Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ReachOut.Com/ YA Author Chats and Other Events for May, Mental Health Awareness Month

Ah, serendipity it is a wonderful phenomenon. So much so we don't give it it's due--but this am I say thank you to serendipitous moments. Through some wonderful renters for my apartment during South by Southwest, the gorgeous couple behind thinklove.com, I was introduced to Jack Heath, Founder of the Inspire Foundation.

Here is Jack's story, from the Inspire Foundation website.

Where Inspire began.

Jack Heath
Following the suicide of his cousin in 1992, Jack Heath had a vision: to connect with young people through the media they use, providing comprehensive resources and support to improve their mental health and well-being. His vision spawned the Inspire Foundation, which in 1998 launched the Reach Out website (www.au.reachout.com) in response to Australia’s then escalating rates of youth suicide. This award winning online service has been credited with contributing to Australia’s 56 percent reduction in youth suicide rates since the website’s inception.

What was achieved in Australia-- a 56% reduction in youth suicide rates--is what Inspire is up to in the US and also Ireland. After reaching out to Jack, I had an impromptu meeting with Anastasia Goodstein, the Director of Digital Programs. (The kind of meetings SXSW generates) Meet Anastasia.

Anastasia Goodstein, Director of Digital Programs

Anastasia is the founder of Ypulse, an award-winning blogger and often-quoted expert on American tweens, teens and early twentysomethings. She has worked in media for the past 15+ years and helped launch youth oriented web and television properties for brands like Oxygen, AOL and Current TV. She will never forget her roots having begun her career in the non-profit youth media space at Teen Voices magazine. Anastasia was one of the first graduates of the Medill School of Journalism’s new media program at Northwestern University, where she earned an MSJ in 1999. Her first book about teens and technology called Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online was published by St. Martin’s Press. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughter and 7-year-old Boxer.

Anastasia sent me some materials that she and others at Reach Out and Inspire have been putting together with the good YALSA librarians. The list of books already assembled and the plans for May, Mental Health Awareness Month are impressive. Reach Out would like to have YA Author Chats Mon-Thur during the month of May. Bookmarks and other collateral are being designed and will be sent to librarians and participating bloggers. I am going to assist with these efforts and am glad to do so.

While the main goal is to lower the youth suicide rates to do so, a bevy of concerns and issues must be addressed: Bullying, Depression, Eating disorders, OCD, Bi-polar Disorder, Self-Harm, Schizophrenia, Suicide, Violence, Sexual Abuse, GLBTQ issues and rights, etc. Though YA literature is not issue drive, kids and characters grapple with these concerns daily. Fantasy novels offer an escape (while still dealing with many of these same concerns in other wordly settings) and contemporary novels address the issues directly.

My interest comes from two suicides that have touched me personally and my YA novel in progress deals with how a long ago suicide affects two teens. I know I am not the only one touched by suicide or many of the issues above. So, if you are an author or a YA book blogger who would like to be considered for a YA Author Chat or be added to the blog roll of blogs participating in Reach Out's efforts, please contact me at: bahegedus at gmail.com.

Books become our friends, and friends and connections save lives. Not only "will it get better" after the teen years are done, we can help make them better for teens now.

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