The below article was first published on Recovery.org.
Every new year is an opportunity for a fresh start. Positive change can be made at any time in one’s life, and there’s no need to wait until the calendar shifts from one year to the next. However, the new year is a monumental transition where many begin to reflect on the past year, envision the coming year, and set personal goals and other life improvements. In short, it serves as the ideal time for self-improvement.
The below interview was first published on Recovery.org. Meghna is a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and was also an attendee of the inaugural TWC in 2017.
Nadia: What is the Teen Wellness Conference?
Meghna: To me, the Teen Wellness Conference is the perfect space for young people from all over the Bay Area to convene in order to embrace learning and increase awareness about not just mental health, but about our society as a whole.
At this year’s conference, students will have the opportunity to listen to inspiring youth speakers, participate in interactive breakout groups of their choosing, explore wellness resources, and pose questions to our panelists and experts throughout the day.
1. When did you first join CHC’s Teen Wellness Committee (TWC)? Why did you decide to join?
I first joined CHC’s Teen Wellness Committee in the fall of 2017. I joined after having witnessed the effects of mental illness, as I watched it develop in my own friends. After experiencing this, I became interested in learning more about these issues but also in helping to advocate for and help be the voice of these teens.
My name is Eli and I’m a 17-year-old living in Central Indiana. I came out as transgender (female to male) in February of 2017. Since coming out and being more exposed to the trans community, I've found that there are so many misconceptions about transitioning. Continue reading below to learn about common misconceptions surrounding identity, medical transitions, and more about my experiences.
Inspired by the success of the 2017 Teen Wellness Conference hosted by TeenzTalk in Sep. 2017, I decided to organize a similar mental health conference in Missouri for youth in the Midwest. The purpose of the Missouri conference is to connect teens to local mental health professionals and resources, spread knowledge about mental well-being, destigmatize mental illness, and inspire attendees to become mental health advocates in their own communities.
1. What are the most helpful things your parents have done or said for your mental health?
The best thing that my parents have done for my mental health is saying that they are proud of me and focusing on my own success. Instead of comparing me to other teens they may know, my parents are more interested in my health and whether I am making improvements compared to my past self, academically and personally.
They encourage me to break my own limits and outgrow myself to live my best life, not to compare my progress to other people's. However, they emphasize also that success should not be at the expense of my health either.
Mental illness, a widespread crisis, unfortunately is not handled properly in our world today. In Ghana, we have homes for people who live with mental illnesses, but sadly we still see many people who face mental health challenges hopelessly walking on the streets of Ghana, some clothed and others naked. We must all do more to support those who are hurting, empathize with them, and break the stigma.
TeenzTalk wishes you a HAPPY NEW YEAR! Listen to 10 teens from around the world share their messages, reflections, and best wishes for the upcoming year. Click Read More to watch the video.
As we ring in the New Year, resolutions and chatter of self-improvement take center-stage. People often say things like “new year, new me,” and make promises to eat better, exercise more, read more, and make an overall effort to try harder. Often times, these resolutions quickly dissolve and lead to guilt or disappointment.
Although trying harder may intuitively make sense, what we need isn’t to try harder; we need to try smarter.
For a really long time, if anyone would ask me what I loved about myself, I’d always say “nothing”. Growing up, I felt like I didn’t belong and that I was worthless. Academically, I usually performed fine. But even with that, I felt inferior. For most of my childhood, I was called a boy because I cut all of my hair and looked so much like my dad. One time, while I was out with my mum, I went to use the washroom and a girl said to me, “What are you doing in the girls’ washroom. Bad boy!”.
I’m proud to be able to call myself an activist. It’s not for lack of other people trying to stop me, really. I’ve even had a therapist try to stop me from being an activist. But I’ve powered through all that. And now I’m trying to speak out. Part of this shift to advocacy has been a result of going to various mental health events––the first of which was TeenzTalk’s Teen Wellness Conference in September 2017.
Though I currently live in the United States, in California, I am a British citizen, having lived in the UK for eleven years. I have known the feeling of moving to various places, adjusting to a new life each time. I will never forget the day when my parents informed me that there was a possibility we would be moving to the USA.
I totally understand the regretful feeling when someone in the lecture hall shouts the correct answer that has lingered in your mind since the teacher first posed the question. Oftentimes, you knew it was the right answer, and you weren’t exactly afraid of receiving negative feedback, but the spacious auditorium filled with dozens of students was simply too overwhelming. Born as an introvert, I have lived my life trying to avoid huge lecture-room classes and have learned to accept friends’ and families’ commands to, “Speak up.” “Be social.” “Talk to more people.” “Don’t be shy.”
I was lying on the floor of our living room, my body paralyzed. I had thought of the name “Dominique,” the name of a kid in my class who was failing biology. My hands were contaminated and had touched my leg because I had an itch. Damn itch. I had stayed hunched over trying not to think of “Dominique,” or “Mo,” or “Waleed.” It's hard when you’re trying not to think of something, however.
Ever since second semester of senior year started, I had been itching to leave high school. The monotonous bell schedule was beginning to bore me and only intensified my senioritis, which was already on full blast. I felt like I was only in class just so that I wouldn’t accrue too many absences.
I’ve written this piece to shine light on the joy that can stem from the little things in life. Below are 7 things that made my day today:
It’s been almost 17 years, and I’ve only recently come to realize the person who matters most in my life, is myself. From a very young age, we’ve learned to constantly try to please others, and in this effort, sometimes we’ve forgotten to love ourselves. Until recently, I would never say “no” to someone, as I’ve been known as a very kind, benevolent character. I’d especially never say “no” to my parents. Looking back, trying to please their expectations was probably the worst idea.
I think people function best when interacting with others; we are a social species after all! Like water molecules, if you isolate one, it will not show it's best properties. So, well-being for me is having friends I know I can trust. I don't always need them by my side... just the thought of them is comforting enough.
The following art portfolio portrays that when many small strokes or dots of color come together, they can create something beautiful - just like when people come together and unite, creating a beautiful community of compassion and support.
Beauty is everywhere. As a young child, I was curious about the world, but I quickly moved on from one thing to another, never taking the time to truly appreciate my surroundings.
My dad is a photographer, and as a 10 year-old, I lacked the ability to see the outstanding qualities in his photographs.
Bright, vibrant, and crisp yellow tulips appeared to me as dull. Breathtaking sunsets over the lake appeared to me as boring and uninteresting. However, today I could sit staring at his pictures for hours.
I know that it is hard for you to understand what I am going through because you have never felt this way before, but thank you for trying. I recognize that my illness is not something that you can see, but it is real and it does impair me from functioning in the same way that a physical illness can. Although this illness does not define me, it is a part of who I am so it is important that you understand. I want you to know what happens to me when I seem to disappear from myself and where it is that I go. Please be open and willing.
TeenzTalk's Blog is here to amplify youth stories & perspectives on topics including personal challenges, self-care practices, initiatives in their community, & more.