Youth-focused mental health conversations

Apr 20, 2018

Storytelling is being used to help break through the stigma of discussing mental health troubles. As part of our Mental Health reporting initiative, WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Just Tell One campaign is designed to give youth and young adults a chance to start a conversation. 

21-year-old Kaitlyn Ledzian shares her mental health struggles as she serves as a peer to peer advisor at the Mental Health Association of Erie County.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley


Launched in the fall of 2016, the Just Tell One program reveals real stories about mental health or behavioral health issues.

“To just find one trusted person and start the conversation. And have that person help you take that next step,” said Carol Doggett, campaign director of Just Tell One. Doggett serves as senior director of marketing, communications and outreach at the Mental Health Association of Erie County. 

Doggett oversees production of the video stories, focusing on youth from those who have suffered through depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol or substance abuse, stories used to reach those in need of intervention to avoid emergency situations.

"And you might find the right person on the first try, but we give you tips on that to, so it’s really just to give a young person the confidence, the tools, the language to say I think I have a problem and I need help,” Doggett explained.

“We have over 2-million video views, but what speaks to this market and that audience is ages 14 to 26, are the videos – it’s seeing real people talking about real situations they went through and giving them hope,” Doggett described,”

Ken Houseknecht, executive director, Mental Health Association of Erie County & Carol Doggett, senior director of marketing, communications and outreach.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Just Tell One leads to an action plan for those seeking assistance. Ken Houseknecht, executive director, Mental Health Association of Erie County, said the campaign is breaking down barriers and creating a positive mental health awareness.

“Simply by encouraging that conversation you’re allowing people to address issues earlier and you’re increasing the likelihood that people are going to understand what healthy looks like – they are going to want to get to that place and then they’re going to have the tools to stay in that place. There are things that we know you can do, simple things,” said Houseknecht. “Technology is stealing sleep from people. You’re not going to live in an anxiety stress-free world –there are healthy ways to deals with anxiety and stress – there are unhealthy ways.”

Peer to peer help is a key component of the program.  Youth mentors experienced their own mental health troubles.

“I have diagenesis including PTSD, Bipolar One, and clinical depression and generalizing anxiety disorder with panic attacks. I’ve been on more medications – physical wise and mental illness wise – more than I can remember or count,” explains 21-year-old Kaitlyn Ledzian, Youth Peer Mentor at the Mental Health Association of Erie County. 

21-year-old Kaitlyn Ledzian, Youth Peer Mentor at the Mental Health Association of Erie County.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Ledzian juggles several duties, facilitating groups of teens and young adults and respite for children four through 12 years old.

“What is your best advice to a parent or guardian to watch for the mental wellbeing of their child?” asked Buckley.

“Always keeping an open line of communication is very important and just having the child understand that people make mistakes and that’s okay. There’s always consequences to follow that however, I think that it’s still important – just so that the child can trust you – having that the Just Tell One – having that one, trusted individual I think is very important and essentially – that should be the parent,” declared Ledzian.

Ledzian's said she grew up in a family with mental health issues. Both mother and sister suffer from problems. This allows her to guide other youth.

“I tell my kids all the time – no matter what you say or think – I bet you I can relate to it,” Ledzian responded.

Ledzian smiles as she answers our questions with deep enthusiasm. We asked Ledzian what keeps her on track each day.

“Oh boy – um – definitely my family, my friends – they’re very big inspiration to me – my colleagues – my co-workers and really just knowing that – even if it’s just something some you know – when I get up and go to work I can at least make one person day – even if it’s a silly joke – I’m always the jokester of my friends and my co-workers here, I’m always cracking jokes, sarcastic and I just like to see people smile essentially,” responded Ledzian.

The power of awareness, sharing stories and starting a conversation, bringing them to the right care and trying to avert crisis.