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June 21, 2022

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Impact Stories: Mental Health

Featuring:

Jay Osterman, Manager of Social Impact, MTV Entertainment Group; Stan Chin, VP Content & Communications, Jack.org, and Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist, The Trevor Project.

Moderated by: Maya Enista Smith, Executive Director, Born This Way Foundation

As part of the Inaugural Anthem Awards conference, winners Jay Osterman, Stan Chin and Jonah DeChants came together to amplify the accomplishments of their organization’s recent projects and enterprises.

Highlights include:

  • Jay Osterman’s transformation of Mental Health Action Day into Mental Health Action Network
  • The growing empire of Stan Chin’s jack.org extensions such as Jack Talks, Jack Chapters, Jack Summit, Jack Originals and Jack Originals Untold
  • New and improved research of LGBTQ+ Youth by Jonah DeChants with The Trevor Project to allow for better accessibility of mental health resources

Watch the full discussion:

Read the full transcript below:

 

Maya Smith  0:15  

Good morning, everybody. My name is Maya Smith, my pronouns are she, her and hers. I am proud to be the Executive Director of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. There is no better way to start my Monday morning here in California, than talking about mental health with these incredible leaders and changemakers. Thank you for joining Anthem Voices and, thank you all so much for being here. I’d love to introduce you to my friends here in these little boxes. So, Jay, and Jonah would love for you to share who you are, your pronouns, and a little bit more about each of your organization’s as we get started this morning. Jay, I’ll kick it over to you first.

 

Jay Osterman  1:07  

Thanks. Yeah, happy to go first. I’m Jay Osterman. I use he, him, his pronouns, and I’m on the social impact team at MTV Entertainment Group. I can kick it over to Jonah.

 

Jonah DeChants  1:21  

Hi, everyone. My name is Jonah DeChants. My pronouns are he, him, and his. I’m a research scientist with the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention services to LGBTQ youth across the United States. I’ll kick it over to Stan.

 

Stan Chin  1:34  

Hi, I’m Stan Chin, from Toronto, Canada, and I am he. him, and I’m Vice President of Content Communications at jack.org.

 

Maya Smith  1:44  

Thank you so much, Stan. It is a pleasure to be amongst three friends and three organizations whose work I admire so incredibly much. Here at the foundation, our work is about building a kinder and braver world every day. Tomorrow, we celebrate 10 years in existence, founded, of course, by Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta. Our work falls into three buckets. The first is to make kindness cool, and I know that I don’t have to preach on the transformative power of kindness to anybody here today is to validate the emotions of young people around the world. Something that each of you do so incredibly well. Then the last is our shared mission for the world I know amongst the four of us, is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. We’re so grateful to our friends at the Anthem Awards for helping us amplify the work that we do. I can’t wait to get into the conversation today. I’m so excited to learn more about each of you and your work. Jay, if it’s okay with you, I’d love to start with you first. I am going to, there’s no doubt on the power of storytelling in terms of its connection to building empathy and creating social change. We need it now more than ever, especially in moments where we’re confronted with the overlapping and ongoing crises. I think especially that’s top of heart and top of mind for all of us today. What are some ways that we can be part of shifting the narrative and using our platforms to inspire and bring hope. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Jay Osterman  3:23  

Thanks, Maya. I love this question. Likewise, I’m such a believer in the power of storytelling to create social change. Coming from a meet from a media company and having a background in scripted film, and television, my answer is kind of going to be rooted in that, but I think it can apply a bit more broadly. I’d like to give a huge shout out to my social impact colleagues and our mental health and race and culture pods, whose work massively informed this answer. If I were to go back and put on my producer hat, any project that I’m working on will start with an honest assessment of where my expertise and lived experience begins and ends, and then plan to supplement that with a firm commitment to doing no harm. I think a great place to start would be the Mental Health Media Guide. That was all that was released a little over a year ago. It’s a first of its kind online resource, with comprehensive best practices to help content creators expand positive mental health portrayals, and that can be found on mentalhealthmediaguide.com. I think some general rules to make content that confronts and shatters stereotypes and tropes embraces the multi dimensionality and nuance of characters and shows characters resilience in joyful moments. I think ultimately, these aren’t just good storytelling tips for social change, but just good principles for authentic storytelling.

 

Maya Smith  4:55  

Thank you so much, Jay. I was so excited to get right into the questions, Jay, I’ll just back up, and ask you to also present your case study. We’ll start there before we dive into the conversation.

