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Mental health is a hot topic. There are national campaigns, blogs, and websites all dedicated to creating mental health awareness. They provide resources about how to access help and information about what we can do to keep mentally fit. But what about teens? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen much specifically for them. I wish I’d had the mental health help that I’d needed as a teenager.
I recently came across an incredible teenager who is making changes for teens.
Teens Helping Teens
So concerned with cluster suicides in Silicon Valley, and encountering a close call with a friend who was in desperate need of help, Nadia Ghaffari, 17, from Los Altos California, set up TeenzTalk.org. Founded in March 2016, it is a website run solely by teenagers, for teenagers. Her mission is to provide a dedicated supportive environment to “empower teens by harnessing peer-to-peer connections.”
Nadia most wanted to convey to her friend – and teens alike – that help and hope are real; they are not alone. She wanted to give all teens a space to start conversations about how they feel, talk about their mental health experiences, and share coping strategies and resources so they can get well together. TeenzTalk fosters that kind of supportive teen community.
One might question why teens sadly lost their lives and there wasn’t earlier intervention. In her experience, Nadia sees the teen mental healthcare system as currently flawed, mainly with issues of accessibility/availability and quality. The availability of professional help can be scarce, and most teens are not getting the help they need when they need it. In terms of access, often mental health services can be out of the way, and conflict with teens’ busy schedules. Some teens may be struggling silently for months before being able to access any services, not just due to availability but awareness.
Let’s Take it Further
Intervention could go much further; Nadia raises an interesting point that there are no annual “mental health check-ups” required – paralleling annual physical check-ups, making it impractical or inconvenient to set up an appointment for mental health services.
There is this conception that teenagers have it easy. They get to hang out with their friends every day and don’t have the same worries as adults – making enough money to pay the bills or meeting work commitments. Do we consider what stress teens experience? Like the demands of school, extracurricular work, work, family life, a social life, time constraints, mental health challenges, and unrealistic expectations? Some teens display anxiety and stay up all night in a bid to be successful. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, teens are also grappling with the complexities of developing their identities and finding their places in the world.
Are we, as adults, receptive to listening to our teens’ problems? Do we take the time to consider what they are going through? Do we give children unconditional love and support through these times?
Personally, I know I would have found it helpful to hear the simple words ‘it’ll be okay’ and be assured that I was loved, rather than being forced to cope with the burden of a failed test and mounting demands alone.
- More information on TeenzTalk
- Support for teens to discuss “13 Reasons Why” can be found here.
- To listen to Nadia talk about key facts surrounding mental health and stigma, you can catch her TEDX talk here.
- Children’s Health Council (CHC) in Palo Alto recently launched their Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), more information is here.