In an era when bullying and depression are often hidden behind vague Facebook posts and passive-aggressive tweets, three Milwaukee-area teens are bringing the issue of teen suicide and depression under the spotlight. The literal spotlights will be on stage at a benefit concert at the Waukesha County Expo Center on Sept. 28.
Isabel Pesci of Elm Grove, Taylor Newcomer of Pewaukee and Elizabeth Korb of Cedarburg haven't even known each other for a year, but the trio, brought together through their shared love of music, has become a dynamic force in the founding of their group, Think Through Your Life (TTYL).
"We all met on Twitter. We knew that we went to the same concerts, but didn't really know each other. We just knew of each other," Isabel said.
Bringing it together
Talks about a benefit concert to combat teen suicide and depression both through fundraising and raising awareness began in January.
"Elizabeth was just talking about it and slowly we were like, 'Wow, we could actually probably do that,'" Isabel said. "And then we mentioned it to Taylor, and one day she had suddenly found us a venue."
Taylor, of Arrowhead High School, mentioned the project to her father, who suggested contacting the Waukesha County Expo Center.
"It's a medium-size, good-sized venue that worked for us. I contacted them, and we met, and then it kind of got going," Taylor said.
Through her work with TTYL, Taylor is getting some early experience for what she hopes to do for a career some day.
"I'd like to major in the music business and hopefully go into concert promotion or event planning," Taylor said.
Putting together a lineup
Proceeds from the concert will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). An abundance of sponsorships have helped TTYL to fund the concert and the girls hope that ticket sales will be able to make a sizable donation to NAMI.
So far, they have raised nearly $20,000. A majority of sponsors for the event have been individuals, although one business, which asked to remain anonymous, is responsible for more than half of the funds thanks to a $10,000 donation. Money raised so far is being put toward covering the cost of the event, with the teens hoping that ticket sales will provide a surplus to be donated.
But all talks of money and donations aside, the girls are focusing more on raising awareness for the problem as well as informing teens on what avenues are available to help.
"We're trying to teach people about how to deal with the situation, not just the people going through it, but maybe teens who have a friend going through something," Elizabeth said. "A lot of people try to put it on themselves. We want people to know where they can get help."
Information on TTYL, the benefit concert and resources on teen prevention and suicide is available on TTYL's website, www.thinkthroughyourlife.org.
The concert itself will feature Braiden Wood, Dylan Holland and Jacob Whitesides, with people affected by teen suicide speaking about their experiences in between each performance. The trio would like the speakers to include a teenager who lost a good friend, a parent who lost a child and a worker from NAMI. The concert will start at 4 p.m.
Isabel noted that she and her friends began by contacting the bands through email and social media.
"We were fans of them before this whole thing even started. We just thought we'd give it a try," Isabel said. "We just said 'Hey, we're having this event for this cause, and we'd like you to come.'"
The expo center has a capacity of 2,000; tickets for the concert went on sale Sept. 6. Tickets can be purchased at www.thinkthroughyourlife.org.
Support and skepticism
Liz Pesci, Isabel's mother, admits that while the parents of TTYL were supportive, they were, at first, a bit skeptical.
"It was like, 'OK, we'll see if this is going to happen,' but I think all the parents were supportive from the beginning," Pesci said. "It is so impressive that they're doing this."
Pesci noted that the mothers have gotten involved and have had weekly meetings this summer as well.
"I think it helped maybe as far as negotiating with the bands. I think it was hard for them to take (the girls) seriously until Taylor's mom got on board," Pesci said. "Still, these girls are the ones doing so much of the hard work. They have been headstrong from day one. They just kept looking at me and saying 'It's gonna' happen.'"
NAMI of Waukesha County Executive Director Mary Madden is equally impressed with the three girls and the effort that they have put into the event.
"This kind of blows my mind. I think it's very cool, and it's great that they're doing this," Madden said.
The teen trio, who all say that they have close friends who have had struggles in this area, noted that feelings of inferiority and teen depression can be even more difficult for victims in the age of social media and cyberbullying.
"I definitely don't think you see the typical bully in the highway thing anymore. It's more secretive," Taylor said. "It's texting, Facebook, social media."
Isabel agreed and noted that social media can bring out negative feelings even when something may not be directed at the victim.
"People are really paranoid, so even if a post isn't about them, they think it is. It's so much about the mind game between you and yourself," Isabel said. "Depression is real, suicide is real. We need to not ignore it. When suicide comes up, people don't want to talk about it, but I think people need to realize that it needs to be talked about."
Think Through Your Life concert
What: A musical event to raise funds and awareness against teen suicide
Where: Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Rd, Waukesha
When: 4 p.m. Sunday ,Sept. 28
Who: Braiden Wood, Dylan Holland, Jacob Whitesides
Tickets: $20 in advance; $30 at the door. Available at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, through www.thinkthroughyourlife.org
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