Can You Hear Me?: giving voices back to teenagers

By Ellen Garnett

Staff Writer

*CW: suicide

For many people, music by My Chemical Romance was their anthem as teenagers because the band just seemed to ‘get’ them. The band was there for them when they felt alone, confused, and like no one was listening. Adolescents can now rejoice because Can You Hear Me? (CYHM?) is a new organization dedicated to providing teens and young adults with safe, judgement-free platforms to be heard and resources for further support.

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Can You Hear Me? empowers teens to “speak up and be heard.” Source: CYHM Facebook

CYHM? is a nonprofit located in Saco, ME with other headquarters in California that utilizes its social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to connect with teenagers and empower them to express themselves. Followers of the CYHM? share their own stories without fear of judgement or hostility, as this organization has created a community of caring individuals—16,380 strong.

Although the organization is only a year old, CYHM? has already reached thousands of teens around the globe in 10 English-speaking countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

“Please know that you’re going to be the reason why many kids choose life instead of death,” said one supporter in a message to CYHM?.

It all started with the co-founders, Jessica Coro, and her daughter, Ashley.

“I kind of always have been everyone’s mom,” said Coro. “[CYHM?] has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

The seed for CYHM? was planted 12 years ago when Coro’s nephew, Thomas, committed suicide. Thomas was a talented, lovable, and creative boy whose life inspired Coro and her daughter Ashley to help teens struggling with depression and life in general.

“One of the most profound things I learned from this experience is that often teens are speaking, but not truly heard,” wrote Coro in her story on the CYHM? website. “We discovered that Thomas told his story and how that story would end, through his art, art that he did not allow his family to see. These are the very same art pieces that gained him A+’s in school. Thomas told his story.”

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Can You Hear Me? empowers teens to “speak up and be heard.” Source: CYHM Facebook

Coro spent the next decade as an attorney, and it was not until her 19-year-old son posed a heartfelt question to her that the organization was born. He was receiving treatment for drug addiction 3,000 miles away from his mother and he wanted to come home, but nobody was listening to him. His mother thought she knew best, until her son stopped her when he asked, “Can you hear me?”

Today, CYHM? partners with various musicians, bands, and music festivals, such as Warped Tour, “since music has the power to transcend barriers,” to encourage teens “to speak up and be heard,” according to the organization’s Mission Statement.

Additionally, CYHM? is a part of the Saving Lives Coalition, whose aim is to “bring about community awareness to address youth mental health and addiction issues and to reduce youth drug and alcohol use through education, media advocacy, and changes in policies.”

To learn more about CYHM?, visit cyhm.org, where you can share your own story or find useful resources to help others.

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