State launches mental health website targeting teens, young adults

The state has started a new website designed by and for young people that focuses on mental wellness. The website’s mission is to empower teens and young adults in their search for emotional and mental health. was designed to help young people understand their options and learn how to navigate the behavioral health system with treatment models, local community support options, and state and national resources.

The website also has a Q&A guide, infographics, real stories, videos, and the “Let’s Talk” discussion forum.

It aims to reach the population of young adults of high school and college age who are at serious risk when it comes to suicide, depression, eating disorders, binge drinking, drug use, bullying, and other mental health issues.

Many deal with depression

Almost one out of four high school students, and close to half of college students, report symptoms of depression. Among high school students, 15% have contemplated suicide during the previous year and 9% report not eating for 24 hours or more due to their body image.

One quarter of state residents over age 12 report binge drinking (five or more drinks at one time) and 10% of children ages 12 to 17 report using drugs.

According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one out of five college students experienced major psychological distress and 10% experienced a major depression during the preceding year.

Yet, only 11% of this age group is receiving services — even though treatment works and people recover.

Insight sought from teens, young adults

The website is part of a project by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. It is managed by the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board in Norwalk, along with a team of young adults in recovery from around the state.

The effort began with 15 focus groups held throughout the state, eliciting insights from teens and young adults ages 16 to 35. Notably, half of the young people in the focus groups reported experiencing mental health issues themselves.

Information technology and marketing professionals were brought in to support the development of the website and outreach campaign, based on recommendations from a Young Adult Advisory Group.

Ensuring that the project was designed by and for young adults was a key component of the design. The project’s staff members were themselves part of the target demographic, with the coordinators, researchers and interns being aged 18 to 28. Among them were several young people living in recovery.

Sharing their stories

Young people in recovery from around the state were invited to share their stories in writing and in video. Their experiences and stories were used, in many cases word-for-word, to create the content of the website.

The key informants for the project included high school seniors, college students, and recent graduates. They have lived with depression, violence, bullying, PTSD, bipolar disorder, substance use, potential suicide, delusions, ADHD, Asperger’s, and other conditions.

They have experienced being hospitalized, attending therapeutic schools, living in group homes, being homeless, and being well. They are in different places on their journey, but they are all working successfully on their recovery.