Part 2 with Nadia Ghaffari, Founder of TeenzTalk
Please see part 1 of series.
Nadia was first introduced to mental health in her psychology class during 10th grade. Her community had previously experienced two teen suicide clusters, so she knew the topic was important, but like most of her classmates, she lacked a tangible experience that portrayed the significance of mental health. However, this changed when Nadia’s friend, struggling with depression, experienced suicidal ideations one night when home alone. “I knew my friend would be mad at me, but I called 911 anyways because I was really concerned my friend was going to harm herself” says Nadia. Thankfully help arrived, and Nadia’s call played a key role in instigating her friend’s recovery.
“My friend had reached out to me before her own parents, and I finally understood the importance of peer support and resources for people that are hurting. I realized adolescent mental health at large can improve” says Nadia. Ultimately, TeenzTalk was born.
TeenzTalk is an online platform that allows teens from all over the world to empower one another through unique, yet universally identifiable experiences with anxiety, depression, and more. “We share our experiences, inspire each other to chase our unique ambitions, and embrace the valuable growth that stems from facing difficulty. We focus on teen mental health and harnessing peer connections as a source of strength” says Nadia.
Specifically, TeenzTalk began as a local resource for teens to upload videos discussing personal struggles, growth, coping mechanisms, and more. “TeenzTalk expanded after a summer program I attended at Yale. I met people from all over the world that shared a yearning for improved access to and acceptance of mental health. There were obvious cultural and geographical differences, but every teen was fighting similar levels of stress and obstacles like stigma,” says Nadia. With encouragement from her new friends, Nadia brought together an initial group of TeenzTalk ambassadors from different countries to help raise mental health awareness on a global scale. “Ultimately, wellness is wellness, and teens all over the world can benefit from peer support.” In addition to videos, TeenzTalk provides mental health resources and a blog for teens to share their thoughts and experiences.
When asked about her vision of TeenzTalk, Nadia said, “A short term goal of ours is to bring TeenzTalk teens together physically via local events. We hope to educate, discuss, share, and build relationships in person as the value of physical contact is priceless.” These events will also be webcasted for teens to attend remotely. “The more teens and schools involved in local events, the stronger our support group becomes. We want to become a big family!”
TeenzTalk has also partnered with Children’s Health Council on a “Speak Mindfully” campaign. “The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness on the misuse of mental health terms like ‘bipolar,’ ‘OCD,’ and ‘psycho’ in daily language. We hope that teens will understand that phrases like ‘The weather is so bipolar’ or ‘she’s so OCD or psycho’ may hurt people that suffer from such conditions.”
When I asked Nadia if she had a message she wanted to convey to teenagers like herself, she stated, “The biggest thing we as teens forget is that we are not alone. We have all experienced times of difficulty, vulnerability, and discouragement. We need to support one another and learn from difficult times as such periods help shape us. It’s really okay to share your struggles.” Nadia, at the forefront of her organization, has effectively created a modern, collaborative outlet for teens to share stories, promote well-being, and listen to others around the world. Teenztalk is truly an effective and important step forward in the advocation of teen mental health.
Please share to promote valuable resources like TeenzTalk and encourage teen action in mental health.
HEARD Alliance: http://www.heardalliance.org/
Greater Good Society: http://ggia.berkeley.edu/
Flourish by Dr. Martin Seligman
Editor’s Note: Nadia Ghaffari will be awarded the Generation Bold/Young Leader Award at Young Minds’ upcoming Creative Advocacy event. Join us in honoring Nadia and her fellow youth and adult mental health advocates on April 29th in San Francisco. For a full list of awardees and to purchase tickets, visit here.