This Non-Profit Wants Teens to Know They're Not Alone

Project UROK founder Jenny Jaffe shares her experiences with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

It may come as a surprise to learn that one in five teenagers lives with mental illness. Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are highly stigmatized, which can make it tough for teens to talk about openly and receive the help they need. Project UROK hopes to change that.

The non-profit's name stands for “you are OK.” On their website, you can find powerful videos of young adults opening up about their mental health and the challenges they overcame. The minds behind Project UROK want to give teens that are going through similar issues a sense of community, while de-stigmatizing mental illness and reducing teen suicide.

Project UROK’s founder, Jenny Jaffe, struggled with anxiety, OCD, and suicidal thoughts at a young age. In her video, she says:

I didn't know how to articulate what I was feeling and I knew that I needed help but I didn't know how to ask for it because I didn't know what was going on.

After watching several of Project UROK’s videos, you’ll find that Jenny’s experience is not unique. Often teenagers do not understand or know how to handle mental illness. Speaking openly about these issues can help make sure today’s teens are better prepared than Jenny was.

Perhaps you remember former child actress Mara Wilson from movies like Matilda or Mrs. Doubtfire. In the Project UROK video below, Mara shared her own experience with anxiety and depression. She even demonstrates how to properly perform relaxing breathing exercises. 

Share Mara’s video with every teen you know! Encourage them to watch other Project UROK videos and check out the mental health resources the non-profit provides. If teens you know are struggling with mental illness or you know an adult who has overcome these challenges, ask them to upload videos of their own. Sharing their stories can help others and themselves.

Check out the “We Have Depression” story from our November/December issue, which features real teens speaking out against the stigmas associated with mental illness.