Depression Awareness Month: Supporting Youth in Crisis

Depression Awareness Month: Supporting Youth in Crisis

By Kevin O'Rourke​

Kevin O’Rourke is a member of Pongo Poetry Project’s Board of Directors.

By any definition, the last few years—which included political turmoil, conflict, climate disasters, and a pandemic—have been a lot. And all of that has taken its toll on folks’ mental health and well-being.

For example, the pandemic led to increases in depression, anxiety, and “suicidality”—especially among vulnerable populations like Black people and females. Even before COVID, between 1990 and 2019 rates of depressive disorders among youths aged 10–24 had increased sharply, and according to the CDC, in 2021 “more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health.”

Because working with youths struggling with trauma is Pongo Poetry Project’s mission, we see firsthand the challenges many youths and adolescents are facing—and how youth mental health issues can lead to “health and behavioral risks like increased risk of drug use, experiencing violence, and higher risk sexual behaviors” later in life.

So this October—Depression Awareness Month—we invite everyone to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Feel free to try one of the writing activities on our website, which are designed to help writers find healing and resilience. And folks in the Seattle area should absolutely look into Hugo House’s Drop-In Youth Writing Circles—supportive spaces for youth and teen writers to explore and share their work.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the 988 Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. Text or call 988.

To learn more about Pongo Poetry Project—including our methods, impact, and how you can get involved—please explore the resources available here on our website. 


Kevin O’Rourke lives in Seattle, where he works in communications and teaches writing. His first book, the essay collection As If Seen at an Angle, was published by Tinderbox Editions; he is currently working on several follow-up projects, including a book about surviving suicide. Other writing has appeared in the LA Review of BooksKenyon Review, and Think Global Health, among others. Learn more at

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