers can join a contest for a chance to win cash prizes for their school or organization and schools who request it can receive a report of anonymous responses from their school or community.
The national goal for May 7 is to engage 15,000 young people nationwide, to reduce loneliness and isolation, and we can help guide you through the process of organizing. Just get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, while we are encouraging people to join us on May 7, Text, Talk, Act is available through the whole month of May. Simply text START to 89800 when your group is ready to Text, Talk, Act.
Jennifer Wilding is director of Consensus, the nonprofit organization celebrating its 30th year of putting the “public” in public policy by giving people a thoughtful voice in decisions that affect their lives.
Mental Health Care