Recently, mental health has come into focus for schools, employers, and parents, however, the extent of the problem – especially for teens – is often brushed off as simply being a “moody teenager.” Teens’ mental health has suffered exponentially since COVID – with online classes, lack of extracurricular activities, and lack of social interaction with friends. Normal stressors like school, family/home life, and social media were all amplified due to the pandemic, and teens are still trying to cope.
When the San Antonio Youth Commission and Project Worth Teen Ambassadors released the results of their Teen Mental Health Survey the results were shocking. Of the approximately 1,000 teens aged 12-19 surveyed, 34% said they had more bad mental health days than good days; 1 in 5 teens feel like they don’t have anyone to go to for their mental health challenges; 66% said their school does not have adequate support for mental health; and nearly 30% said they had suicidal ideation.
These eye-opening results felt like a direct cry for help from teens in our community. Whether it’s because they feel as though they don’t have the support, resources, or access to receive the help they need, it was our goal to let them know we’re listening and provide them with adequate tools & resources. This survey inspired Mucho Gusto, a health and wellness expo aimed to provide teens with several outlets to destress and cope in times of high stress, especially ahead of the start of a new school year.
We created a network of cold calls and cold emails in order to reach out to as many vendors as possible, asking each to give more than the traditional pamphlet. After months of meetings, bookings, classes, and site visits, we had secured 30 vendors, all dedicated to the health and wellness of teens in one form or another. These vendors ranged from candle making to drum circles, Vogue Dance classes, yoga, potting plants, and more.
Another key aspect of this event was a panel with members from Project Worth and San Antonio Youth Commission, moderated by TPR’s Local Government Reporter, Joey Palacios. This panel addressed the goals in creating this survey, the findings of it, and how we can move forward from here. Included on this panel were two Youth Ambassadors, high school students who were key in the creation and distribution of this survey. Having young voices amplified both in the making of this survey and on this panel was key in starting this vital conversation.