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Teens connect with aging adults

December 29, 2020

While Johnson County residents of all ages may be physically apart from friends, family and community, they are not alone. So many of them need to hear that message right now. And how better to stay connected with loved ones than through random, and not so random, acts of kindness?

A community mobilization and story-telling campaign called #ZeroReasonsWhy (#ZRW) was founded in 2018 to prevent teen suicide and to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. The campaign has broadened its outreach to include aging adults and others who are suffering from the impacts of isolation, depression, suicidal thoughts and mental health issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

#ZRW is sponsored by Johnson County Mental Health Center in partnership with the six Johnson County public school districts.

"The campaign has provided our community the opportunity to collaborate and take action to prevent suicide and promote mental wellness," said Johnson County Mental Health Center Director Tim DeWeese. "Having positive relationships with adults outside of one's immediate family is one protective factor for mental wellness. This is why intergenerational connection is so important."

When asked how they are connecting with the important aging adults in their lives, #ZeroReasonsWhy teens had some creative suggestions. The most popular suggestion is to reach out with a video call, so that no matter the distance or the weather, participants and families can stay connected and share a smile.

"Almost every Sunday night since March, my extended family has gotten together over Zoom to chat and stay connected. I get to see my grandparents, aunts and uncles ... and I even met my baby cousin born in June over Zoom! My family is so grateful for this technology so we can continue to see each other, catch up and share family stories even when we can't be physically together!" – Maria

Another suggestion was sending a handmade card to friends and family members or participating in Cards for Kindness to let people know they are important to someone.

"I am trying to spread positivity during these trying times by making and sending cards. I know a lot of seniors are isolated now [due to COVID recommendations], and so I am just trying to tell them it's going to be OK and that they are loved." – Varsha

Other suggestions include:

  • Visiting with a mentor or grandparent outside their living room window provides in-person connection while staying safe.
  • Leaving a loved one or neighbor a chalk art message in front of their home is a great way to brighten someone's day and surprise them.
  • For those living with an older relative, doing a puzzle or playing a game is a wonderful way to make memories – and don't forget to ask them to tell you a story.
  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood on a nice day or sitting at least six feet apart in lawn chairs outside is a great way to be together in nature.
  • Dropping off a plate of food or a bag of groceries at someone's home who lives alone reminds them that they are cared for.

Over the past two years, #ZeroReasonsWhy has grown to serve the greater Kansas City metropolitan area and has plans to grow throughout the region. More information is available by downloading the zeroreasonswhy.org/playbook.

2020 brought a lot of challenges. Many families and individuals of all ages are feeling stress in ways they haven’t before. You don’t have to go through it alone. 

Whether you need ideas to help reduce stress or anxiety, have a question about maintaining your mental health or need additional resources for a challenging life circumstance, someone is available to talk any time, day or night.

Call the Johnson County Mental Health Center 24/7 Crisis Line anytime at 913-268-0156.