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The Urgency of Promoting Wellness in the Student Community During the Pandemic

The Urgency of Promoting Wellness in the Student Community During the Pandemic

Laya Iyer
  • 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. 

To take the 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.

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.

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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.

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  • Kudos to Laya for being a social entrepreneur at such a young age.Its heartwarming to know that she felt the deep need to support the young generation in this hour of need. Wish her the very best n this noble endeavor of hers .May the Divine shower its choicest blessings on her to scale new heights and fulfill her dreams. Nirmala Sundaram

  • Great article Laya. Mental health in general and among young adults specifically needs greater awareness. Great initiative in writing about it. Even more than the writing, what is truly impressive is the fact that you have already taken all the initiatives at school and beyond. You show great leadership by doing this. Keep going and wish you more success.

  • The future lies in the hands of our youth and to nuture their mental and emotional well being, is the need of the hour. It is deeply reassuring to witness the power and passion displayed by young people like Laya who have taken on leadership roles and have come to organize a grand event not only to create awareness but to also offer an opportunity for young people to come together as a community. I wish Laya and her entire team good luck and eagerly look forward to participate in this very unique conference.

  • Some amazing work there Laya! Yes, almost always there’s immense scope for the achievers and sadly, more times than we want, the ones on the fringe are left with a feeling of despair and underachievement. At your age, thinking about a social cause as mental health and taking strong sure steps in the right direction is absolutely creditable. The app, the UMatter initiative, the weekly sessions – all so well thought about. Write more about what you do, you never know how many you inspire on the way. Way to go!

  • Proud of you Laya! I got this forwarded from one of your friends.
    Many at times this topic is not given enough importance and teen often find it difficult to open up and discuss about this. Great initiative and wishing you nothing but success and appreciate your efforts!!

  • Need of the hour given the uncertain times we face in this global health crisis and consequential actions such as lock down, remote learning and virtual lifestyle. It is one thing is to recognize a problem, but totally a different thing to take conclusive steps towards addressing it. Requires commitment, dedication and a mature head above those shoulders to drive this and only happy to see a high schooler at forefront of it. Needless to say, it requires tremendous amount of support from parents, students, teachers to drive this in this ecosystem. Great initiative by Laya Iyer and other peer high schoolers to launch SWL. Best wishes and good luck.

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