Online campaign expands services to help youth deal with mental health and substance abuse

Oct 3, 2017

An online peer-to-peer public awareness campaign aimed at helping Western New York youth deal with mental health and substance abuse is celebrating a successful first year and turning its focus towards expansion. launched in November 2016 as a home for video content, referral services, and online resources. It’s core message and content encourages teens and young adults age 14 to 26 who may be struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse to “just tell one” person about their issues as a step towards finding help.

In less than a year, the website saw more than 33,000 page views and its videos on Facebook attained more than one million views. With that success under its belt, is expanding its services and staff in what it’s referring to as Phase II.

Among the new staff is Stephon Barnes, one of the organizations newest youth spokespeople. Barnes’ own struggles with mental health led him to, and ultimately inspired him to ask how he could become more involved. The organization recruited him as one of the five new faces seen on its website. Through videos, Barnes and other youth share their stories and words of encouragement. But he said many youth don’t know where to go when they’re facing mental health issues or drug addiction.

“Some are too scared to come out and tell if they have a problem because the, you know, stigma and any negative connotations that go attached to that. And they don’t want to put themselves out there and end up, ultimately, getting rejected,” said Barnes.

A 24/7 online chat service is one of the expanded support options provided by that is available as part of its Phase II.

One of the ways youth have been able to get in touch with is its crisis services phone line. But unlike its web-based content, the phone line went under-used. Campaign Director Carol Doggett said the target audience just wasn’t interested in making phone calls.

“So we wanted to do something more where they really reach within the medium that they like to work with,” said Doggett. found its opportunity to extend that through the YWCA of Genesee County's Care+Crisis Helpline, which already offered a web-based crisis chat line. now uses the YWCA’s online infrastructure to expand its reach across all eight counties of Western New York, 24/7.

Also part of Phase II is the availability of’s tool kits for mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide in seven languages other than English. Doggett said the languages – which include Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Karen, Nepalese, Somali, and Spanish – were chosen based on insight from Millennium Collaborative Care and other community partners.

“It came out of their research as to what are the communities that are underserved and who are needing help,” said Doggett. “So you’ve got Jericho Road out there, and you have other community organizations that are serving these populations, large populations, and not just in Erie County, but beyond.”

For anyone seeking help with mental illness or drug addiction, Barnes shared this message: “Cast your worries aside and get the help that you need. Because without it, you’ll just waste away or you’ll spend your time living a life that’s just not worth living, because you don’t have any joy, you don’t have any happiness, and you’re dealing with these things that you need to get off of your chest. Just tell one.”