Written by Joanna Huang
On September 30, nonprofit wellness organization TeenzTalk held a day-long teen wellness conference at Microsoft’s building in Mountain View. Participants from all across the Bay Area came to attend.
Los Altos High School senior Nadia Ghaffari, who founded Teenztalk to promote mental health education and activism, organized the event. “I hope from the conference that the attendees can take away a sense of comfort knowing that they’re not alone with whatever difficulties they may be facing…and I hope that they can take away at least one resource that they will go back to in the future,” Ghaffari said.
Attracting over 200 people, the free event was slightly overbooked. “I didn’t really know what to expect because this was the first time I organized an event like this,” Ghaffari said. “I was very pleasantly surprised when we were sold out within weeks. It just goes to show we need more safe spaces to talk and learn about resources.”
Gunn senior Danny Howell, who has been involved in student wellness since his freshman year, found the event informative and was pleased that the majority of the attendees were youths. “I really liked [the conference] actually,” he said. “The amazing thing about this conference is that there are so many youths. In almost everything I’ve seen [in the past], the conversation is dominated by adults—there were very few youths involved. So it was very inspiring to see…that [youth interest in student wellness] really is something that is gaining ground and spreading throughout the community.”
The event consisted of a morning speaker session, morning and afternoon breakout sessions, free taco lunch, musical performance (about a fictional character’s journey with mental health), a resource fair and a panel discussion. Wellness Commissioner junior Meghna Singh was most engaged by the speeches, which highlighted bullying and depression. “I think they captivated the audience, since they are closer to our age and share their own personal experience, which a lot of people are going through or know someone who can relate,” she said. “That was the best thing that could have kicked off the day.”
Berkeley High School senior Ruby Spies, one of the two teen speakers at the event, initially felt nervous about speaking, but she was later happy to see people ask her lots of questions about her experience with depression, medication and sexuality. “Being able to share my experience and my story is a powerful thing. I think that people can benefit from it, so I feel…definitely a motivation to do so,” she said. “I hope [my audience can] feel like they have a voice, and that they can also speak. And I hope that some people saw themselves in what I was saying.”
Students can bring the Teenztalk message back to their own community by starting Teenztalk clubs at their own school, sharing stories online through TeenzTalk blogs or joining the advocacy groups of Teenztalk’s partner organizations. “I would say the action item would be to continue these kinds of conversations around mental health without shame or fear,” Ghaffari said.
The TeenzTalk team intends on having the teen wellness conference be an annual event, and they are already making adjustments for next year based on feedback from this year.
Summary video of the conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzhrGYjohNM
Teenztalk website: https://www.teenztalk.org/