In early 2018, the New York Times asked respondents to name the generation after millennials, in this case meaning everyone age 22 and under. The responses were telling, both of what previous generations think of young people today, and how those young people think of themselves. Gen Z. Generation Scapegoat. IGen. Memelords. Generation Snap. The Hopeful Generation. The Anxious Generation. Some are funny, and some are downright dismal. What they all have in common is the inability to distill this generation into a single word without vastly over-simplifying their struggles, hopes, dreams, and understanding of how to live in the world today.
Headstream is SecondMuse’s innovation program for youth mental health and wellbeing, but it’s quickly become so much more than that. Through all of the research, gatherings, and late night conversations, it’s become clear that this is a generation of young people who desperately want to be seen, heard, and understood for who they are. They are the most diverse generation to ever exist in the US, with nearly half belonging to communities of color. They aren’t interested in repeating the patterns of their grandparents, parents, and older siblings who helped to create this nation. They’re being inspired to push back against the status quo, with young voices like Greta Thunberg and Emma Gonzalez entering uncharted territory by engaging in dialogue with more traditional stakeholders.
“What really motivates me and inspires me to be involved in conversations about youth mental health is the fact that we’re not doing a great job at equipping young people in recognizing that resiliency is a skill. Regardless of all the blows that we’re throwing at them environmentally, politically, economically, racially, we’re not really giving them the tools to be able to say pause, reflect, bounce back.”
Ivan Villaseñor Madriz, CALM Wellness Project Coordinator with Catholic Charities
San Francisco Big Think Participant
Innovating for young people, in a landscape where their attention is a commodity competed for by the newest game or app, requires gaining insight from everyone who influences this space of youth mental health. That means youth, of course, but it also means healthcare providers, parents, teachers, technology companies, investors, the media, researchers, and innovators, to name a few.
Over the course of three weeks and a few thousand miles, Headstream hosted two ‘Big Thinks in the spring of 2019. SecondMuse Big Thinks are focused and facilitated co-design workshops with inspiring stakeholders from across an ecosystem, in this case youth mental health. The Headstream Big Thinks brought together a diverse group of leaders with deep content expertise who drove our team to understand the most pressing youth mental wellbeing challenges that need to be solved, to begin building a youth mental wellbeing community connecting potential collaborators, and to push Headstream to be rigorous, sensitive, inclusive and brave in designing a program that brings new approaches to the forefront and serves vulnerable populations.
At the Big Think in San Francisco, 19 year old Amanda Southworth, Founder and Executive Director of Astra Labs, didn’t let her age stop her from speaking her truth. When asked what inspired her in the space of youth mental health and wellbeing, she had this to say,
“Just talking about it and seeing all of these kids, you know, realizing that this is a priority and something they need to address and not sweeping it under the rug like other generations”.
In a room full of people much more senior than herself, she spoke out and stood out as a continual reminder that the people who understand this generation the best are youth themselves.
Through open dialogue with 36 passionate individuals representing leaders in the youth mental health ecosystem, Headstream is going beyond the headlines and shattering the stigma to pave a pathway to solutions. That was abundantly clear during our Big Thinks in San Francisco and New York City, where the conversation around innovation for youth mental wellness began.
This is the first in a three part series on the beginnings of Headstream, an innovation program by SecondMuse focused on youth mental wellness. Watch this space for more on the power of innovation to address this complex challenge. To stay up-to-date on Headstream, visit headstreaminnovation.com.