- To help spread the word about mental health coping techniques, 50 passionate high school and college students hosted a student wellness and leadership (SWL) summit in Novi, Michigan last month.
Since the pandemic began, over 74% of adults report one or more adverse mental or behavioral health symptoms due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Statista). Additionally, a mental health and substance abuse hotline has received more than a 1,000% increase in text messages than the previous month. The pandemic has become a time of stress for people worldwide and shows how increasingly important it is to foster positive mental health habits and learn as much as you can to keep yourself educated.
The pandemic is linked to even worse effects on their stress levels and anxiety for young people. In a study of 1,500 teens, 7 out of 10 of them mentioned that they were struggling, in some form, with their mental health. Also, 45% of them felt more stress than they usually do as a result of the pandemic and related pressures. Loneliness levels have skyrocketed: 61% of teens said that their loneliness levels have increased as a result of the pandemic.
To aid our community during the pandemic, a group of mental wellness-minded high schoolers from Novi, Michigan, called SMHC partnered with a nonprofit called Novi Community Coalition, promoting healthy communities. Together, we launched the share a smile initiative, which was a card and care basket initiative to give back and appreciate health care workers.
Our first care basket round was at Providence Ascension hospital in Novi. We delivered about 35 baskets to the nurse stations. The volunteer director told us that “The staff LOVED the baskets!!! We took them to each nursing station on the inpatient units, ER, Short Stay, and Surgery. They were all excited going through all the goodies and reading the notes! Thank you SO much for all the time, creativity, and effort that went into the entire project. Your team’s compassion was truly felt by our nurses and clinicians!!!! The beautiful blankets were given to our Chaplains for distribution to patients needing a pick-me-up. They oohed and aahed as they went through each one! 💕”
As a truly heartwarming experience, this inspired us to keep moving with our initiative and touch the hearts of other health care workers around the county. To help maintain this initiative, we started a fundraiser to collect $1,000 to do another delivery of baskets. We raised about $5,750 to make care baskets for our community, to our surprise. We continued to deliver to urgent care and hospitals around the area, including Novi PrimeCare. We decided to expand our efforts to homeless shelters and women’s shelters around our area.
To practice self-care and focus on fostering a positive mindset for myself, I read a book called “The Heartfulness Way” by Kamlesh Patel, also known as Daaji, which detailed the importance of meditation. As a result, I practiced this heart-based meditation every day over the summer, which led to various benefits, including improved focus and concentration and enhanced self-compassion. To examine the effects of this practice on loneliness levels, I helped conduct a 4-week study for high school students across the United States. Participants used an e-portfolio filled with daily activities. The study showed that loneliness levels in the high school students who went through the intervention significantly decreased while the control group’s loneliness stayed the same. The paper is under publication.
To help spread the word about mental health coping techniques, 50 passionate high school and college students hosted a student wellness and leadership (SWL) summit on November 21 and 22. They aim to educate people worldwide about mental health, leadership and help promote compassionate living. This conference covered topics from imposter syndrome, mental health 101, It’s ok to feel the way you feel, navigating mental health challenges during adolescence, and how to create the discussion of mental health in school and at home. Featured speakers included Dr. James R. Doty, New York best-selling author of Into the Magic Shop, Ms. Randi Silverman, Founder of YMH Project and writer/producer of ‘No Letting Go’, Dr. Partha Nandi, host of the Emmy award-winning show, the Dr. Nandi Show, and Lekha Dave, Heartfulness Ambassador. To watch recordings from this conference, check out the SWL Movement YouTube channel.
Overall, it is imperative to recognize that the community during the pandemic has faced a lot of mental turmoil. Observe how you are feeling and reflect on your actions daily. Above all, make sure to take time out of your day to practice self-care and spend time with family.
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.