Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental Health

Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental Health

Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental Health

46891823_2071868722874493_985334466287239168_n-300x225 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental Health

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Konversai attended a panel discussion hosted by Children’s Health Council (CHC) entitled Just a Thought: Teens’ Reflections on Depression and Anxiety. CHC is located in Palo Alto, CA, and its mission is to remove barriers to learning to help children and teens become resilient, happy, and successful at home, at school, and in life. One of CHC’s programs is the Teen Wellness Committee, currently made up of 40 teenagers from 17 high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. The panel discussion featured six of the teenagers who shared their own experiences related to anxiety and depression. This post summarizes the teens’ reflections. The main themes were parents, friends, school, and social media.

 

Parents

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_MomAndDaughter-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthThe first theme that came up during the discussion was the role that parents play in their teens’ mental health. It all starts with parents creating a safe space for their kids to talk to them. When attempting to talk to their kids, it’s always a good idea to start by talking about neutral or fun topics so that the kids feel comfortable talking to their parents. From there, parents can get into other more serious topics, such as school and mental health. It is also important for parents to be able to detect any differences in their kids’ behaviors, such as feeling more stressed or reclusive, as kids might not always be able to vocalize what’s happening to them. In many parent-child relationships, there tends to be a power dynamic where kids are expected to listen to their parents. Parents should take as many opportunities as they can to learn from their kids and talk to their kids as equals, which goes a long way in establishing a healthy rapport and making kids feel comfortable talking to their parents.

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_MomDaughterSmiling-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthIf a child opens up to their parents, the best thing that a parent can do is listen to their child and validate what they’re feeling. Parents should be careful about jumping into problem solving too quickly. Sometimes a child might not want their parents to offer advice, but rather just listen to them and empathize with them. The teens suggested that parents ask their kids what they need from them rather than problem solving right away. Any little thing parents do for their kids is helpful, whether it’s bringing them a cup of tea, giving them a hug good night before they go to bed, or giving them a ride to a friend’s house.

Parents should also make sure that their kids are equipped with ample coping skills if they are going through a difficult time. Examples of effective coping skills include journaling, art, exercise, meditation, reading, watching TV or movies, and spending time with friends and family. Everybody has their preferred coping techniques, and it is important that kids find the ones that work best for them. In addition, parents should provide their kids with positive feedback so that they feel comfortable with themselves and instill resilience so that they feel competent to deal with difficult situations.

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_Nurse-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthWhile most parents want nothing more than for their kids to open up to them, it is not always easy for kids to open up to their parents. Therefore, if kids need space, their parents should respect that and give it to them. Parents should make sure that even if it’s not them, their kids have at least one trusted adult in their lives to whom they can turn if they’re having a hard time.  Parents should also encourage their kids to seek professional help if they believe it’s necessary. There are a number of ways that parents can reduce the perceived stigma of seeing a professional. The first is to not treat seeing a professional as confidential information or something to be hidden. In fact, kids should be encouraged to share their experiences if they feel comfortable doing so, as this helps break the stigma. Parents should also remind their kids that if their mental health is not good, then nothing else in their life can be good. Professional help is often a necessary step in promoting positive mental health. Furthermore, instead of pushing professional help on their kids, parents should ask their kids if they would like to see a professional. This gives the kids more agency.

Friends

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_SoccerGirls-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthFriends also play an important role in kids’ lives. Parents should therefore create a safe and welcoming space in their homes not only for their kids but also for their friends and encourage their kids to spend time with their friends. It is important that friends look out for one another and not treat their friends with mental health issues as a burden. The panelists suggested that kids and adults alike be mindful of the language that they use when talking about mental health, for example not using the term “OCD” as an adjective, calling someone bipolar if they are having a mood swing, or calling someone depressed if they are feeling sad. It is important to remember that mental health affects not only the individual, but all the people around them, so if a child has a friend going through mental health issues, it is acceptable to ask them if they are okay even if they are not directly affected by what is going on.

School

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_HighSchool-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthSchool is a large source of stress in many teenagers’ lives. Schools need to be held accountable for the role they play in perpetuating stress, for example by creating a climate of perfectionism. Teachers should also emphasize the process of learning and completing projects rather than just the end result. Parents should also be mindful of any pressure they put on their children and understand that kids need breaks and social interaction, which can actually help them perform better academically. Too much pressure can in fact hinder students’ academic progress. School counselors should also make students aware of their presence and their roles and responsibilities so that students feel comfortable reaching out to them. In a culture that is so focused on excellence and achieving top grades, teachers and parents alike should encourage students to take risks, push past failures, and address their self-critical voices.

Social Media

Blog80_TeenMentalHealth_GirlOnPhone-300x200 Just a Thought: A Panel Discussion on Teen Mental HealthSocial media plays a prevalent role in many teenagers’ lives today. Adults often pay attention to the downsides of social media and the detrimental impact they have on youth mental health. However, the panelists urged the audience to keep in mind that social media can also have a positive impact on youth mental health. Teens today often use social media to connect to resources, influencers, and other people in similar situations as them. For example, they use Snapchat to reach out to their friends for help and Facebook to connect with causes and charities. The panelists reminded the audience that social media is not the cause of teens’ mental health issues, and eliminating social media will not eliminate their issues. In fact, not having access to social media can cause teens to feel isolated. It is therefore important to reframe how we view social media and consider how it can be beneficial to teen mental health.

If you are a parent wanting to connect with other parents or a teen wanting to connect with other teens, you can do so on Konversai. Konversai is an online marketplace for any and all personal human knowledge, skills, and experiences. The platform connects providers of knowledge with seekers of knowledge on any and all topics of interest through one-on-one live video conversations. Knowledge providers have the opportunities to make extra money sharing what they know and love on their own time and from the comfort of their home. Meanwhile, knowledge seekers can enjoy a one-on-one session with an actual human being on exactly what they’re looking to learn on a particular topic. Whether you’re looking to talk about mental health, an academic subject, extracurricular activities, college or career counseling, travel, sports, foreign languages, fashion, coding, cooking, musical instruments, yoga, or anything else you can imagine, Konversai is the place to do it. All users are encouraged to be both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any and as many topics as they wish. When you join Konversai, you are joining a mission to democratize knowledge, put the human connection back into the heart of technology, and make the world better by enabling meaningful and authentic conversations that can improve people’s lives. Don’t miss out on the fun—join Konversai today!

 

By Pavita Singh

 

 

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