- There is an increased sense of loneliness because of the shelter-in-place orders around the country.
About 3,000 young adults attempt suicide every single day because of excessive stress. Unfortunately, four out of five of these people have given clear warning signals before trying. For the past five years, I have seen my friends struggle with panic attacks and emotional breakdowns, not knowing how to calm themselves down or healthily deal with their stress.
Attending a high school in a very competitive school district, I have witnessed its many horrifying effects on the people surrounding me. Though the district has a strong academic program for the numerous incredibly intelligent and passionate students, something that students often feel is missing from our school environment is support and guidance in terms of their mental wellness.
In efforts to help bring mental health awareness to my school, I co-founded our school’s Student Mental Health Committee, SMHC with support from our principal, students, and teachers. For the past two years, through this organization, I organized a week dedicated to mental wellness called UMatter week, where we had different activities and themes associated with every day.
We associated positive characteristics with each day of the week, including compassion, happiness, and gratitude. We also brought in therapy dogs during our school lunch and provided free hot cocoa to students in our school cafeteria. The spearhead of UMatter week was our school speak-out, where we provided a platform for students and staff to come and voice their opinions and personal experiences related to mental wellness and fighting the stigma.
The week’s featured event was having Stanford professor of neurology and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. James R. Doty, talk about his personal experiences in the form of a nationwide webinar on compassion. During this event, he also released an app that I developed under his mentorship about the stress management tools described in his book. We had about 300 participants join this webinar from 3 different high schools.
During the pandemic, we recognized that there was a drastic impact on people’s mental health. 36% of Americans felt that the pandemic had a severe effect on their mental health. Additionally, there was a 19% increase in screening for anxiety and a 65% increase in customers for remote therapy services. Overall through this pandemic, there is an increased sense of loneliness because of the shelter-in-place orders around the country.
To take this message of self-care, community, and mental wellness to high schools and universities around the country, I co-founded a non-profit named SWL (Student Wellness and Leadership) Movement. This is totally student-led and we currently have a leadership team of 50 passionate student leaders across the nation. SWL will host a virtual mental wellness and leadership conference on November 21-22, aiming to reach 100,000 young adults.
We hope to connect with high schoolers and college students across the United States through this two-day online conference. We are striving to empower the creators of tomorrow through educating them on mental wellness and leadership topics. We hope that our audience takes the lead in conversations about mental wellness, leadership, and what it means to create a healthier world.
Laya Iyer is a 12th-grade social entrepreneur who actively advocates fighting the stigma against mental health illnesses in her community. Dealing with stress, anxiety, and burnout herself, she recognizes the importance of taking care of your psychological and physical health. She is a passionate programmer experienced in the full-lifecycle development of multiple iOS apps related to mental wellness and providing users with tools to cope with their stress and anxiety. She also practices Heartfulness Meditation.