Riley Juntti has had a very big year.
The 19-year-old Michigan resident has had a whirlwind of opportunities after participating in a program at her high school that changed the lives of the students there.
And now Netflix is helping Juntti share her powerful story with the world.
In their new “Tell Them” campaign, the streaming service is connecting viewers with tangible stories of hope after adversity. Following the momentum of their popular show, 13 Reasons Why, Netflix is hoping to create an online movement that will uplift and comfort anyone grappling with thoughts of suicide.
Juntti pours her heart out in a series of videos, where she talks about wanting to end her life at a very young age and the abusive relationship that contributed to a lifelong battle with mental health struggles.
“My partnership with them is to showcase an actual teen voice who has had depression and attempted suicide, but came out the other side and is recovered,” Juntti tells Babble.
The college student also introduces viewers to “13 Reasons Why Not,” the 2017 project that inspired her to begin speaking out about her journey.
As a direct response to 13 Reasons Why, “13 Reasons Why Not” is a campaign designed by the Oxford High School faculty to help provide teenagers with stories of vulnerability and resilience. Along with 12 other high schoolers, Juntti spoke about her most challenging life experience, and her recording was played over the school’s loudspeaker system for everyone to hear. Each participating student finished with the reason that inspired them to keep living.
“We created an environment where it’s acceptable to talk about mental illness and personal struggles,” she tells Babble.
The project went viral and Juntti was featured on news outlets across the country for her extraordinary efforts. Since then, she’s found many more reasons to keep sharing her story.
“I’ve gotten to travel the United States within the past year to speak to mental health experts, organizations, and students on using the power of storytelling and vulnerability to combat suicide,” she says. “I have so much to live for and so much to continue to live for.”
Juntti has come a very long way from the painful days of her youth. After a suicide attempt at age 13, the teen spent two weeks in a treatment facility, where counselors helped her cope with her depression and its root causes. Upon returning to school, she struggled with the reactions from peers, who couldn’t grasp what she had been through.
“Coming back to school after treatment was one of the darkest periods of my life. Kids in middle school don’t necessarily understand the severity and seriousness of suicide sometimes,” she explains.
Thankfully, the tools she learned at the facility helped Juntti get her life back. And now, she’s chosen to spend her time giving back to others who suffered like she did. In addition to her collaboration with Netflix, Juntti is a freshman studying adolescent psychology at Grand Valley State University, and she’ll be soon launching a video project of her own to continue inspiring others.
“It will showcase interviews of people of different backgrounds and how they overcame struggle to be the person they are today,” she shares.
For anyone battling mental health issues in silence, Juntti recommends finding the courage to speak up like she did years ago.
“We sometimes are so unaware of the resources around us,” says Juntti. “There are many other places you can turn to then just your parents and school counselors. Reach out to a hotline (like Crisis Text Line), find an app or a trusted friend.”
Juntti firmly believes that talking to someone could mean the difference of life and death for a child in pain.
“By telling one person, you are giving yourself the power and encouragement to continue telling your story.”
Many thanks to this incredible young woman for bravely choosing to share her own.