The Empathizers was a 40-member student-led, peer-to-peer, anti-stigma club I founded at my middle school. In addition to creating PSAs for the morning announcements, making awareness posters, and hosting activities like Mental Health Awareness Month, during the Empathizers’ meetings, we spent a lot of time checking in with one another. Every club meeting started with members giving a thumbs up, a thumbs sideways, or a thumbs down based on how they were feeling that week. We started with the people who gave a thumbs down, and just listened to them. And then we ended with talking about things in our lives like exciting opportunities, family events, or good grades. By the end of our meetings…everyone looked relieved, like a weight had been lifted off of their shoulders. I plan to continue this club in high school as a lunchtime peer-to-peer group.
Providing a place for young people to talk about how they are feeling helps them clarify their emotions. The Empathizers is a safe space and an example of how peer-to-peer communication and support can help teens and tweens.
I am a Social Entrepreneur and work to create solutions to improve mental health for my peers.
I am a
Zoom to Breathe
Zoom to Breathe is an anonymous, safe and non-judgmental space for teens to log on to a Zoom meeting and talk to their peers about their experiences and emotions. Attendees have the opportunity to be anonymous to their peers, but the moderators and hosts can identify them through a prior sign-up form that asks for a screen name that must be used to get into the meeting. Participants have to fill out a form with basic information about themselves, as well as a screen name, so that moderators know who they are (in case of an emergency). This is 100% a peer-to-peer support group and not a counseling session, as the Clinician/Counselors would be silent in the meeting and only available for emergencies to pull teens or tweens into a breakout room.
My idea is extremely important for several reasons. While there are some options for teens to talk to counselors and clinicians, the fact is that many teens don’t feel comfortable talking to adults about how they are feeling, but they are comfortable talking to their peers. Zoom to Breathe can provide them with that space to find peers to connect with. I also want to emphasize the fact that it’s a non-judgmental place to talk, because it’s hard for many teens to confide in their friends if they are involved in toxic relationships, and have no one to go to. Zoom to Breathe can become a place where teens realize they aren’t alone, and that so many others feel the same as they do. The element of this being virtual really adds that piece of anonymity and easy accessibility, which can make it easier for teens to open up. In Zoom to Breathe, teens can also learn from peers from different backgrounds. They are bonding over how they are feeling. And it doesn’t matter what social group they are in. Again, I want to give teens another option to open up, especially with everything that is going on in the world right now. As peers we need to be able to recover and come out of this together.