It’s Mental Health Awareness Month in the USA, and a new “testimonial awareness campaign” called “999 Stories of Mental Health” has been launched by Carmela Wallace, the mother of late Chicago rapper Jarad “Juice WRLD” Higgins, who died unexpectedly from an accidental overdose in 2019 after a years-long struggle with addiction and mental health.

The campaign is via Wallace’s non-profit, Live Free 999, and encourages young people to share their stories about mental health on social media. She wants it “to create a safe space for people to share their stories so they know they aren’t alone.”

It’s recognition of the power – and social authority – of musicians to lead on important conversations for a young audience in an increasingly interconnected and complex world. It’s timely, too: the Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on young peoples’ mental health. According to a NAMI study cited by Live Free 999, more than 3.8 million young adults in the US had serious thoughts of suicide in 2020, and one in six adolescents aged 12-17 experienced a major depressive episode.

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