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Local Documentary Sparks National Conversation and Receives National Recognition
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Producers of Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone Pictured with NETA Award
Zachary, Lazarski, Meyers, & Linnane

Last May, Milwaukee PBS premiered a new documentary that told a story it knew it had to tell. The station leveraged its experience, as well as its community partnerships, to shine a light of truth on a subject too often in the shadows - mental health among youth. Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone has inspired the passage of a new Wisconsin state law and engaged the country in a national discussion. This documentary was just honored with a 2019 NETA (National Education Telecommunications Association) Award for Community Engagement.

“We are enormously grateful for the recognition by NETA for our project. Certainly NETA's Local Content Award is a milestone in our ongoing accomplishments,” said Bohdan Zachary, Vice President & General Manager of Milwaukee PBS. “At end of the day, however, it’s the positive impact on youth with mental health challenges that is most gratifying. Here is one of many thank-you’s we’ve received from a young person who found a message of hope in Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone.”

Continued Zachary, “A 13-year old girl wrote this note to 14-year Alex Hart-Upendo, who is one of the four subjects in our film: ’I've been in a deep depression lately and really struggling with my mental health. I have been having suicidal thoughts and I have felt completely worthless. I left the screening feeling empowered. I used some of the contacts you gave out and I’m proud to say for the first time I'm in therapy.’ This is the power of storytelling and shared experiences, and I am grateful to the Milwaukee PBS and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel partners for their outstanding work.”

A collaboration between Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK–Wisconsin, Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone tells the gripping stories of four local young people and their experiences with mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts. The documentary has generated a significant amount of public conversation throughout the state, and the country. In September 2019, the producers and the four young people featured in the documentary were invited to the State Capitol by the Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Suicide Prevention to screen the film and to discuss the issue of mental health among Wisconsin’s youth. Their inspiring stories directly resulted in a bill that was signed into law on February 5 by Governor Tony Evers, that funds suicide prevention programs in Wisconsin’s schools. Nationwide, over 250 schools, clubs and civic organizations have contacted Milwaukee PBS to screen Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone. Also, PBS stations across the country have aired Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone, encouraging conversation and fostering awareness throughout the United States. The documentary has also received a regional Emmy Award and the 2019 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability by the National Center on Disability and Journalism.

Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone received the NETA Award for Community Engagement in the Local Project division. The NETA Awards honor public television’s best work in education, community engagement, marketing/communications and content. The NETA Awards Reception and Gala took place on Sunday, January 26, during the 2020 NETA Conference and CPB Thought Leader Forum in Arlington, Virginia. The team behind the making ofKids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone - Milwaukee PBS General Manager Bohdan Zachary, Milwaukee PBS producers Maryann Lazarski and Scottie Meyers, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Rory Linnane - were invited to present a workshop during the conference. They explained how other PBS station affiliates can tackle important issues like mental health, and how to create their own their own local versions of Kids in Crisis: You’re Not Alone.

For more information on Kids in Crisis: You're Not Alone, and for mental health resources, visit www.MilwaukeePBS.org/KidsInCrisis/.