(NEWARK, NJ) -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and on May 10, WBGO Studios is proud to launch Conversations with Sydney, a podcast series exploring effective ways for parents, teens, schools, and communities to respond to the ongoing crises of teen mental health and suicide. Each episode is structured as a personal conversation between a father (Micah Fink) and his non-binary teenager (Sydney) as they search for real-world solutions by speaking with teens, parents, doctors, and national leaders in the field of teen suicide prevention. Some of the questions the series raises include: Should parents talk to their kids about suicide? How can teens and parents begin to talk about mental health and suicide with their kids?
Experts interviewed in the series include Dr. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, Dr. Madelyn Gould, Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry, Columbia University, Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, Chief Medical Officer at the Jed Foundation, and Tracy Klingener, Director of Suicide Prevention at the Mental Health Association.
The most recent CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year - 30% of female students seriously considered suicide when sorted by gender.
“This podcast comes from a deep sense that families, both parents and kids, really need to be talking about mental health and suicide because when these issues arise, most of us don’t have the tools we need to successfully address the situation,” commented host Micah Fink. “I certainly didn’t have any idea what to do when Syd asked if it was normal for teens to be talking about suicide. Teens today are in crisis –2 out of every 10 high schoolers in the country seriously thought about ending their life last year, so we can’t afford to look away. One of the things we’ve learned is that teen suicide can often be prevented, and our goal with Conversations with Sydney is to help families around the country begin talking about these uncomfortable and challenging topics so they can respond constructively, if ever the need arises.”
Each episode will explore what we know about the signs of suicide and ask important questions. How can it be prevented? What is self-injury and how can parents help their kids find healthier ways to cope with their feelings? What role can schools and teachers play in addressing this unfolding national crisis? What role can teens play? These intimate and open-ended conversations will engage everyone who has a stake in helping young people lead healthy, happier lives – and encourage them to discuss these issues within their own families, schools, and communities.
Micah, a journalist and filmmaker, and Sydney, a teenage musician and artist, live in New Jersey.
The program is distributed by WBGO Studios, a division of WBGO, Newark Public Radio, and is available for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the NPR app, Amazon Music and Overcast.
Conversations with Sydney was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, and produced in association with WBGO Studios. Listening guides for K-12 educators will be available on May 10 here.
Micah Fink is an Emmy-nominated producer and director whose work has appeared on PBS, HBO, National Geographic Television, and CNN. His feature documentaries include BEYOND BORDERS, THE ABOMINABLE CRIME, and MANN V. FORD. He is on the faculty Social Documentary MFA program at the School for Visual Arts in NYC and teaches documentary filmmaking at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism & Media, 2022-2023, and a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
WBGO is a publicly-supported cultural institution that preserves and promotes jazz, blues, Latin jazz and classic rhythm & blues. From its home base of Newark, New Jersey, public radio station WBGO has long been an anchor institution in community engagement through its music and news programming, live performances and partnerships. WBGO reaches a diverse audience from its broadcast location in America's number one media market, the New York/New Jersey metro area. Through programs such as Jazz Night in America, produced in partnership with NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, the organization’s reach extends to millions more across the country, and around the globe through WBGO.org and the WBGO mobile app and social media plus Facebook Live broadcasts. WBGO is broadcast at 88.3 FM in the NY/New Jersey area and may be streamed from WBGO.org.