How much does a secret weigh?
Every time we see a teen suicide, bullying incident, eating disorder, or youth tragedy in the news, it breaks someone's heart--like yours or mine--as we wonder, how can we help? But far more telling than what we see in the headlines is what remains unspoken. One family is thinking, "We never saw this coming." One teacher is thinking, "That happened here, too." One friend is thinking, "I hope it wasn't my fault." One leader is thinking, "Good thing we don't have those problems here." One health care provider is thinking, "We did the best we could." And thousands of kids are thinking, "I'm going through the same thing...but I can't tell anyone."
Why does LETS work?
"Let's Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation is an ideal mechanism because it focuses on stigma; a critical issue in terms of accessibility and effectiveness of mental health services. LETS addresses advocacy in homes, schools, and communities as an enrichment program that helps youth use their own creativity and initiative to develop programs to help other youth. LETS is school-basedconsistent with the mission of so many organizations to develop strong relationships with schools and to facilitate improvements in education by enhancing mental health and mental health services for youth. Additionally, LETS includes research and acts as a visible expression of a commitment to the public good. Indeed, each Club, but especially the LETS Youth Summits are highly visible representations of a desire and intention to help all youth in all settings in the community."
–Dr. Bennett Leventhal; Deputy Director, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research; Professor, Deputy Director of Research, and Vice Chair, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University Medical Center and NYU Child Study Center
A Commitment to Measuring Outcomes
During its first academic year (2009-2010), Let’s Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation (LETS) grew from a single Club of 5 students in Los Angeles to more than 40 members. During its second year, LETS grew from 1 LETS Club of 40 students in LA, to a national movement of more than 400 kids in 15 LETS Clubs across 6 states; with projected growth continuing at least at this rate throughout their third year. Throughout this growth, we’ve been especially interested in the stories shared by LETS Club members as they explain how they have reduced stigma in their schools while addressing issues like bullying, teen suicide, eating disorders, help-seeking and treatment, and other stigmatized mental health concerns in their communities. We wanted to hold our children’s charity accountable for making real change through evidence-based best practices, and we recognized that LETS is an opportunity to learn more about about the science of children and stigma. In order to truly help, we decided to prioritize the study of our youth-based LETS Club model, launching our pilot study in May, 2011.
Let's Erase the Stigma:
An Educational Foundation with Kids Saving Kid
LETS prioritizes prevention and early education by empowering youth to openly discuss mental health concerns faced by their generation and by their communities. Stigma is the number one reason why individuals with mental health concerns do not seek treatment (and when they do, delays of ten years or more are all too common)--in answer, LETS Educational Foundation has created a resource for student-led initiatives that erase this stigma before it forms. The LETS Club design is an elegant, easily implemented model that bypasses barriers of stigma because it's "just a club." Inviting kids to talk in a place as informal--and as fun!--as a LETS Club raises mental health literacy before costly crisis intervention services are needed.
LETS creates community responsiveness to youth-led initiatives, inclusive of underserved cultural populations, Transitional Age Youth, foster students, LGBT youth, low-income families, and kids with mental illness--helping diverse populations overcome barriers to access.