 

Jay Osterman  5:11  

Yes, yes, thank you so much. More than happy to.  I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be here to share a little about Mental Health Action Day. Around this time last year, after a year of COVID-19 upending our daily lives, mental health struggles were skyrocketing and accelerated the crisis that was ongoing and experts had begun to call the second pandemic. This and MTV entertainment group and task force came together and convened a coalition of 1400 brands, nonprofits and cultural leaders from 32 countries to meet the urgency of the mental health crisis, with the goal of changing the conversation from awareness to action. I want to shout out Born This Way, and Trevor Project for being among the first to join us. In doing so we created the largest cross sector moment of action for mental health in history. Since each of us has a different relationship with well being, action can look different for everyone. We encourage our audiences to simply take an action for mental health that they’re comfortable with, and therefore acknowledge the fact that they can take actions for their mental health just like we can take actions for our physical health and that they’re inextricably linked. Mental Health Action Day was inspired by giving Tuesday and National Coming Out Day. It’s open source with toolkits designed for  easy engagement, so expert partners can own mental health action day by integrating the message and spirit into their existing brand voice without competing with their work. But, partners who don’t work in mental health can still receive messaging tips, and access to a robust audience facing mental health resources powered by mental health itself. We undertook specific outreach to bring on nonprofit organizations that reached BIPOC and LGBTQ+ audiences understanding that these groups are often most disproportionately impacted and have often least access. After Mental Health Action Day 21, we had all that momentum, we wanted to foster the movement. We pivoted and formed the Mental Health Action Network, which features quarterly convenings, monthly art drops, and an ongoing slack group to foster collaboration. We would love to invite others to join the movement to continue to push our culture, from mental health awareness to mental health action. I’d invite anybody to visit mentalhealthactionday.org to learn more. Thank you.

 

Maya Smith  7:33  

Thank you so much, Jay. I love that you equated taking small actions with helping our well being. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to get started. But sometimes, we don’t know what to say or what to do. Just any small action for yourself or someone else makes a big difference when it comes to mental health. Thank you also for talking about the importance of storytelling to different communities. The perspective that I have about mental health right now very much differs from anybody else. We need to find a space where each of our experiences are validated and supported. So congratulations, and thank you for the work that you’ve done. Stan, let’s go to you. Before I jump in with all of the questions that I have for you, I’d love for you to share your incredible case study at jack.org.

 

Stan Chin  8:22  

Yeah, thank you, Maya. To give everyone a brief overview of jack.org. Our mission is to empower youth in Canada beyond by making sure that young people everywhere and the people around them know how to recognize signs of mental health struggles in themselves and others. Together, we lead mental health conversations when and where it matters. We are guided by the voices of over 3000 young people and youth leaders at our jack.org network. From them, we really gathered their perspectives, their stories, and to just speak to the thread that Jade mentioned. They’re just, you know, unique insights and journeys that we can provide to destigmatize mental health issues with young people. We have a range of programs including Jack Talks, Jack Chapters and Jack Summits which are focused on in person leadership building within the mental health communities. But also digital programs, with our friends at Born This Way Foundation, bethere.org which focuses on how to be there for peers and families were five simple golden rules. Today I’m going to speak particularly about our documentary series called Jack Originals, and specifically our documentary is called Jack Originals Untold. We have the opportunity to really understand how to provide the perspectives of young people with a range of mental health issues. A couple of years ago, we undertook a landscape scan to understand what the unique perspectives of young people were and the stories they’re going through.  Through showing them in these pieces such as our documentary films, our explainers, as well as our podcast. We really wanted to elevate their voices and their stories to a wide audience. Other young people can see through their lens, how they were going through these journeys, such as men’s mental health, body positivity, or even a loss and their family through these documentary series. I’ll post a link in a second, but Jack Originals, overall, is engaging low mental, low barrier, mental health content that was co-created by you. In each one of these slides, here, you see a selection of some of the subjects that we put forward. I just have to shout them out; Ezekiel Chelsea, Gala Gatsby, and then the family of Cory McGregor, and through the storytelling reveal and Elevate Youth Voices that too, in order to help them face barriers, both cultural and systemic, in the pursuit of better mental health. That is one of six awards that we’ve been graced with at the Anthem Awards for jack.org I’ll post a link here in a second.

 

Maya Smith  11:19  

Awesome, thank you so much, Stan. I just have to underscore for folks bethere.org is just such an incredible resource. Stan, your team at jack.org This is a free resource to learn how to dig into hard conversations, know the resources, know how to support yourself or a loved one that may be struggling. Please take the time to check out bethere.org. On the point of storytelling and everything you just said, Stan about being guided by youth voices at the foundation, we’re really proud of our channel kindness platform. It’s a place where young people can share their stories, because, as you pointed out. Too often young people are talked about, instead of us turning the keys over to every asset and platform that we have for them to tell their own story. Channel Kindness was created to do exactly that and we’re so proud of the partnerships we have with all of you and that incredible platform. Thanks, Stan, Jonah. I would love to hear from you with your case study before I hit you with the question.

