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Billy Porter, Josh Gad, Norm Lewis & More Take Part in Launch of WELL BEINGS, National Health Campaign

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Billy Porter, Josh Gad, Norm Lewis & More Take Part in Launch of WELL BEINGS, National Health Campaign

A celebrity roster of actors, athletes and musicians, along with leaders in mental health from across the country, joined WETA Washington, D.C., the flagship public media station in the nation's capital, today to launch WELL BEINGS, a major campaign from public media addressing the health needs of Americans. The launch took place during the WELL BEINGS National Virtual Town Hall at NAMICon 2020, showcasing powerful stories, special performances, exclusive campaign content, and a panel discussion on youth mental health and society.

The campaign launch featured young people, experts, and notable personalities urging the country towards a more thoughtful conversation about mental health conditions, particularly for young people. WELL BEINGS unveiled the YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT, which features original broadcast and digital content, a national tour of impactful community events, social media campaigns, interactive storytelling on WellBeings.org, and information on mental health resources from project partners - all emphasizing the mental health needs, lived experiences and voices of youth.

The event, which was hosted in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) during NAMICon 2020, NAMI's annual convention and one of the largest community gatherings of mental health advocates in the United States, included messages of support from Matthew McConaughey, Kid Cudi, Billy Porter, Jewel, Demi Moore, Alanis Morissette, Bill Pullman, Ariel Winter, LeVar Burton, and more, a slam poetry performance by Akeemjamal Rollins, and music from Dear Evan Hansen. NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. opened the event with remarks on the importance of focusing on youth mental health.

The centerpiece of the event was a panel discussion that focused on youth mental health and society and included comedian and host of Crooked Media's "What A Day" podcast Akilah Hughes, actor and LGBTQ+ activist Ian Alexander, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs youth journalist Alexis Davis, NAMI Chief Medical Director Dr. Ken Duckworth, Co-Founders of The Steve Fund Stephanie Bell-Rose and Evan Rose, and psychiatrist, innovator and clinical researcher William H. Carson, MD. John Moe, creator and host of the podcast "The Hilarious World of Depression" from CALL TO MIND at American Public Media, moderated the discussion. The WELL BEINGS Virtual National Town Hall at NAMICon 2020 was designed and produced by batwin + robin productions, inc. and written and directed by Steven Tabakin (Triple Birch Media).

The WELL BEINGS Virtual National Town Hall is available to view at WellBeings.org and www.nami.org/ExperienceNAMICon.

The public can join the conversation on youth mental health by using #WellBeings, visiting WellBeings.org, or following @WellBeingsOrg on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

WELL BEINGS Digital Debut

The public, and particularly youth, are facing an increase in mental health concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by ongoing racial injustice and structural inequality. While the WELL BEINGS YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT was conceived of and in development prior to the pandemic, organizers premiered a digital phase in May 2020, given the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on America's youth.

The digital debut included a new website, WellBeings.org, publication of WELL BEINGS social media channels, and social media campaigns featuring content from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and BRAVE TEENS video diaries, both with a focus on youth mental health during this critical time. WELL BEINGS provides information, community resources, and new digital-first content that will share the personal accounts of young people around the country living with and managing mental health challenges, especially during the pandemic and afterwards. The "We Are WELL BEINGS" Storywall was launched at the July 14th event for people of all ages to engage in the national conversation.

"Public media is uniquely situated to convene expert partners, reach wide audiences, and create cross-platform content on urgent public issues. The mental health crisis in this country is critically important, and we have the opportunity to create a national conversation on this topic as well as provide robust resources" noted Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President & CEO of WETA, the flagship public media station in the nation's capital. "Mental health issues are particularly acute for young people now, but they are also showing us new ways to intervene and provide care and assistance to those with the greatest needs. By listening to their peers, removing the stigma associated with these illnesses, and helping guide those in need to resources, young people are inspiring all who are seeking new approaches and changing how Americans think about mental health issues."

WELL BEINGS TOUR

WETA also announced at the July 14 event the first stops of the WELL BEINGS TOUR, a 24-city tour (2020-2022) where individuals and families, students, caregivers, teachers, counselors, community organizations and youth with lived experiences will discuss mental health today and provide resources and information on best practices, including youth-focused engagement and support systems. The first stops include Atlanta, GA; Anchorage, AK; and Lincoln, NE.

The tour, which will be virtual and/or in-person depending on the market and public health conditions, may include Mental Health First Aid Training sessions for members of the community who support youth. Mental Health First Aid, which is operated by the National Council for Behavioral Health, is a skills-based training course that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to mental health conditions and substance use issues. The WELL BEING TOUR events will feature a panel discussion and Q&A with local experts, as well as arts performances, and a resource fair featuring volunteer opportunities and information from local community organizations. The WELL BEINGS NATIONAL TOUR panel discussions will be co-hosted with WELL BEINGS partner CALL TO MIND at American Public Media and recorded for radio broadcast/podcast.

