Case Study

Providing the Roadmap for a Non-Profit to Help Teens Raise Their Hand for Help


Our client, a U.S. non-profit organization whose mission is to protect the emotional health and prevent suicide in teens and young adults, knows that seeking help can be a challenge for youth.  This leads to many struggling to, or completely failing to, reach out when faced with challenging situations as it pertains to their emotional and mental wellbeing. Knowing this, our client wanted to undertake a comprehensive program of research to deeply understand what’s holding teens back from seeking help when facing challenging situations. They selected C+R as their partner in this endeavor, given our vast experience with non-profits/associations and the teen audience.    


The need to understand why teens/young adults don’t seek help  

The goal of this research was to help our client identify what seeking help means for this target, the barriers and challenges to seeking help, along with the drivers of comfort/discomfort in these situations. Finally, our client needed to understand the trusted resources and allies that teens feel comfortable reaching out to when needing help.  


Multi-modal design, starting with Qualitative followed by Quantitative

We recommended starting with a qualitative phase to develop hypotheses to validate in the quantitative phase. Moreover, the qual phase would provide an opportunity to get the language right for the teen audience. Our qual plan was very comprehensive – interviewing 44 teens via webcam interviews, segmenting by grade, gender/identity, and ethnicity (Black/African American, Hispanic, and Non-Hispanic white). The quantitative phase expanded – including the same cohorts as the qual but adding Asian and LGBTQ+ teens; almost 1,500 online surveys were completed for this phase.   

The result

Results identified messaging strategies and tactics to teens and trusted messengers

The overarching theme from this study indicates that today’s teens believe mental health is important, express wanting to care for their mental health, and have a more open mindset towards seeking help than previous generations. However, some negative perceptions remain, and teens struggle to know when they need help. They tend to favor trying to distract themselves instead of seeking professional help. To break through these barriers, C+R recommended a variety of strategies and tactics, including messaging frames directed towards teens to help them understand the importance of mental health and address the key barriers they face to seeking help.  In addition to messaging directly to teens, C+R also identified key messaging frames for trusted adults, teen peer groups, and mental health professionals to empower them to better help teens struggling with mental health. Finally, C+R highlighted important nuances in the attitudes, behaviors, and barriers for Black/African American, Hispanic, Asian, and LGBTQ+ teens so the client is appropriately prepared to help these more marginalized groups.

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