 

Jonah DeChants  12:27  

Yes, thanks so much, Maya. At the Trevor Project, we are best known for our crisis services which provide free confidential 24/7 support to LGBTQ young people via phone, text and chat. However, what’s less known is that we also support young people through a number of key program areas, including advocacy, education and research. The research team, which I feel fortunate to be a part of conducts our own original research with the goal of filling gaps and improving our collective understanding of LGBTQ youth mental health, and key risk factors for suicide. In May 2021, we released our third annual National Survey on LGBTQ youth mental health. We are presenting our largest and most diverse sample yet, capturing the experiences of almost 35,000 LGBTQ young people between the ages of 13 and 24, with 45% of those young people being young people of color, and nearly 40%, being trans or non binary. Some of the key findings that we found in this year’s survey were that 42% of LGBTQ youth, including more than half of trans and non binary youth, had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, which is much much higher than the rates we see among their straight and cisgender peers. We also found that 70% stated that their mental health was poor, most or all the time during the COVID 19 pandemic.  Yet, nearly half of the young people who told us that they wanted mental health care, were not able to get it in the last year. We also found that a whopping 94% of LGBTQ youth told us that recent politics have had a negative impact on their mental health. Half of our youth of color reported discrimination based on their race or ethnicity in the last year, including 67% of Black LGBTQ youth, and 60% of Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth. Our research also shows that ally ship and affirming young people is very important and is associated with DC decreased suicide risk. We found that trans and non binary youth who report that their pronouns are respected by everyone that they live with attempted suicide and half the rate at those who do not. We also found that LGBTQ youth who have access to LGBTQ affirming spaces at school at home and online also report lower rates of attempting suicide. These findings provide lawmakers public health officials, educators and youth serving organizations with brand new data on LGBTQ youth suicide and contributing factors, helping underscored the need for intersectional policy solutions that really confront these systemic barriers to best practice mental health care and help us end suicide among LGBTQ youth. This research is also more important than ever, in light of the recent onslaught of anti trans bills coming across the country aiming to legalize discrimination against trans and non binary youth, and deny them access to Beck’s best practice medical care. Findings like these demonstrate a really clear need for more accessible, more equitable and more affirming public health interventions and policies for all LGBTQ youth.

 

Maya Smith  15:26  

Thank you so much, Jonah, for the urgent work that you do. We similarly in a report called kindnesses action found that one of the most life saving and important acts of kindness is using your pronouns and opening the space for others to as well. For anyone watching today, you know, it’s like part of my name. Now, my name is Maya Smith, my pronouns are she, her and hers. If you haven’t integrated that urgent change into your email into the way that you introduce yourselves into conversations, we know Jonah and I from research, but also just personally and qualitatively, how much of a difference that it makes. So thank you. We’re going, the Foundation team is going from this conversation with anthem into a team meeting, where we’re going to be sharing notes of kindness, with the TENT group, the transgender education network of Texas.  If you’re looking for actions to take to Jay’s original point that doing something today in service to someone’s survival, kindness, inclusion makes a huge difference. I know there’s a bunch of foundations, folks, if someone can drop a link in the comments, I would so appreciate it, and the blog to have as many of you join us in sending affirmative kind notes to our incredible trans friends. Jonah, I would love to talk to you. You spoke about that lived experiences, the stories we hear we learn directly from young people. We know that research on young people shows that they’re affected when they witness issues on the news on social media. How can we show up for trans youth? What resources and support do you recommend that we learn about that you trust?

 

Jonah DeChants  17:14  

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for asking that. I sort of think of two buckets of actions that we can take a take to support trans folks and transgender people in particular. The first is this interpersonal that we’ve already touched on pretty heavily, right, making sure that we’re using someone’s name and someone’s pronouns correctly. Making sure that we are communicating with them and treating them in a way that validates and affirms their gender identity, that’s incredibly important. Some resources about that, The Trevor Project, on our website, we have a resource center, where we have several guides, we have a guide to being an ally to trans and non binary youth, we have a guide to coming out. Those recommendations are resources that I really find helpful. Then, the second bucket is this larger societal piece, right.  Making sure that we’re advocating against some of these bad laws, these laws that attack young people’s right to health care, their right to participate in school, the right to feel safe, making sure we’re communicating that with our elected officials. Again, on our website, we do have several Call to Action resources, where folks can sign up to be alerted by text or email to be in touch with their elected officials. Those are the two sort of key parts that I think are really important to making sure that we’re telling trans youth that we see what’s happening to them, and we’re standing up against these attacks, and then we understand who they are. We celebrate that. 