A New Film Exploring Youth Mental Health, Slated for Spring 2022

During the July 14 town hall event, Ken Burns, a WETA production partner for more than 30 years, announced that he is executive producing a new documentary - HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: OUR MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS (w.t.) - that explores how young people are addressing their mental health needs and the impact of mental health stigma and stress on today's youth. The four-hour film, produced and directed by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers of Ewers Brother Productions, will look at the experiences of young people who live with mental health conditions and focus on the importance of awareness and compassion. This film will shine a clear light on what life is like for these young people as well as for the parents, teachers, friends and healthcare providers in their lives. Exclusive interview clips from the film are available below:

"As a society, we continue to test the resiliency of youth without truly understanding how the stresses of today, including this unprecedented pandemic, are impacting them," said Ken Burns. "Erik and Christopher set out to listen and learn to America's young people, documenting their experiences but also listening to how they are identifying new ways to address mental health challenges. It is a remarkable journey that we hope will capture the unique voices of these young people as they navigate an extraordinarily difficult moment in our country's history."

We Are Well Beings Storywall

Launched during the July 14 town hall, the We Are Well Beings Storywall at WellBeings.org showcases the shared stories and experiences of mental health from people across the country. As a part of WELL BEINGS, the space will offer hope, foster understanding, build community, and breakdown stigma. Users can share videos, photographs, or short text stories about their experiences with mental health. To submit content, users can use the hashtag #WellBeings or submit on WellBeings.org. The We Are Well Beings Storywall is made possible by Otsuka and PEOPLE.

WELL BEINGS Digital-First and Broadcast Content

In addition to the major film for public television, the YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT will feature digital content from BRAVE TEENS, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, CALL TO MIND at American Public Media, and OUT OF THE DARK (w.t.).

BRAVE TEENS Video Diaries

The BRAVE TEENS video diary series is a first-of-its-kind digital community of teen storytellers who are going on the record about their mental health journeys. The daily diaries -shot candidly on cell phones - are personal, unfiltered accounts from young people (ages 14-19) who are living with or recovering from a mental health condition or substance abuse. Debuting on WellBeings.org and WELL BEINGS social media channels, BRAVE TEENS seeks to break down stigmas and help young people struggling with mental health challenges.

With their schools abruptly closed, graduations and proms cancelled, and college plans up in the air, teens are increasingly - and understandably - overwhelmed. The series is co-produced by WETA and Principle Pictures, and features storytellers from This Is My Brave, an organization that uses performing arts to fight the stigma around mental health challenges and addiction. A preview of BRAVE TEENS is available below:

These themes will be further explored in BRAVE HIGH (w.t.) - WETA's first feature-length digital documentary, expected in 2021. This character-driven verité film, directed by Beth Murphy of Principle Pictures, will dive deep into the personal lives of talented teens who are preparing for This Is My Brave's high school stage production that welcomes teens from all walks of life to stand up on stage and bravely share their mental health stories without fear, shame or stigma. A preview of BRAVE HIGH (w.t.) is available below:

"With both BRAVE TEENS and BRAVE HIGH (w.t.), we want to give young people who are facing mental health challenges a chance to hear directly from their peers, feel inspired and see that they are not alone," Murphy, founder of Principle Pictures, noted.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs is an award-winning program from PBS NewsHour that connects students with a network of public broadcasting mentors and an innovative journalism curriculum to develop digital media, critical thinking, and communication skills while producing original news reports. Student Reporting Labs will serve as a digital content partner for the YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT, producing stories focused on youth mental health - all developed, produced and edited by high school students. The initial series, which launched in early 2020, focuses on challenging stereotypes and misconceptions around mental health. In addition, their student journalists will serve as panelists throughout the project's tour.

"Every year we ask our community of youth reporters: what issues are top of mind? And every year they talk about teen mental health from the perspective of journalists who know this issue is not understood or discussed enough," said Student Reporting Labs Executive Director Leah Clapman. "We're so proud to be a WELL BEINGS partner and deploy our network of student journalists to explore stories in their local communities and elevate youth voices in the national conversation through the power of storytelling and media making."

A video about PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs is available to watch here:

American Public Media's Call to Mind

Call to Mind is American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio's initiative to foster new conversations about mental health. Call to Mind will partner with regional public media stations to create live events for the WELL BEINGS TOUR on youth mental health that will be recorded for broadcast. The events will be designed to create relevant and engaging conversations for regional audiences, covering topics such as mental health and new technology and the experiences of athletes, people of color and Indigenous peoples, and high school and college students. The live events will be broadcast by regional public media stations, featuring moderated discussion with regional mental health experts, youth, and celebrities, and including audience experiences and questions.

"Today's youth are facing mental and emotional challenges that are often far more stressful than those faced by their parents and grandparents," said Babette Apland, Managing Director of Call to Mind. "As half of all life-long mental illnesses emerge by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24, youth are creating a generational shift in awareness that demands national attention."

An overview video about American Public Media's Call to Mind is available to watch here:

OUT OF THE DARK (w.t.) Digital Series

An integral part of WELL BEINGS's digital content includes the multi-part digital series OUT OF THE DARK (w.t.), premiering online in the second half of 2020. The series is in development with the award-winning production company Redglass Pictures, led by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason. OUT OF THE DARK (w.t.) will push to destigmatize mental health conditions through the emotional, inspiring, and sometimes irreverent stories of people whose lives have been touched and changed by mental health challenges. The pieces will spark dialogue and empower a generation of young people to be vocal and open about their mental health journey. To reach this younger audience and fuel further engagement, WETA will integrate these stories into unique social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. A clip from OUT OF THE DARK (w.t.) is available to watch here:


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