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.
In the early stages of planning, Nadia (TeenzTalk Founder) was extremely helpful, willingly sharing her experiences in organizing the past conference. At this point, I’m excited to announce that the conference will be hosted on May 20th at Thomas Jefferson School (TJ) in St. Louis, Missouri.
Throughout this process, I truly appreciate the support that I’ve garnered here at TJ. My Head of School, Dr. Elizabeth Holekamp, showed full support after I briefly explained my intent to organize a community conference for teens in the area. Faculty and staff members on campus are strong advocates as well. Because TJ is a boarding school, we have a couple Residential Assistants living in our dorms. After hearing about my ideas, they recommended names of renowned social workers, professors, therapists, and psychiatrists for whom I was able to reach out to with their referral. The TJ community truly cares about and values the importance of teens mental health. Shortly after I made the announcement about recruiting student volunteers, more than a dozen students applied to become members on the organizing committee to reach out to other teens in the area and help out with logistics of the conference.
The conference is broken into three major sections. Please see the schedule below.
Connecting for Wellness: How Loneliness and Isolation Make Us Sicker
Keynote delivered by Ryan Lindsay, Assistant Dean for Social Work at Washington University of St. Louis
A) Meditation, Mindfulness, and Mental Health (Brianne Serdar)
B) Successful Women in Leadership (Michelle Steeg)
C) Healthy Relationships (Natalie Gaviria)
D) Media Portrayal of Mental Health Issues (James Pesek)
E) Addiction and Substance Abuse (Robert Riley II)
F) Stress, Anxiety, and Depression (Gabriele Ayres)
Mental Health Resource Fair
Participating organizations: TeenzTalk, Family Forward, Safe Connections, CenterPointe Hospital, and St. Louis Center for Family Development.
I’m thankful for all the help and support that TeenzTalk, Thomas Jefferson School, and the awesome student volunteers have offered in preparing for this event. Despite my departure for Abu Dhabi, I’m glad to see that the conference is developing into an annual event in St. Louis, and the spirit of mental advocacy and education is carried on.
Link to registration page: tinyurl.com/teensconference
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