 

Maya Smith  18:29  

Thank you. Absolutely. It’s worth saying, again, we celebrate them and Jonah. I hope someone from your team is dropping some links in the comments so we can all join your incredible movement. Stan, so at jack.org, you work with thousands of youth leaders to build a world where all young people understand how to better care for their mental health and look out for each other. Can you tell us a little bit about the importance of providing young people with the tools they need to support themselves, and their peers?

 

Stan Chin  18:59  

Yeah, and, you know, it’s interesting, because, today, and overall, we’ve been faced with more overwhelming dialogue about mental health, in society and culture. What we’re seeing is where, where can we emphasize the young people’s perspective on mental health, and with the tools and conversational tools that we want to provide is facilitating conversation, right? How can we get young people to guide and facilitate the conversation with their peers, the support group around them in order to de-stigmatize mental health. That’s where some of our some of the tools that we’ve developed, whether it’s our in person programs, such as our in person summits, our chapter networks across the country in Canada and beyond, as well as some of our resources such as bethere.org. Even our content series which Thank you, Jay, for your media. Gotta go look through that and really see how we can apply some of those things to our storytelling, really gives people the young people in the audience the understanding of just like, oh, alright, here’s how I can approach these things here. Here’s how I can write or even talk about some of these really difficult struggles and journeys that other young people that I’ve seen make a big bet on whether it’s underserved communities such as black, or LGBTQ audiences, or even body positivity, family suffering, or recent loss from addiction. We certainly posted a video that was focused on a family, The McGregor’s, who was really undergoing just the  understanding of losing a family member to  addiction and mental health. Just through that powerful story, they were able to understand just through themselves and to the audience, how we can talk about these things. There was a discussion intertwined about how families can talk about mental health when they’re going through to basically do these. All of these storytelling opportunities and tools and, and programs that we want to put forward or are brought from young people’s perspective. That’s the most important thing, because, there’s so much of a mental health environment that, from what we’ve seen, has generally been focused on adult mental health, right? There’s common studies of just like, how can we from a mental health perspective, adults talk to each other. There’s such a different perspective of young people that we have to capture, we have to learn from, we have to design specific programs and content co-created by them in order to produce that content that really gets to the essence of what their perspective of mental health is. That’s why that’s what we’re trying to do with jack.org, as well as everyone else here on this panel. So thank you so much.

 

Maya Smith  21:57  

Absolutely. I’ve been working in the youth field. I don’t even say how many decades now, right. But this generation, there’s something incredibly unique and special about this generation. Their idealism in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, their willingness to collaborate, their passion for telling stories and building bridges, and I think the fact that you let these leaders, not future leaders, not leaders of tomorrow, but that these leaders lead the work of your organization is just so incredible standing. Another research point, and I don’t know if any of you are also parents, but I have two young children. The research shows that while as parents, we’d like to think that our kids would turn to us in times of crisis, the research actually shows that they’re turning to each other. So it’s really important that we learn how to support our children, our loved ones, our neighbors, our you know, friends. It also is equally important that we teach them how to be there for each other. Thank you, Stan, for doing exactly that. Jay, I’d love to bring you into this conversation as you’re sort of a platform, a container that holds all of this incredible work. You at MTV you resource and uplift the story. How have you seen the conversation on mental health shifts since you first started talking about this? I mean, I’ve been here at the Foundation for 10 years.  I used to have to be like, so mental health and kindness. They’re connected. Let me build this bridge and take you on this journey and show you how they’re connected. Right. Now, we live in a world where I don’t have to make that case anymore. It’s an inextricable, obvious link. How have you seen the narrative of mental health change? In large part because of you uplifting this work at MTV?

 

Jay Osterman  23:50  

Yeah, I would, I would absolutely build on both you and Stan’s point, that it’s, it’s really driven by it’s really driven by the young folks and the Gen Z. Their beliefs in mental health kind of set the stage for us to put awareness, mental health awareness is table stakes. Aim to move past that and that’s truly a testament to, you know, not not just our work, but kind of everybody, everybody in this window and so many others that have worked for years to destigmatize mental health and make it to a place that we can, we can actually talk about it and then move towards, you know, coping and moving forward.

