Nadia Ghaffari is a junior in high school. Last year she founded TeenzTalk.org, a global initiative providing a platform for teens to discuss mental health. We interviewed Nadia for her perspective on teens’ mental health.
I go to Los Altos High School – it’s a few miles away from Palo Alto. Last year, we read about the suicide clusters happening at our neighborhood school; I felt like it was such a big issue and didn’t really see anyone doing anything about it to directly reach the teens. Obviously there are wonderful mental health organizations out there working to make positive change, but I didn’t feel they were actually benefitting the teen population (as I was still a direct witness to my many of my peers’ stress, anxiety, and depression). So, I thought what better than to get our entire generation involved? I wanted to create something that was just for teens and harness that powerful relationship we can have with each other.
It’s been so amazing. It started out very local. I interviewed individuals at my high school, and since then we have expanded worldwide. It was just amazing, because I ask all teens the same questions – what stresses you out, how do you relieve stress, what are you passionate about, how have you grown from facing difficulty or facing challenges, what does happiness look like in your life, etc. – and it’s amazing how powerful their responses are, especially coming from such diverse backgrounds. Our organization’s core material is video responses from teens, for teens. We have a team of teen ambassadors from around the world who are working closely on this initiative and creating positive change, starting in their own communities.
Numerous studies show that teenagers are much more comfortable talking to their friends and peers rather than counselors, parents, or teachers. There is such a real generation gap, and it feels as if adults don’t fully understand what we (as teens) are going through. We are most comfortable discussing this with people our own age, who may also be experiencing similar situations.
Currently in the teen world, I think “stress” is a normalized word for anxiety or depression and other mental health related issues. For a teen, saying that you have anxiety or depression is scary (and also stigmatized), but it’s normal to say, “I’m so stressed.” So, we focus on “stress relief” and “well-being strategies” because that’s normalized, and we’re comfortable using the words “stress” and “well-being”. At the same time, these topics and words strongly correlate to other mental health themes; in this way, we begin to shine the light on these issues and open the discussion.
I think one of the things teens feel most stressed about is academic pressure and the idea of becoming “successful.” It may feel like that’s a Silicon-Valley-specific issue, but it’s not (it’s a global matter). I’ve spoken to teens all over the world, and these teens all have the same feelings of stress and pressure to perform well in their lives.
A lot of teens feel as if they are competing with their peers to be the most “successful”. It’s unhealthy, and I think it’s getting worse as colleges get more selective and more people are in this race. It’s important to realize that we are a community here to support each other. Together, we can help each other reach new heights. We can share our stories, inspire each other to chase our unique ambitions, and embrace the valuable growth that stems from facing difficulty. As the TeenzTalk motto says, “Together we inspire growth.”
We’re currently in the process of becoming an official nonprofit. That will hopefully be set by January 2017. Once that happens, we look forward to hosting events and collaborating or co-hosting with our corporate partners to continue spreading our mission and bringing new perspectives to teens everywhere.
Nadia is a junior in high school and a passionate mental health advocate. She is the founder of the global teen initiative, TeenzTalk.org. The TeenzTalk organization is dedicated to “creating a platform for all teens to come together in a positive environment.” She is also an active teen committee member at CHC (Children’s Health Council) in Palo Alto, where she collaborates with community teens to reduce mental health stigmas and create positive changes at local schools regarding student well-being.
TeenzTalk.org is a platform for all teens to come together in a positive environment. Let’s create a global teen community where we share our experiences, inspire each other to chase our unique ambitions, & embrace the valuable growth that stems from facing difficulty. We focus on teen mental health & harnessing peer connections as a source of strength. Website