Starting a Conversation About Teens' Mental Health

Janvi Sikand ’19 is an impassioned advocate of mental health awareness. As the leader of the Minute for Mental Health Club, she speaks articulately about her concerns for today’s youth. “I really care about mental health for teens. Mental illness is presented as an issue that only adults face once they are out on their own. I believe that teens can have these feelings, and our group, A Minute for Mental Health, wants to bring the issue closer to kids our age. A lot of teenagers confront this problem, but because no one speaks openly about it, no one deals with it head on,” she said.

Sikand feels that one reason people feel uncomfortable speaking candidly about mental illness is that culturally, the illness is viewed as a weakness, not the chronic disease that it is. She believes that we should treat mental illness in the same way you would treat someone with a broken leg - forthrightly and openly. “For me, awareness is shining a light on what we don’t see. It’s important to know what the signs are. We want to start a conversation with our peers. No one wants to be alone,” she said.

During the mid-summer lull, Sikand decided to keep the spirit of her club active by raising money for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Inspired by her town’s Saturday farmers market, Sikand thought she could sell home-baked goods at the event in a relatively easy process. However, she learned the complexities of event planning and requirements for selling foodstuffs at a public event. After filling out a permit for the stand, Sikand learned that she had to prepare the food in a commercial kitchen. She pitched her idea to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church that is adjacent to the farmers’ market. “The church was impressed with what we wanted to do and very happy that we were doing something for the community so they allowed us to use their space,” she said.“We went over a lot of hurdles to make it work, and I really appreciated the experience.”

Sikand and classmate Esha Kataria ’20 spent the entire Friday before the farmer’s market mixing, blending, and grating and made an assortment of tasty loaves of zucchini bread, red velvet cupcakes, and delectable pineapple upside down cupcakes. As the weather gods were not cooperating with the pair, the event was rained out on Saturday. But, there was a silver lining.  “Ultimately, good came out of it. We ended up raising over $100 because the leaders of the farmers market offered to buy our product, and the balance went to the South Windsor food bank. I was disappointed that the event was canceled, but we got where we wanted to go with it and helped those in need,” she said.

The group plans on making “A Minute for Mental Health” announcements at assemblies during the year and throughout October. World Mental Health Day is October 10 -  a day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma. During the Club Fair, the group will share their passion and commitment to the cause. Last year the club raised $700 in May and participated in the NAMI Walk at Rentschler Field. Sikand plans on engaging more students during their meetings by formatting them so that several members lead the discussions and give short presentations. “The best way to get the word out is not just talking to the same ten people once a week. We need to get the message out there so other people can participate. I’d like to have everyone involved,” she said.
Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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