UT students gather around food trucks on West 26th Street and the Rio Grande, laughing and sharing stories. Here, Teens Thrive keeps the Cold Cookie Company’s profit share while members enjoy each other’s company over dessert.
The student organization Teens Thrive, which began last spring, is dedicated to educating middle and high school students about mental health through outreach. The organization also provides a safe space for UT students to come and learn more about mental health, practice self-care, and take a break from their hectic schedules.
Sneha Arya, a junior in human development and family sciences and president of Teens Thrive, said her own experience with mental health before arriving at UT forced her to seek out an organization that prioritizes mental health.
“Before I started college, mental health in my teenage years was very challenging,” Arya said. “I knew I wanted to create an organization, … to have a community of people who are also interested in[mental health]to make friends in this way and to make an impact.”
After conceptualizing the idea for Teens Thrive, Arya said she decided to reach people via GroupMe and gauge interest. After the club gained traction, she founded the official organization and focused her efforts around mental health discussions.
“We’re so busy, and when we think about taking some time for ourselves,…it feels like we’re lazy or we’re not doing what we could,” Arya said. “It’s worth giving people time to think with people who are also supportive…and on the same journey of personal growth.”
Psychology student Syed Abdullah, chair of the Social Media Committee at Teens Thrive, said the problems students face today underscore the importance of learning about mental health at an early age.
“There is a lot of increasing pressure on our youth, and that pressure can melt on a person,” Abdullah said. “There is a lot of glorification of the workaholic culture, … and it is important to target mental health education in secondary schools.” Abdullah said they aim to start setting a positive mindset so that children and teens are ready once they graduate and become adults.
Abdullah also said he was grateful to be a part of Teens Thrive. He said the organization not only helps him maintain his mental health but also helps him pursue his career path as a mental health professional.
“It’s very useful,” Abdullah said. “While doing this kind of promotion, … I feel like I’m making a difference.”
The organization also works with schools in Texas to implement lesson plans on mental health topics. Based on the school’s requests, the organization is creating classes on topics ranging from self-reflection to anxiety management, newspapers and more, said Robbie Soto, a sophomore in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and Program Development Officer. She also said that her role as an officer helps her hone her leadership skills and supports her journey in dealing with her mental health.
“I knew the basics (mental health), but doing research for lesson plans, looking for things, really helped me,” Soto said. “Teens Thrive is a welcoming place… (and with) the opportunity to help run events, I feel my leadership skills have grown.”
Soto said she hopes the new members joining Teens Thrive will feel comfortable expressing their feelings with the group and feel open to learning more about mental health.
“We want them to feel welcome and safe,” Soto said. “There will always be a place for them to cry, talk, learn…and never get frustrated or ashamed….we’re here to help.”
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