425 MAGAZINE: ANIMATED SERIES WITH LOCAL TIES ADDRESSES TEEN MENTAL HEALTH

The U.S. surgeon general last month issued an advisory on the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental-health crisis, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Advisory recommendations included empowering youth and their families to recognize, manage, and learn from difficult emotions.

A new animated series for youth that was released a few months before the advisory and which has local ties, could be considered one tool in that awareness and learning process. A Utah nonprofit and an animation studio headed by a Snohomish executive teamed up last year to produce an animated series for teens to address suicide prevention.

The series, My Life is Worth Living, is free on YouTube.

It was produced by The Cook Center for Human Connection, which is dedicated to eradicating suicide and advocating for mental health and wellness, in partnership with Wonder Media, which wrote and animated the series and is led by CEO Terry Thoren. Thoren has a home in Snohomish and was featured in a 425 Business cover story two years ago. A University of Washington psychology professor, James Mazza, who researches adolescent mental health issues, consulted on the series.

Mazza noted in a news release last August announcing the series that suicide is the leading cause of death among 14- and 15-year-olds in the country, adding, “I hope this series will be the beginning of a conversation that leads to mental wellness becoming an integral part of all schools.”

My Life is Worth Living features five stories told across 20 episodes and models behavior for teens struggling with suicidal thoughts. The series was created to support teens as well as mental health helpers such as peers, family members, teachers, and other adults, the release said. Grounded in research, the series illustrates the healing power of connectedness, a key protective factor recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the release said.

Thoren said an essential first step in helping teens is connecting with them through a familiar medium. With the series available on YouTube, which is popular among youth, he hopes it will reach them where they’re most likely to look when they need help.