While teens across Johnson County are stuck at home and physically isolated due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the Zero Reasons Why Teen Council stressed the importance of staying socially connected for the mental health and well-being of students and their families.
During its second convening this year — conducted April 17 through a virtual webinar — the Zero Reasons Why Teen Council, a campaign of Johnson County students supported by the Johnson County Mental Health Center, invited the community to learn more about supporting teen suicide prevention and mental wellness.
With the coronavirus pandemic as the meeting’s central theme, teen members talked about the effects of canceling school functions, postponing milestones like graduation, and widespread disconnect due to the stay-at-home orders.
“A lot has changed since our last convening in January due to the pandemic,” said Pooja Jain, senior at Blue Valley West, host of the convening and member of the teen council. “For us seniors — and, really, any other high school student — it’s been really complicated and a hard adjustment. I noticed that many of my peers were struggling more than usual.”
To help her classmates stay connected and focused on mental wellness, Jain started a podcast called “Inside the Mind of QuaranTEENS.” It’s available on Spotify.
During the video conference, Rep. Sharice Davids expressed support for the work of the Zero Reasons Why Teen Council, particularly in the area of removing stigma.
“I love that we’ve got so many young people here in this community who are being supported by the adults, whether it’s at their schools or across the community from different parts; it feels pretty amazing,” Davids said. “When I was growing up, this was definitely not something that folks were talking about, and I feel like one of the biggest things that’s going on right now is the impacts that the coronavirus is having on… our physical health and also our mental health and emotional well-being.”
The webinar’s virtual format also allowed the hosts — mental health experts and staff at the Johnson County Mental Health Center — to ask polling questions from participants. Many of these questions pertained to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The hosts used immediate responses from polling questions to guide conversations about practicing mental wellness and caring for yourself and others while stuck in close quarters at home.
“It is my hope that our lives slowly return back to what we would call a new normal,” said Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center. “It’s important that we rise as a community to take care of one another. It’s important for us to reflect on our pace and our priorities, and we have to remain focused on doing the right thing for the right reasons for the public good.”
Below is a video recording of the convening, which is available on Facebook.