Get Registered Today: Why Mental Health Conversations Are Essential for Our Teens!

Between December 2018 and March 2019, I attempted suicide to end my life 3 times. I felt empty and hopeless inside. I wanted to give up. Why didn’t I? What happened to get me there in the first place? How did I overcome? Let’s back up…

By the age of 5, I was struggling with my body image. I was a competitive cheerleader at the time, back in the day where the young kids also wore the tiny uniforms. My belly hung over my skirt, and someone made a joke that I looked “fat” in my uniform. It was not meant to be a malicious comment, but rather teasing between siblings. However, I took it to heart. I also felt pressured that I had to be a flyer, and a flyer had to be tiny. This was the beginning of compulsively checking my stomach in the mirror. It was also the beginning of anxious distress around the notion of being “good enough.”

As I got older, the fear of not being “good enough” deepened. Throughout elementary school I had panic attacks if my homework was not completed by 3:30p or if I did not get an A. By middle school, I felt inferior anytime someone scored higher than me, which resulted in countless breakdowns. I still remember hiding in the back of my closet in a basket under my stuffed animals so that my parents would not hear me cry. I was terrified of disappointing them. I had all these feelings, but never had anyone to talk about them. Whenever I tried, I always ended up crying, which resulted in comments like “Stop acting like a baby; get over it; suck it up; big girls don’t cry; etc.” Finally, I decided I needed to express it somehow, so I started a blog, which resulted in more teasing and bullying. Throughout high school, my mental health just got worse. My mom would have to pick me up from school frequently because of panic attacks causing severe chest pain. My breakdowns just got worse, but no one around me knew. I was a high-energy kid excelling at school to everyone else.

Throughout college, the fear of not being good enough continued to grow inside of me. I would vomit before exams and lose a week of sleep. By the time I graduated, I was beyond exhausted and overwhelmed. And, around that time, I lost my grandfather in a fatal car accident and my uncle to suicide. My heart was consumed by the tragedy in addition to the built-up distress I was experiencing. I ended up in the psych ward after attempting suicide 3 times.

Why am I sharing this personal story? Because my story is evidence of how a mental health conversation could have changed everything for me. Looking back, if there was a form of mental health education available to me or conversations or resources, I may have had access to support or learned the tools I needed to cope with life’s stressors. And therefore, I am so happy to have developed a workshop called “Mental Health Conversations” for high school students to teach them how to validate and support someone reaching out for help and more importantly how to reach out for help if they are struggling.

The full workshop is divided into three parts: Checking in With Others, Types of Support Available, and Reaching out for help.

The first part teaches the attendee how to check in with those around them. The five steps we discuss are:

  1. Check-in with yourself first
  2. Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions
  3. Actively listen
  4. Validate their feelings
  5. Follow Up

To effectively learn how to utilize the five steps, attendees will practice with sample scenarios through group engagement and breakout rooms.

Next, we move into the types of support available. The five types of support we discuss are:

  1. Encouragement
  2. Community
  3. Emotional
  4. Informational
  5. Physical

To practice identifying the type of support, the attendees will learn the difference between I have, I want, and I need then learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they have/want/need.

Lastly, we will bring it all together with taking what we learned about conversation and support to develop the language needed to reach out for help. The attendee will learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they need to who/where they can reach out to for that support. During this section, not only will the attendee learn the following 5 steps to self-advocacy, but also practice utilizing the language to reach out through group engagement and breakout rooms.

  1. Know yourself and your needs
  2. Create goals for your conversation
  3. Express yourself clearly
  4. Be honest and vulnerable
  5. Be persistent

As you can see, this workshop is designed to teach the next generation of leaders all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!

You can register for this workshop at: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (peersupportfl.org)

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at https://inspiringmygeneration.org/mental-health-workshops/

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