Destigmatizing Teen Mental Health: Charlotte Y’s New Hub and Campaign

image of Charlotte Y Mental Health Has No Face campaign

Last month the YMCA of Greater Charlotte launched its Teen Mental Health Resource Hub and “Mental Health Has No Face” campaign designed to destigmatize teen mental health and drive conversations through increased understanding and awareness of the important of self-care.

“We have three goals: 1) ensure the Y is a resource, 2) ensure we are promoting conversation around teen mental health, and 3) ensure teens know they can come to us on these sensitive matters,” said Adrianne Hobbs, Vice President of Youth Development for the Charlotte Y.

“We aren’t starting these conversations; they are already taking place. Teens are talking about mental health in their spaces, and we want to ensure that we have space and resources to connect with them and destigmatize mental health,” Hobbs said.

Pamela Hempstead, the association’s Director of Mental Health, reiterated that these conversations are already happening, and the Y has been intentional in its capacity to respond, support and facilitate those conversations by training and empowering staff to take action, whether that’s share resources with teens, call 988 (the suicide prevention text/talk line), or talk to a parent and provide resources.  

“Camp counselors have created trusting relationships with our young people, and they are sharing things they wouldn’t typically share with others. It’s beautiful that they have these relationships, but it was important for us to equip our staff with the tools they need to help,” she continued. Part of the training for staff has been adopting the QPR process (Question, Persuade, Refer) for suicidal ideations. 

Mental Health Crisis

The need to address teen mental health is significant. National data shows that “nearly all indicators of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors increased from 2011 to 2021,” according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021 (p. 58). In 2021, 18% of high school students made a suicide plan during the past year, and female and LGBTQ+ were more likely to make a plan.

Using funds from a grant provided by the City of Charlotte, the Y worked with teens and a multicultural marketing agency to develop the campaign and the Hub. The campaign highlights that mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or social status. It could be the friend you know is having problems at home or the friend who seemingly has it all together. 

The campaign emphasizes that teens are not alone and it’s OK to not feel OK at times, but being honest about when to reach out for help is essential. The Y’s teen mental health resources are to help teens feel seen and safe, and to get the help they need. 

Engaging Youth

Hobbs, Hempstead and the Marketing Communications team at the Y kicked off this work in November 2022 and engaged teens in listening sessions about the topics in the Resource Hub and the campaign concepts, marketing pieces and messaging. 

“We asked the teens for their opinions, we gave them options and they chose the images that spoke to them and engaged them,” Hempstead said. “This was so important because in many instances adults will suggest ‘this is what you need’ without consulting the person who stands in need. This was an opportunity for these youth to say ‘this is what I need’ or ‘I’m not feeling this.’ Hands down, if adults only had designed this, it would have gone a different direction. But we are acknowledging where teens are right now,” she said.

The Teen Mental Health Resource Hub located on the YMCA of Greater Charlotte’s website is a tool available to anyone working with youth. In addition to the Hub, the Y is featuring in-branch merchandising, including banners, posters, yard signs, fliers and more as well as social media and other outreach as part of this effort to destigmatize mental health.