“Press Pause” to Help Teens & Young Adults Cope with Stress, Anxiety, and Relationship Issues

John MacPhee

John MacPhee, MBA, MPH
Executive Director & CEO, JED

Over the last few years, there’s been a growing focus on the importance of strengthening resiliency and developing healthy coping mechanisms among teenagers, college students, and young adults. We want young people to “press pause.”

Research shows that emotional health issues like anxiety, depression, and stress are on the rise. Many experts believe that the pressure to succeed and our “digital landscape” may be contributing to these difficulties. When unaddressed, these issues can lead to mental health concerns and substance abuse which can, in turn, have a direct impact on students’ academic functioning.

Research also shows that simple mindfulness techniques like meditation, gratitude, and breathing can play a significant role in improving emotional health. This is critical for helping young people to effectively navigate the emotional challenges they may encounter during their transition into adulthood: relationship problems, academic pressures, job searches, financial worries, and so on.

To help make mindfulness exercises more accessible for teens and young adults, we at The Jed Foundation (JED), in partnership with MTVU, created “Press Pause.” Press Pause includes ten animated public service announcements and an online hub to engage students and inspire them to use simple techniques – like breathing exercises, meditation, perspective checks, music, and movement – – to deal with common stresses and challenges that can make young adults feel overwhelmed .

Each spot shows a student “pressing pause” when a challenging moment arises to take advantage of a mindfulness technique that puts things in perspective. The aim is to help people move forward in a proactive way instead of reacting in the moment. These techniques include breathing exercises; prioritizing tasks to make them less overwhelming; gratitude exercises to focus on good things in their lives instead of dwelling on the negative; using calming coping mechanisms like listening to music or taking a walk; journaling; and taking a moment to gain perspective on interpersonal problems before responding.

The accompanying online hub walks students through mindfulness techniques in more detail and features interviews with high-profile artists and students talking about their coping mechanisms. It also offers students the chance to share their own mindfulness tips and encourage them to pass these tools along via social media.

The videos are part of a growing library of feature-length films, interviews, and PSAs that are available to campuses free of charge at halfofus.com/campus. There is also a free planning kit that gives ideas and tools for incorporating the spots and the Press Pause concept into campus programming targeted at students.

This National Stress Awareness Month, we at JED encourage you to share resources like Press Pause with young people to help them learn healthy, effective ways to manage stress.

Your Turn

  • What stress-management techniques have helped teens or young adults in your life?
  • What is happening in your area, if anything, to help kids learn to manage their stress and face life’s challenges?

John MacPhee brings 20 years of leadership and management experience from business and not-for-profit settings to his role as Executive Director and CEO at JED. Passionate about supporting young adults in their transition to adulthood, he also serves as a board member of Bottom Line New York, a nonprofit organization that provides guidance counseling to low income New York City youth to help them get into college and graduate. John also advises several organizations including the S. Jay Levy Fellowship for Future Leaders at City College, Trek Medics, Crisis Text Line, the Health Policy and Management Department at the Mailman School of Public Health, and HIV Hero.

Earlier in his career, he served in executive positions at Par Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Forest Laboratories. John continues to contribute to the development of novel medications for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease through board roles with Adamas Pharmaceuticals and Blackthorn Therapeutics. John earned a BA from Columbia College, an MBA from New York University, and an MPH from Columbia University.

About JED:
JED is a national nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programming and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy, thriving adults and we’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health. Learn more at jedfoundation.org.

Check out our programs: JED Campus, Set to Go, ULifeline, Half of Us, and Love is Louder.

Visit halfofus.com/presspause to learn more and join the conversation online using #presspause.

About MTVU:
Broadcast to more than 700 college campuses nationwide, MTVU reaches nearly 8 million U.S. college students – making it the largest, most comprehensive television network just for college students. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, MTVU can be seen in the dining areas, fitness centers, student lounges, and dorm rooms of campuses throughout the U.S. MTVU is dedicated to every aspect of college life, reaching students on-air, online, and on campus. MTVU airs music videos from emerging artists, news, student life features, and initiatives that give college students the tools to advance positive social change.

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