Both high school and college are exciting times for students, but these times can also be challenging, and fraught with academic concerns, upcoming changes, and the pressure to succeed. Teens and college students in recent days are speaking more openly and honestly about mental health issues. Nineteen students from 12 Bay Area high schools who serve on Palo Alto nonprofit Children’s Health Council’s Teen Wellness Committee came up with the idea for “Just a Thought: Uncensored Narratives of Teen Mental Health,” which will be released on Wednesday, June 13. The students wanted to create a book that would document advice and anecdotes on mental health from both themselves and the broader youth community. The book includes letters written by the committee members and quotes from close to 100 teens who responded to a survey they issued to solicit more stories.

“If we are going to make progress in supporting youth mental health, we need more spaces for unfiltered conversation, as is created in the book, and for people to truly listen,” said committee member Nadia Ghaffari, a recent graduate of Los Altos High School and founder of Teenz Talk, a youth mental health nonprofit. “Just a Thought” is split into four sections, each addressed to a different segment of the community: friends, parents, educators and “me.” The sections explore why and why not teens choose to reach out for help, both helpful and unhelpful responses from parents and how conversations around mental health play out at their schools, among other issues. https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2018/06/12/breaking-the-silence-on-youth-mental-health

At Temple University, a new student-led mental health social group, DMAX Club, offers Temple students a safe space to feel heard, supported and connected to one another. The club fosters the mission of the greater DMAX Foundation, a nonprofit that helps to increase understanding and demonstrate compassion for youth suffering from mental or emotional pain.

Student-members of the Children’s Health Council’s Teen Wellness Committee came up with the idea for “Just a Thought: Uncensored Narratives of Teen Mental Health,” which will be released on June 13, 2018. Photo courtesy Children’s Health Council.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85 percent of college students report they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point in the past year, and 30 percent report that stress has negatively affected their academic performance. “It is important for college students to have an outlet like DMAX because it encourages students to talk more with students about how students are doing,” explained Brandon Labarge, a staff psychologist at Tuttleman Counseling Services. “This may help promote a sense of community, connection, and sense of belonging.”

The club is still in its early phases and continues to develop based on student feedback, but the standard meeting format invites any and all students to join, introduce themselves and partake in what the club calls “Conversations that matter.” These conversations are open-ended and can include any subject a student feels he or she needs to work through. https://news.temple.edu/news/2018-06-12/new-student-club-opens-dialogue-about-mental-health

There are many reasons why teens and young adults may want to hide their experiences with mental illness, but initiatives like these encourage open dialogue, sharing, and empower young adults to become involved in mental health advocacy.