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Indianapolis teens lead conversation about mental health

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Posted at 1:06 PM, Apr 25, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — Addressing the issue and suggesting ways to fix it. Those were the two main goals during a youth-led virtual round table Saturday afternoon on teen mental health.

“Teen mental health, I think underrepresented,"Andrea Cotton, an IPS Social Work Specialist said. "I think a lot of people are nervous because they’re not little kids or adults."

It is a topic several high schoolers in central Indiana agree needs to be discussed.

“Sometimes society makes us think our voices don’t matter, but it’s the complete opposite,” Maryam Olaletan, a senior at Ben Davis High School said. She also sits on the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council.

“As we make changes, as we move on, mental health will play a huge role,” Angel Hannah Akinleye, a senior at Riverside High School said. She too, is on the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council.

Grace Moore, a senior at Lawrence Central High School, moderated the virtual round table. “We need to talk about mental health more, and we need to treat it like our physical health.”

The virtual round table featured a group of 11 student panelists from the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council. They fielded questions from school administrators and community leaders.

For 90 minutes, the group talked about everything from available mental health resources to district responses after student deaths. The COVID-19 impact on mental health was discussed, as well.

The goal of the round table is to start “building a bridge” between students and administrators when it comes to mental health help. As upperclassmen, they hope to spark change for those younger than them.

Both the students and administrators who participated in the virtual event believe this is just the first of many talks on youth mental health to come.

“One of the very most important things is to continue to have kids have a voice in this conversation. Don’t do it to them, do it with them,” Cotton said.