 

Maya Smith  24:32  

Thank you, Jay. Thank you, and thank you for creating this platform on which we can have this conversation through the collective network. I want it to end a lot of times. I’m sure that you get asked this a lot. Is it heavy to talk about mental health everyday? It must be hard. There are parts of every single one of my days for as long as I’ve done this that have broken my heart, but there’s also hope in each and every single one of my days. I’d love to prioritize closing this conversation on a hopeful note, especially on a day like today where hope may be a little harder to come by in our world. I’m a firm believer that if we look for it, it is there. If it is not there, then we can be both. Jonah, we’ll start with you, and then go to Stan, and then end with Jay again, but what brings you hope about the ways that young people are prioritizing their mental health, sharing their stories, and mobilizing to build this kinder and braver world that we also desperately need? Jonah?

 

Jonah DeChants  25:39  

Yeah, absolutely. Very similar to what folks here have been saying, I am so encouraged by young people these days, they have so much more language to describe mental health than I did when I was young, or, you know, a lot of us in previous generations have. They are much more able to articulate dynamics going on in their life. They’re also much more active in conversation about self care, about really proactively maintaining your mental health before experiencing a mental health crisis. That is very encouraging. Just like other folks here have said, I think, folks in this generation with their access to the internet and information, they are curious. They are gathering information, they are forming their own ideas and opinions, and they’re sharing them and they’re connecting with one another. They have some very critical and important observations about how things are run. I look forward to their voices being included in that conversation as we continue to go forward.

 

Maya Smith  26:33  

Thank you, Jonah, Stan. 

 

Stan Chin  26:36  

Yeah, and just carry off of something that Jay said, it’s like, the conversation has moved past awareness. And that is what has given me hope. There’s such a transformation of dialogue around mental health, and just a definition of mental health among youth. I’m beyond that, and I can really see them on the ground leading what this transformation is, it’s no longer the realm of, you know, older people like myself, to define what mental health is for them. Through that work and through just their actions with every day, they’re creating these pathways, and channels and their understanding, and because of our own lived experiences of mental health struggles, in their own lives, especially through the pandemic, and living in a hyper connected world, with the internet. Their understanding is like, here’s how we need to navigate these things. Here’s the, we’re gonna draw the map together. That is something that is really, really encouraging and to Jonah’s point, is something that was missing from my experience growing up in terms of mental health. That is why I created jack.org, with our friends at Born This Way Foundation, as well as everyone else that we’re understanding, like, we really need to listen to the voices. We really need to listen to the map that they’re drawing themselves, and how do we put that in action. So, that’s what encourages me.

 

Maya Smith  27:58  

Thank you, Stan. Jay?

 

Jay Osterman  28:01  

Yeah, thank you. I would plus one, absolutely everything that was said. For me, what really kind of gives me added hope is the idea of many hands making light work. We’ve kind of, as mentioned earlier, the young generation has kind of effectively moved past move past awareness, and they’ve really embraced the evolving of culture so that not movements are now not created from a one to many model, where it’s like, we’re like broadcast media, social media has now broken open the many to many model. Gen Z has really embraced that, with, you know, help absolutely from everybody in this window, to kind of empower them sharing their stories with each other. I think that it’s a very big hill to climb, but we can do it. The only way we can do it is together.

 

Maya Smith  28:54  

Absolutely. Thanks, Jay. And I’ll close by saying the only way we can do it is together and the only way we can do it is behind this generation. I am so proud of the work of so many young people. I’ll just shout out what gives me hope today. I’m actually wearing this anchor sweater, but I have an anchor tattoo as well. There’s an incredible organization called Find Your Anchor. Together we have launched a suicide prevention campaign called Please Stay. What’s incredible about this organization, and this resource is as an example of young people solving problems, not just for themselves, but for everybody. Find your anchor was created by Ali Borowski who is a four time suicide attempt, survivor and we’re absolutely grateful that she’s here with us today and doing this important work.  Find Your Anchor is a tangible Suicide Prevention Resource that gives people customized decks of cards, 52 reasons to live, and it was born out of the personal experiences that Ali had. I’m sure if we had another hour, we could give you hundreds of more examples of young people who are innovating for solving problems who are building community. We’re doing it in service to building a kinder and braver world one where mental health stigma no longer exists. That’s just one of many please connect with these incredible leaders in these boxes. They’re inspiring and amazing organizations for ways that you can take action today to help us get there. Jay, Jonah, Stan, thank you so much for your time for your work for being such bright lights in the world. Thank you so much to Anthem Voices for having this urgent and important conversation.

 

Jay Osterman  30:43  

Thank you. Thanks for hosting us.

 

Maya Smith  30:45  

 Bye, everybody.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai