To mark the start of National Suicide Prevention Week, Entercom Communications radio stations across the U.S. are teaming to raise awareness around mental health with the airing of a live two-hour commercial-free public service program scheduled for Sunday morning.
With participation from hip-hop artist Lizzo, alternative duo Tegan & Sara, Country singer Michael Ray, San Francisco 49ers Defensive End Solomon Thomas and Contemporary Christian Music act Skillet, more than 235 Entercom stations will air “I’m Listening” — a special program tied to the company’s multiplatform yearlong campaign of the same name.
The show will air from 7am-9am on the Entercom stations, in all time zones; West Coast listeners will receive the program on tape delay. However in Los Angeles two extra hours of local programming will give listeners “I’m Listening” programming from 6-10am Pacific, RBR+TVBR has learned.
The Entercom “I’m Listening” initiative includes suicide prevention PSAs, on-air promos and a dedicated website with information and resources to end the stigma around mental health discussions.
“Mental health and suicide prevention are year-round initiatives at Entercom and we are doing our part to end the stigma by encouraging people to talk,” said Pat Paxton, Entercom’s Chief Programming Officer. “Like millions of others, my family has been impacted by mental health issues and the effect it has on friends and families is devastating. ‘I’m Listening’ is when our vast network of radio stations and digital platforms unite on the same day, at the same time, to ultimately save lives. If we help just one person, our time will have been well spent.”
Hosting the special along with NowMattersNow.org CEO Dr. Ursula Whiteside is well-known KISW-FM 99.9 air personality BJ Shea. They’ll offer personal stories from musicians, celebrities, athletes and first responders as well as mental health professionals such as The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christine Moutier.
Listeners will have the opportunity to participate via live call-in and an interactive website.
“I lost my sister Ella to suicide last year,” said the 49ers’ Thomas. “As a survivor, I’ve not only suffered grief and guilt but my own depression. Becoming a mental health advocate has allowed some of my healing, and I am honored to be part of Entercom’s ‘I’m Listening’ broadcast to help amplify why talking about mental health is important.”
In a candid comment, Lizzo shares, “The fact of the matter is, I do have people to talk to. But I get so sad sometimes I feel like there is nothing anyone can say. Nobody can walk inside of your body and fix your brain – not fix it, but change your brain around to feel things differently. By participating with ‘I’m Listening’ I hope that by sharing my feelings it will help everyone understand that it’s totally normal to have the lows with the highs – and sometimes asking for help is the first step.”
In addition to the two-hour broadcast, Entercom LGBTQ+ talk radio network CHANNEL Q will extend “I’m Listening”-themed programming across National Suicide Prevention Week. All shows on CHANNEL Q will feature segments on mental health and suicide prevention and will include personal narratives from celebrities as well as mental health professionals.
“I think issues around identity and mental health are intrinsically linked,” said Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara while discussing double stigmas around mental health and discrimination in the LGBTQ community. “It makes sense to me now, that if I don’t talk about my feelings, I’m not going to feel well, I’m not going to be well. Through the work that we do with The Tegan and Sara Foundation, and some of the staggering statistics surrounding queer people and mental health, we hope that by talking about some of our experiences as young people, that it will encourage others to do the same.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five or 46.6 million adults in America experience mental illness in a given year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S., claiming the lives of over 47,000 people. More than 50 percent of people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life. Mental health affects everyone regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
If someone you know is going through a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.