The teen-led mental health campaign that began in Johnson County, Kansas, is featured on a national stage at SXSW EDU®. 

#ZeroReasonsWhy is the case study in “Suicide Prevention Through Storytelling,” a session that illustrates how sharing stories and perspectives of teens helps remove the stigma of mental health and increases help-seeking behavior for those who are struggling – which, in turn, reduces teen suicide rates.  

“I have the privilege to share what is possible when teens are equipped to become vocal advocates, allies and activists for their own mental health,” said Jeff Short, #ZeroReasonsWhy Campaign Director and Principal at Overflow, the Kansas City-based agency that supports the campaign’s efforts.  

The session, scheduled for 4 p.m. on March 7, will help leaders from other communities learn more about the platform that was first created in Johnson County, as teens, educators, mental health professionals, parents and community leaders came together to respond to the county’s dramatic rise in teen suicide in 2018. The movement has grown year-over-year, now accessible to over 50 public school districts, along with private schools, in Kansas and Missouri. 

#ZeroReasonsWhy plans to implement its framework nationally, so other communities can experience the life-saving outcomes of letting teens lead, starting with the launch of a national website and social media presence that allows users to engage with the campaign without the constraints of geography. 

“Never before, in my 30 years in community mental health, have I seen a more fresh, positive and upstream effort to increase protection and decrease risk for our local youth,” said Tim DeWeese, Director of Johnson County Mental Health Center. “In the midst of a global pandemic, our community saw a 33% reduction in teen suicide from 2019-2020. Their work makes a difference.” 

According to Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, United States Surgeon General, everyone has a role to play in combating the mental health pandemic. “Without individual engagement, no amount of energy or resources can overcome the biggest barrier to mental health care: the stigma associated with seeking help. Only when we do will we be able to protect, strengthen, and support the health and safety of all children, adolescents and young adults—and ensure everyone has a platform to thrive.” (Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: 2021)  

The SXSW EDU Conference brings together educators, practitioners, entrepreneurs and visionaries to share groundbreaking stories, tackle complex issues and build reimaged paths forward. Other presenters at the 2022 conference include Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, Chelsea Clinton, Vice-Chair of the Clinton Foundation, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, hip-hop artist and mental health advocate.  

“I couldn’t be more excited to share this story of community transformation and highlight the bravery, creativity and innovation of the hundreds of teens and partners who have joined the movement so far,” said Short. 

To learn more about how you can support the #ZeroReasonsWhy movement, click here