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Teen Talk App - Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Los Angeles

Teen Talk App, It's OK to Not Be OK Campaign: Normalizing teen mental health struggles through peer support


Teen Talk App creates an accessible, safe, anonymous space for teens to receive support from trained peers. The “It's OK to Not Be OK” digital marketing campaign aims to normalize and destigmatize experiences of depression, anxiety, isolation and loneliness among teens in Los Angeles by driving new users to the app. Growing awareness of the Teen Talk App allows teens who otherwise might lack mental health support to connect with peers, feel seen and heard, and resolve crises in a safe and supportive environment right from their cell phone.

Describe the mission of your organization.

The mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) is to help children achieve their full potential by participating in innovative, effective programs that facilitate lasting mentor relationships and support positive youth development.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Mental health struggles among youth in LA County continue to climb. According to the 2019 Suicide Prevention Report to the Community, between 2013 and 2015, about 19 percent of California high school freshmen seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year. According to the 2021, The State of Mental Health in America Report, the rising number of teens in crisis is met with a lack of intervention and treatment, 60% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment in 2017-2018. A national survey sponsored by Hopelab and Well Being Trust finds that 59% of teens have searched online for information about mental well-being, including stress (44%), anxiety (42%), and depression (39%). Teens and young adults are using digital resources to search for answers and support and fill the gap that traditional mental health services are not meeting. When it comes to mental health, teens are reaching for their phones, and we need to be there when they do.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Teen Talk App provides a free, anonymous, safe space for teens to request support and learn from others with similar experiences. The free app is available to download on iOS and Android devices to teen users 13-19 years old who can post 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Posts range from a bad breakup or first panic attack, to self-harm, suicidal ideation, and child abuse or sexual assault. Posts can only be responded to by our trained volunteer Teen Advisors, who are supervised during app hours (nightly 5-10 pm PST) by licensed mental health professionals. Prior to signing up for shifts throughout the month, Teen Advisors undergo a 50-hour training on empathetic reflective communication, values and bias, and mental health basics. Teen Talk’s “It’s OK to not be OK” campaign will increase our digital marketing and outreach to teens across digital platforms they already use, including Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. The marketing campaign will focus on reducing mental health stigma while driving users to the app as a low barrier, anonymous and safe mental wellness support. We will directly target our campaign to teens across LA county and specifically to communities with lower rates of engagement in traditional mental health systems. Teen Talk’s goal is to create a network of teens supporting each other, recognizing their common struggles, and making it OK to ask for help.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The period of adolescence will forever be an exciting and at times frightening part of growing up. The more we learn about this period of development the better we understand the need for nonjudgmental, accessible, safe spaces for young people to explore their feelings and find unique ways to connect with their peers. At Teen Talk App we envision an LA County where all young people have those safe spaces in their families, schools, communities and on their phones. The positive peer support users experience on the Teen Talk App fosters a safe landing place for a young person’s deepest fears and worst days. By experiencing unconditional positive feedback and empathy in response to the thing they are afraid to tell anyone, teens feel more confident to reach out to those around them. LA County needs spaces for teens that feel they have nowhere else to turn, Teen Talk will be that space.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Appraisal of both the end user experience and volunteer teen advisor performance are critical in the achievement of Teen Talk’s goal to provide a responsible and inclusive digital environment. To evaluate Teen Advisor effectiveness, we analyze the impact of Teen Talk Training on Teen Advisors. Current results demonstrate significant increases in knowledge of mental health concerns, and how to support someone in crisis, increased awareness of privilege and increases in cultural humility. To evaluate our end user experience, we analyze return user activity and satisfaction ratings from teens who have received support (thumbs up, thumbs down), with a current positive rating of over 88%. Return user activity enables us to understand trends in the types of support teens are interested in, and the types of responses they are most likely to engage in. Ongoing evaluation positions us to provide an environment where teens can thrive and feel safe.

Which of the connect metrics will you impact?​

  • Social and emotional support
  • Volunteerism

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE