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Campaign launched to empower people to discuss mental health struggles

Patrick Koster

Douglas Hahn was diagnosed with depression when he was 9 years old. In subsequent years, he isolated himself from others until he was almost finished with high school. He was in and out of facilities during a difficult era.It took Hahn eight years to get the help he needed. Now, he’s giving back by peer-mentoring young people as part of  the recently-launched Just Tell One mental health campaign.

“I just want to help these youth,” Hahn said. “I go in there and I tell them ‘Look, I’ve been where you’ve been. I’ve been a patient at XYZ Facility before and I’ve lived through that. I’ve woken up not in my own bed having to follow an organization’s rules. I get it, but let me help you through my experience, through my journey.’”

The Just Tell One campaign empowers youth with tools and confidence to talk about their mental health.

The campaign focuses on alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide. A kickoff event was held earlier this week at WNED|WBFO in downtown Buffalo.

Andrea Wanat, director of behavioral health at Millennium Collaborative Care, said the launch of the campaign was planned around the holidays because mental health is a big topic around this time of the year.

“The whole idea was to try and move the needle on changing the community’s perspective on those four identified areas: suicide, depression, substance abuse and alcohol abuse, to try to let people know that there are people that they can go to for help and that there’s resources in the community for them,” Wanat said.

The campaign is led by several groups, with supporting organizations in all eight Western New York counties. It plans to use social media to help spread its message.

Ken Houseknecht, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Erie County, said depression is very treatable. 

“One of the focus areas of the campaign is depression, and depression definitely gets worse for some people around the holidays,” Houseknecht said. “When everybody else is happy and they’re not, it makes it worse. Then there’s the whole Seasonal Affective Disorder when the days get really short, the sun shines less, people get less Vitamin D. It’s all real and we’re addressing depression head on.”

For more information, go to justtellone.org.

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