Youth Insights About Coping Will Drive New Suicide Prevention Effort

Suicide continues to be the third-leading cause of death for people 15-24 years old. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walk into any U.S. high school classroom of 30 students, and the chances are that over the past 12 months:
  • 8 of the students will have experienced extended periods of feeling hopeless;
  • 4 will have thought seriously about suicide;
  • 3 will have drawn up a suicide plan, and
  • 2 will have attempted suicide

There is no question that Gen Y struggles with real issues and needs a support network where they can share their own stories of hope and encouragement with their peers.

The "We Can Help Us" campaign, created in conjunction with DDB New York, The Ad Council and SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), is a peer-to-peer-based effort designed to help youth cope with tough times through the power of sharing real stories. This effort was chosen by Campus Media Group for its annual College Newspaper PSA Program and will be running in campus newspapers and on newspaper websites over the next several months. We Can Help Us is based on the following insights that are essential to understanding and reaching Gen Y.



Gen Y creates content and shares

The Pew Internet & American Life Project affirmed this in 2007 with its first report on teens as content creators. With the ease of recording video with phones, the iPod Touch and Flip Video Cameras and with Facebook as a primary method of sharing, we can assume that content creation is only increasing. This generation has also grown up in a confessional culture fueled by reality TV and the candidness of personal sharing online. We Can Help Us taps into these traits but focuses on stories from youth describing how they actually overcame a tough time versus just "confessing" without seeking help.

Gen Y prefers health-oriented websites providing support from peers and professionals

A theme uncovered by PortiCo Research shows that youth often avoid telling people in positions of authority about their problems because that authority figure may feel obligated to "do something" about the problem by reporting it or intervening in ways that will be embarrassing or further complicate things. Research from Ypulse, ISIS, Peanut Labs and Youth Noise in 2008 reveals that health sites are most helpful when they include accurate, accessible information where users can obtain personal support from both peers and professionals. The We Can Help Us campaign is hosted on and taps into Gen Y's natural desire to help each other while providing links to professional support, peer stories, and factsheets written by youth and edited by professionals.

Gen Y is optimistic

In spite of the down economy, war and environmental disasters, this generation views its glass as half full. Recent Pew data show that 41% of Gen Yers are satisfied with how things are going, compared with 26% of older people. By echoing their feeling that things will get better, We Can Help Us ties into the optimism that seems to be inherent with this generation.

College students still read their campus newspapers

College newspaper readership studies have shown that more than three-quarters of college students read their college newspaper over the past month. Although it can vary from school to school, colleges with daily editions can see even higher readership. Free news and information specific to campus life and the ease of grabbing one off the newsstand between classes make newspapers an effective campus-based media channel for delivering important and, in this case, life-saving messaging.

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