How Audio Champions Gen Z Mental Health Like No Other

By Dave Richards, SVP Programming, Audacy and Idil Cakim, SVP Research & Insights, Audacy

“It’s OK not to be OK.” At Audacy, that’s our daily mantra, and we practice what we preach. During Mental Health Awareness Month and year-round, we advocate for mental health, wellness, and suicide prevention.

The Youth is Our Future. And Audio Has What It Takes to Support Them.

All throughout the year, many Americans experience struggles, especially teens and young adults. And believe it or not the media platforms we choose have an impact on our mental health. Social media is an ongoing concern for the negative mental health impact on Gen Z.

39%
of Gen Z and Millennials say that social media filters sometimes make them feel insecure about their looks
41%
say that they sometimes forget that things on social media are not always real

Audio on the other hand is comforting, empowering,and mood-boosting. In a recent report on the pervasiveness of loneliness, the U.S. Surgeon General noted that Audio helps connect individuals through stories and shared experiences.

51%
More than half of Gen Z often turn to Audio to change or improve their mood
52%
When asked about what inspires them to improve their life, 52% of Gen Z and Millennials say interesting podcasts and their favorite radio hosts – whereas only 34% chose social media posts from influencers

Audio is the perfect place to have critical conversations and make meaningful connections. From local Radio to digital streaming and podcasts, Audio helps create bonded communities and provides essential information. And listeners are asking for more. 87% of listeners want monthly mental health-related content, while 65% prefer weekly programming. 

At Audacy, We Lean Into Mental Health Awareness & Support 

As Audio experts, we know how to grab listeners’ attention and elevate important causes. We’ve marshaled our best assets to advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. 

Our “I’m Listening” social impact campaign is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health, encouraging self-care and self-awareness, and supporting suicide prevention. From short bursts of information on local resources, a music special with celebrities discussing their mental health, on-air conversations, and a long-form informational special, we bring mental health front and center.  

Our efforts help save lives and connect with many of the 200 million people listening to Audacy brands weekly. One in five listeners tunes into “I’m Listening” content. Listenership is even higher among men (25%) and younger audiences (32% of 18 to 34-year-olds).

Audacy’s Journey

Our commitment to mental health awareness started seven years ago in Seattle. Following the suicide of Soundgarden musician Chris Cornell and other beloved artists, our Seattle Radio employees wanted to do something for the community. They created a music and spoken word special; I’m Listening, to spotlight mental health.   

That effort evolved into a company-wide initiative. I’m Listening expanded into a nationwide program hosted by Carson Daly and simulcast across our stations. 

Partnering Nationwide

To access resources and expand our work, we partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). We’ve added year-round Audio and social media content, including Audio capsule stories from celebrities, influencers, artists, athletes, and interviews. Last year, our star-studded “We Can Survive” concert in Los Angeles raised more than $1.5 million for the AFSP. The AFSP recently recognized Audacy’s “I’m Listening” program and our ongoing mental health support with its prestigious Public Education Lifesaver Award. And when we say, “It is OK not to be OK,” that also goes for our staff. We offer our employees access to mental health resources and encourage them to speak up about their needs and struggles.

Local Connections

Our Radio hosts and podcasters discuss mental health on their shows, sharing their personal stories and sharing resources. In Pittsburg, for example, 100.7 Star’s “Bubba Show” invites psychologist, Dr. Thea Gallagher to the show every Tuesday to discuss mental health topics. These efforts help fight social stigmas and promote awareness.   

Engaging Celebrities and Influencers

There’s nothing like the connection between listeners and their favorite hosts. We encourage our popular hosts and influencers to speak openly about their mental health experiences on air and in podcasts. When these influencers share experiences, listeners connect. No other media platform offers the same access, intimacy, or shared experiences.

These hosts and influencers help humanize and destigmatize the topics. Across society, speaking openly about mental health is becoming more common, which empowers listeners to speak up about their experiences or seek help. Hearing other people talk about how they cope inspires awareness and action. 

In that spirit, we are launching a bi-monthly, long-form interview program hosted by a Boston morning show host who is also a long-time AFSP volunteer. The specials will feature experts and explore mental health topics like abuse or loneliness.    

We want our listeners to know we’re here; Audio is a powerful resource to support you and your community.  

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SOURCES

Audacy America’s Youth Mental Health & Media Choices Study, n=1,052 A18-34, May 2023

Audacy America’s Youth Mental Health & Media Choices Study, n=1,052 A18-34, May 2023, conducted on Ask Suzy.

Audacy Brand Study, S. Radoff Associates, May 2022

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