Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone Documentary

The documentary follows four young people from Wisconsin navigating mental health challenges. They’ve endured assault, bullying, incarceration, and discrimination. Some thought about suicide. But through the pain, they found support from family, friends, and strangers. They found the strength within themselves. They’re sharing their stories to let others know they’re not alone and that healing is possible. The film is an extension of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin’s Kids in Crisis series, which over the past three years has uncovered rising suicide rates and gaps in mental health care in Wisconsin. The hour-long program begins with the inspiring half-hour documentary while the second half of the show will feature interactive discussions with mental health professionals and others who have experienced the effects of mental health issues.
Thank you to our panelists for sharing their stories.
Photograph of TJ Esser

TJ Esser

When he was 13, TJ told his family he was transgender. With support from his family and friends through his transition, he now feels comfortable being himself and dreaming of his future. At 16, he is sharing his story out of concern for his transgender peers, who don't experience as much acceptance, who experience higher levels of mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts.
Photograph of Alex Hart-Upendo

Alex Hart-Upendo
This Racine teen uses his creativity to cope with the difficult parts of his life, including homelessness and bullying. Alex has also turned his talent into a business, designing bow ties to help support his non-profit, Build-a-Bow.

Photograph of Barrett Poetker

Barrett Poetker

Now in her first year at college, this Brookfield East graduate is trying to put her high school years behind her, especially the emotional scars. For Barrett, high school was hard. She struggled with her parents’ divorce, bullying, and diagnosis of OCD, anxiety and depression.
Photograph of Reyna Saldana

Reyna Saldana
Since the age of 4, Reyna grew up in the “system” – first bouncing between foster homes and then, due to her violent behavior, treatment facilities and detention centers. Her mental health issues are most likely the result of severe childhood trauma she experienced. Reyna’s been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Text the word "Hopeline" to 741741
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255


para la prevencion de suicidio nacional 1-888-628-9454


Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone - Panel Discussion

Documentary on youth mental health produced in partnership with the USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Four young people share their mental health journeys in hopes of encouraging others to get help for their mental health challenges.

The second half of the program features interactive discussions with mental health professionals and others.

Documentary Impact
"110% resonate with this documentary. My community and my school really needs to see this. I plan to show this to my teachers/mayors to see what they think. I want to see if I can incorporate it into a mental awareness day or week at my school or my community that I've been really wanting to have. Thank you so much for making this documentary and being a major part in breaking the mental health stigma!" -- Jasmine, high school student, Colorado


"I must say that the documentary is AMAZING and very well done.
The same themes heard in the documentary I hear in my practice with teens, which is very impactful. I plan to incorporate this documentary within my sessions with teens and parents.“ -- Patrice Griffin, Behavioral Health Clinician, Central Virginia Health Services

I wanted to say thank you for bringing this amazing documentary to Pius XI. The resilience and strength shown in this group of young people is commendable. It was wonderful to host the event. Thank you for your dedication to the de-stigmatization of mental health issues in high school. -- Kara Rogatzki, Assistant Principal of Academics, Pius XI Catholic High School

To go deeper, consider using our toolkit.We’ve produced short videos that go more in-depth into various subjects, provided extra information and suggested discussion questions.

Impact in the news

2019 Speaker's Task Force on Suicide Prevention - Part 1 - Ripon, WI

On June 17, 2019, the Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Suicide Prevention held an informational hearing and a public hearing in Ripon, WI. This is part one of two parts, and features the screening of Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone, A documentary about youth mental health produced by Milwaukee PBS in partnership with USA TODAY NETWORK Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Following the screening, the task force held a panel conversation about the documentary.

Lawmakers Recommend Funding for Suicide Prevention Director, Grants, State Hotline

As reported in the September 25, edition of the Wisconsin State Journal, lawmakers met to recommend funding for suicide prevention programs. The session included Milwaukee PBS producers and crew members, along with the four young people featured in the documentary. Lawmakers were invited to the state Capitol by Wisconsin State Representative Joan Ballweg who had viewed the documentary earlier and decided it was time to take action. As a result, the Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Suicide Prevention proposed 10 bills to improve mental health outcomes throughout the state.

Reporter Rory Linnane speaks to the task force on suicide prevention.
Reporter Rory Linnane speaks to the task force on suicide prevention.
Photo Credit: Scottie Lee Meyers
Members responsible for elevating the conversation on "Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone"
Members of "Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone" were invited to address the assembly.
Photo Credit: Erik Esser
Wisconsin State Representative Joan Ballweg addresses the Assembly
Wisconsin State Representative Joan Ballweg addresses the Assembly
Photo Credit: Maryann Lazarski
Thank you to our generous sponsors for making this documentary possible.
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