PALM CITY — It can be stressful being a teenager in today’s world, said Nira Goyal, a 16 year old who is hoping to bring more awareness to teen mental health.
Students have been through two years of a COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted their learning and social interaction, she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult because many schools went to distance learning during its early days, she said. Goyal was in eighth grade in 2020 when she moved to distance learning, which continued through the last quarter of ninth grade.
“That isolation and loneliness really got to me,” said Goyal, who created her own nonprofit organization, Teen Mentspanl Reset, to focus on teen mental health. “It really increased my anxiety.”
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Now it’s time to reset and remove the stigma against mental health, said the Martin County High School junior, who is president and co-founder of the school’s Mental Health Awareness Club.
Encouraging teens to seek help
Teen Mental Reset’s goal, according to its website, is to encourage teens to seek help when they are struggling.
“We know that not everything can be resolved, but everything you learn and share with proper help will make you feel lighter,” the website says. “Find a safe and healthy way to deal with the struggles you or others may have.”
Goyal knows first-hand the impact suicide has on a family. Two members of her extended family committed suicide after dealing with depression and bullying, she said in a statement.
“If society wasn’t so quick to shun or mock people with mental-health issues, my family members may have been more inclined to seek treatment instead, which could have saved them,” she said.
The group’s directors include her father, Dr. Agay Goyal, president/CEO of the Diagnostic Radiology Center of the Treasure Coast; Robin Huebner, a licensed social worker and director of social services for the Boys & Girls Club of Martin County; and Charlene Lyons, president/CEO of the YMCA of the Treasure Coast.
Teen Mental Reset is sponsoring a panel discussion 6-8 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Blake Library in Stuart to bring awareness to parents and teens about available resources.
Identifying the signs
Panelists include: Dr. Lalit Chaube, a pediatric child and adolescent psychiatrist; Rebecca Burd, director of “Speak Life End Bullying The Musical”; and Jarrod Strickland, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Florida.
Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death among teens, Strickland said.
“It’s scary,” he said. “The awareness isn’t where it needs to be.”
Access to care is one of the biggest challenges teens face, Strickland said, and the community needs to know where treatment is available.
At the same time, he stressed, parents need to learn to identify signs of mental illness and to check in with their children.
“It’s going to start at home,” Strickland said, adding that parents need to ask their teens how they are doing and what’s on their minds.
“It’s a huge problem,” he said. “It’s a problem we need to work on.”