AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--American Campus Communities (NYSE: ACC), the nation’s largest student housing company, announced a strategic partnership with the Hi, How Are You (HHAY) Project aimed at tackling issues of mental health among U.S. college students. The partners will launch a training and awareness program in October 2019 for American Campus communities located at more than 70 universities.
The iconic Austin mural asking the ever-important question, “Hi, How Are You?,” painted by musician and visual artist Daniel Johnston, motivated founders Courtney Blanton and Tom Gimbel (music industry executive and Johnston’s longtime manager) to encourage people to check in on one another and talk openly about their struggles. The frog, made famous by Kurt Cobain’s love for Johnston’s art emblazoned on his famous t-shirt, has become an ambassador for mental health. With a focus to inspire young people through music and art, the HHAY Project, founded only two years ago, has reached maximum volume in a short time with a feature in Billboard Magazine and coveted mention in Tim Ferriss’ “5 Bullet Friday” e-mail newsletter among the extensive media coverage the young organization has received.
Co-Founder Courtney Blanton was motivated by her own personal experience: “As a college freshman, I lived in shame from my mental health issues, hiding my Prozac in an Advil bottle and pretending that everything was OK in public. After years of self-affliction, I learned that healing came from openness. When I shared my personal story, others were compelled to share their own. That life lesson inspired me to create the Hi, How Are You Project with Tom. I am so pleased to announce this special partnership with American Campus Communities in May – Mental Health Awareness Month.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and one in five students struggle with depression and anxiety. For most, it’s their first time living on their own away from the support usually provided by close friends and family.
Asking a student, “Hi, how are you?” is a simple step to start a conversation about their well-being and let them know someone cares. HHAY Project’s mission is to remove the stigma and open dialogue about mental health. This mission will become a guiding tenet for ACC’s residence life program, which offers events and information that promote topics such as health and wellness, personal finance, and sustainability to name a few. ACC’s student housing communities have served more than 1.25 million students at 120 colleges and universities across the U.S. HHAY Project will develop a series of training videos and supporting materials to teach how to recognize signs of mental distress and offer resources and support for residents and ACC staff. Residents will have access to peer-to-peer support programs, and events related to mental wellness and self-care.
“We hope the Hi, How Are You Project will become an anchor to our residence life program as students’ mental health and wellbeing continues to be core to our values,” said Bill Bayless, American Campus Communities CEO. “ACC was founded in an Austin dorm room at the Dobie Center in 1993, the same year Daniel Johnston painted his mural across the street, with the vision to create communities where students can thrive in college. Over the years, we’ve seen heartbreaking loss at the universities we serve as students weren’t comfortable reaching out for support with mental health issues. We are fiercely committed to doing what we can to help change the statistics. Good mental health and wellbeing is absolutely critical, and our hope is that this partnership will create a framework that raises awareness and creates a culture of open dialogue on campuses across the nation.”
Each year on January 22, the Project hosts a worldwide “Hi, How Are You Day,” an event aimed at educating people around the world about the importance of mental health and well-being while promoting inclusion. The centerpiece of the day is a free live-streaming concert with a roster of acts playing covers of Johnston's music. In 2019, the Hi, How Are You Day concert at ACL Live at the Moody Theater in Austin, TX was headlined by the Flaming Lips with a companion concert taking place in Auckland, NZ.
In July 2018, ACC purchased the Goodall Wooten building, the structure on which Johnston’s mural is painted. The company is in the early conceptual design phase to turn the building into a new student housing community with ground floor retail. There is no definitive timeline for redevelopment, but there is a definitive plan for the mural: it will be preserved in its current state and protected throughout construction. To ensure this protection, ACC worked with the City of Austin’s Historic Preservation Office and the Austin Creative Alliance (ACA), a nonprofit that promotes art in the Austin community.
About American Campus Communities
American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of March 31, 2019, American Campus Communities owned 171 student housing properties containing approximately 109,400 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC's total managed portfolio consisted of 205 properties with approximately 133,700 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.
About Hi, How Are You Project
The Hi, How Are You (HHAY) Project was created to generate new conversation around mental well-being. The name and city-proclaimed HHAY Day were inspired by Austin’s love for the iconic mural painted by Daniel Johnston. On January 22nd (Johnston’s birthday), people everywhere are encouraged to check in on a neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member, or loved one and ask, “Hi, How Are You?” The Project, created with the support of the Johnston family, funds research grants, creates media and peer-to-peer training programs that encourage open dialogue on mental well-being. Johnston is a world-renowned musician and visual artist despite his own struggles with mental illness. To learn more about how you can get involved or to donate, please visit www.hihowareyou.org.
In addition to historical information, this press release contains forward-looking statements under the applicable federal securities law. These statements are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions regarding markets in which the Company operates, operational strategies, anticipated events and trends, the economy, and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. For discussions of some risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements, please refer to our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 under the heading “Risk Factors” and under the heading “Business - Forward-looking Statements” and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, including our expected 2019 operating results, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.