Concerns about mental health, especially amongst teenagers, has become an especially pertinent issue during the age of the Coronavirus. Many suggestions have emerged over the years concerning ways to combat this matter such as breathing exercises, yoga, working out, getting a good night’s sleep, but many teens are unlikely to participate in these coping mechanisms and instead rely on the guidance of loved ones or those around them to get through difficult times. Bella Johnson, a student at Grace Church School in Downtown Manhattan, recognized this and took action. Harnessing the power of social media, specifically Instagram, Bella launched a program called Teen Mental Health Forum.
“I’ve always had a particular interest in mental health, specifically among teenagers. I feel as though teen mental health is such a prominent issue that doesn’t get talked about enough,” Bella wrote. “One day, I stumbled upon an article about Alcoholics Anonymous, and I began doing research about this program. That’s when the idea for Teen Mental Health Forum hit me. I wanted to create a support group for teenagers, following a similar format to Alcoholics Anonymous.” She heard a cry for a platform like this amongst her peers and responded quickly. “I sat down for hours just brainstorming…The program was still very fresh and unfinished, but I couldn’t wait any longer to begin, so the next day (June, 23rd), I launched Teen Mental Health Forum.”
Anxiously, she prepared for the first Zoom meeting and was pleasantly surprised by the response the gathering received. “I was a nervous wreck hours leading up to the meeting because I was really hoping that it would go well [and] that people would show up…nine people came, which was way more people than I expected. I was especially pleased because out of those nine people, there was a handful of people who came who I wasn’t friends with, people who joined out of interest in the program…” She explained that participants could contribute to the meetings anonymously if they preferred: turning their cameras off and changing their names as well as texting Bella with what they wanted to say if that made them more comfortable.
The second meeting was even more successful than the last when Kaylee Parrish of the Hope Project (@edhopeproject on Instagram) reached out to Bella and asked if she could talk about her experience recovering from body dysmorphia with the group. Bella eagerly agreed. What followed was what Bella described as “absolutely amazing”: “Everyone benefited from her talk, and she helped so many people with their own struggles. So many people reached out to me after the meeting sharing how helpful she was and the magnitude of the impact she had on their mental health, which made both me and the speaker so happy.” After that experience, Bella hopes to invite more guest speakers to join future meetings.
Bella encourages any teen to join the program, regardless if they’re experiencing or recovering from mental health issues or not. If you would like a group to talk with or if you would simply like to learn more about what your peers are going through, you’ve found the right place. The group meets 2-3 times a month and Bella notifies her followers of when the next meeting will be on the platform’s Instagram account (@teenmentalhealthforum). Additionally, those interested can fill out this Google Form (https://forms.gle/APepWZshTcVGpxhy6) to be added to an iMessage chat that functions as a 24/7 support group.
For now, Bella is focusing on helping as many people as she can and spreading awareness of this issue that is so often neglected. She continues to be encouraged by the positive responses she receives from the Zoom meeting attendees as well as how much the platform has grown and flourished already. She especially appreciates “the fact that teens are stepping outside their comfort zones by joining a support group filled with other teens they don’t know personally, and that they have benefited from these experiences.” She gushed, “I feel like I have already succeeded…I know this sounds cheesy, but I felt as though I had a breakthrough and I finally discovered my passion.”
To get in contact with Bella and to learn more about Teen Mental Health Forum, reach out to her through Direct Message on Instagram (@teenmentalhealthforum), email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at teenmentalhealthforum.com.