Produced by the Cook Center for Human Connection in response to a national mental health crisis, the series models behavior for struggling teens and the adults who support them
The Cook Center for Human Connection today announced the launch of My Life is Worth Living™, the first animated series for teens to address suicide prevention. The series is produced by the Cook Center, a Utah-based non-profit dedicated to eradicating suicide and advocating for mental health and wellness, in partnership with Wonder Media.
According to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide among those aged 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018. A 2020 survey conducted by the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 40% of people were struggling with a mental health issue, with young people and racial/ethnic minorities most at risk.
In five powerful, diverse stories told over 20 episodes, the My Life is Worth Living series models behavior for teens struggling with suicidal thoughts. The series was created to support teens as well as mental health helpers such as peers, family members, teachers, and other adults.
For Cook Center founders Greg and Julie Cook, the series was inspired by personal experiences in their home state of Utah, where suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 10–24. “We’ve seen growing anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation on such a dramatic scale today,” said Greg Cook. “When teenagers decide to take their life, they often carry that out within 24 to 48 hours, so prevention has to be proactive and it has to come from everyone. Whether it’s a parent, a friend’s parent, a coach, or a therapist, we want teens to know that there’s somebody available to help them—even if it’s somebody they may not have thought of.”
My Life is Worth Living tells the stories of teenage characters who face difficult issues including trauma, depression, fear of social rejection, sexual identity/orientation, sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and substance abuse. Each teen also struggles with a self-critical inner voice. As they learn to share their burdens, cope in healthy ways, and accept support, those inner voices become less intrusive and the teens feel less lonely and more connected to the people around them. Grounded in research, the series illustrates the healing power of connectedness, a key protective factor recommended by the CDC.
Dr. James Mazza, a psychology professor at the University of Washington and leading suicidologist who consulted on My Life Is Worth Living, sees the animated series as a way to help remove a “cultural stigma around talking about suicide. We can talk about so many other things in our society, so why can’t we talk about this? Suicide is the leading cause of death among 14- and 15-year-olds in the country. I hope this series will be the beginning of a conversation that leads to mental wellness becoming an integral part of all schools.”
According to Wonder Media CEO Terry Thoren, whose team wrote and animated the series, an essential first step in that conversation is connecting with teenagers through a familiar medium. “Animation is a universal language,” said Thoren. “There are no preconceived ideas of race, religion, gender, or stereotypes. And we know that teenagers are spending an average of more than seven hours per day on screen media for entertainment such as YouTube, according to Common Sense Media, so this series will reach them where they’re most likely to look when they need help.”