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Love is Louder: An Interview with Courtney Knowles, Executive Director of the Jed Foundation

You might be seeing “Love is Louder” written on people’s hands all over the internet right now. Brittany Snow, Whitney Port and Sophia Bush to name a few. When you see these words, it not only tells you a simple, yet powerful, message, but it also makes you wonder, “What is this movement and how can I get involved?” The Vintage Rush is proud to talk with Courtney Knowles, executive director of the Jed Foundation and a founder of the online campaign. He lets us know what it is, why it is such an important message and how we can get involved.

In today’s world, it becomes easy to get overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. We’ve all been there and for some people, it’s a little harder to bounce out of than others. There are a lot of negative aspects of the media, but there are also a lot of really inspiring movements right now. One of which is Love is Louder, led by actress Brittany Snow, the Jed Foundation & MTV. It was created in September of 2010 to provide more online support to make a change in the growing number of teen suicides. Spreading positive words to people can alter their life. Think about how bad a really negative person makes you feel about your own life, something that Courtney mentions in this interview is that a small act of kindness makes a tremendous difference. One of the most valuable things you can offer someone is support and positivity. So, get in on this movement and spread a message that will help more people than you realize. (Write “Love is Louder” on your hand, snap a photo and anytime you tweet, use the hashtags #loveislouder).

The Vintage Rush: Why is it important to have an organization like the Jed Foundation available for today’s youth?
Courtney Knowles, Executive Director of the Jed Foundation: Research shows that emotional health issues, like stress and depression, are top reasons that young people aren’t able to succeed in school or do well in other areas of their lives. All of us can benefit by protecting our emotional health and looking out for ourselves and others. The Jed Foundation is providing the resources and programs that help young people better understand common emotional health problems and encourage them to get support if needed. We work really hard to talk about these issues in a way that will connect with teenagers and young adults.

TVR: What is Love is Louder, in your words? How do you hope it will change the way young people approach depression or anxiety?
Courtney Knowles: Love is Louder is a simple, but powerful message. No matter what we are dealing with – stress, depression, mistreatment, anxiety – the love and support that exists to help us is always stronger and louder than the pain. Sometimes during the toughest moments, it is the simple knowledge that there is help or hope that can help us move forward. It’s also a message about our impact on other people. We each have the ability to help someone who may be lonely or depressed, we also have the potential to harm them if we treat them unfairly or dismiss them. Whether the message is for yourself or for those around you, the truth is that we can make the love, support and hope louder than any internal or external voice that makes people feel mistreated, misunderstood, alone or hopeless.

TVR: What has been one of the most rewarding parts of your job? Has there ever been an experience that has changed your life or motivated you in some way?
Courtney Knowles: Launching Love is Louder with Brittany Snow is certainly a highlight of my work with The Jed Foundation. The idea we came up with was so simple and within days it had spread across the country. We developed and launched the idea within a 48 hour period and I remember that just a day or two later there were videos on YouTube of crowds of college students chanting “Love is Louder.” It’s a humbling and inspiring feeling to see people taking something you created and using it to empower themselves and their communities. Since Love is Louder was born as an online, viral campaign – we’ve always been able to watch the impact in real-time and see how people are changing their schools and communities by joining the movement. Looking at the thousands of Love is Louder pictures that have been uploaded by people around the world still makes me speechless.

TVR: What are some inspiring words that you live by that would help anyone (not even just a young person, but anyone reading this blog) who feels a bit overwhelmed by the hardships life throws at them?
Courtney Knowles: May seem corny, but my inspiring words are “Love is louder.” The more I’ve worked on this movement the more I’ve seen that to be true. We all deal with lots of internal and external “stuff” each day that is difficult and it is amazing what the smallest act of kindness can do to overshadow all of that. More and more research is showing that taking time to be grateful, thinking about the good things in our lives and helping others, can making us more resilient and better prepared to deal with the tough things. When you get overwhelmed or ticked off or feel hopeless, take a deep breath and say “Love is Louder” to yourself a few times. It really works.

TVR: Why do you feel this generation is getting hit so hard with depression and anxiety? On a similar note, what is the most amazing thing about this generation?
Courtney Knowles: Research does show that an increasing number of college students say they are struggling emotionally. I think there is a lot of pressure on this generation – pressure to succeed in order to compete for recognition, jobs or social status. I also believe than an increase in use of technology to connect and communicate sometimes makes people more isolated and decreases the number of real connections and interactions that today’s young people have. Feeling connected and supported is really important in preventing and managing emotional health issues like depression, anxiety or stress.

TVR: Lastly, how can we get involved?!
Courtney Knowles: You can get involved in the movement by visiting and joining our Facebook page, following us on Twitter and spreading the word through your tweets and status updates (hashtag #loveislouder). You can also write “Love is Louder” on your hand, take a pic and upload it to our FB page like thousands of others have done. And you can spread the impact of Love is Louder by focusing on the positive instead of the negative in your world, and using your words and actions to help and support others, especially those who may be struggling emotionally.

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The World Health Organization defines “mental health” “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In using this definition, S2i recognizes that some mental health challenges reflect brain diseases that, like physical diseases, require appropriate stigma-free and patient-centered care and include both mental health and substance use disorders. Other mental health challenges stem from social conditions and marginalization and require different forms of interventions.