Youth Voices

The Next Louisville: Youth Talk Mental Health

This year, as part of The Next Louisville, WFPL is highlighting the stories of youth in our community. Some of that is through long- and short-form stories about kids, teenagers and young adults and their interests, achievements and challenges. You’ll also hear more first-person stories about and by young people in Louisville.

As part of this project, we’ve planned a different kind of platform to let youth talk about issues that matter to them.

Six youth talk shows are planned this year, all focusing on different topics, in partnership with WE Day Kentucky. In this edition, two young women met in our studio to talk about mental health — and how their high schools address it. They’re Emily Slaven, a rising junior at DuPont Manual High School, and Ariana Tulay, a recent graduate of Marion C. Moore High School.

Ariana Tulay and Emily Slaven.

Listen here:

On the necessity of talking about mental health with their peers:

Emily: “Depression is something I truly wish I could have talked about more with my peers, because that is a humongous thing, where I just think, I wish I would have known I wasn’t alone at the beginning. I really do.”

Ariana: “And I wish I would have known, like, tools. Because I think mental health is all about getting those tools. And I wish back then I would have known, just even like a breathing technique to help me get through some of those times, because just thinking back it was so dark. And just to have those tools or have anybody talk about it as if it wasn’t some type of horrible disease.”

Emily: “I have had friends call me in the past and kind of tell me that they were ready to commit suicide and they didn’t want to live any longer. I’m lucky and glad to have known to do the right thing, to call a parent and get them help right away and go check in and make sure they’re taken care of. But like, that’s a huge thing that kids need to know how to do. Giving students and young people the resources and the tools to be able to help their friends when they get that call and they know that they need to do something and act fast. That’s a huge thing that we need to know, that we need to be knowledgeable about.”

On how depression is viewed in the African-American community:

Ariana: “As an African-American, it’s seen as weird. You’re ‘weird’ if you go to therapy. You’re ‘weird’ if you have depression, and you want to work on your mental health, because that’s something quote, unquote, like white people do.

“And so, a lot of times, I know that was one of the biggest parts of coming to terms with my mental illness: having to get over the stigma that I forced upon myself. Of being like, ‘Well, you’re a black girl. Black girls don’t have depression.’ And so I think that’s a huge part that’s sometimes neglected of being like, ‘Wow, why are we taught this? Why is this the norm for people of color to feel like they are not allowed to have issues or not allowed to be heard? Or in pain? Why do you always feel like you have to face the world by yourself?'”

On the ways they help themselves deal with mental health crises:

Emily: “I know for me and my anxiety, I’m constantly overwhelmed and feeling, you know, in distress, and I feel very helpless. So I know a big thing is, again, talking to someone, but also talking to myself, right? And I’ve learned that, for me, self-care, has been a major, major thing. And I think social media kind of glorifies it and paints it out to be like a face mask or getting your nails done, but I don’t think there’s a price tag on it. I think it’s something you have to decide for yourself.

“And I know that I had a hard summer, one year and I was talking to a mentor of mine, and she had taught me about positive affirmations. Because I was struggling with my body image, my self-worth. How you view yourself [is] a huge, huge part of you know, waking up and feeling happy or feeling good in the morning.

“And so I started doing those. I started saying, ‘I am beautiful. I am worthy. I deserve love and happiness, just like everybody else.’ And those kinds of things I think are often overlooked.”

On how they believe school counselors should be helping:

Emily: “A lot of schools don’t have counselors, like real counselors. We have a lot of college and career counselors and I know a lot of other schools do too, but only recently are some schools are getting mental health counselors. And we should have had these all along. We should have had counselors who knew how to handle a family situation. Because I’ve heard from teachers that have said, ‘A student came to me, and they’re having a really hard time, but I don’t know what to do. Because I got my degree in teaching. And I don’t know how I can help you in your bad home situation, dealing with these hard feelings and struggling with a mental health issue.’

“We need people. It shouldn’t have to just be young people who’ve taken it upon themselves, like ourselves, but it should be people delegated in the school system.”

Ariana: “We are not have we are not having any of the conversations. If they are even being had, they’re not being had with students. Because it’s not something that’s being talked about, or even thought about a lot of times. I know my principal, he hired more mental health counselors. Because we’re the largest growing JCPS, so obviously, we need a lot of mental health counselors because that’s a lot of students who are all going through something.

“But you’re right. Teachers are not equipped for that. And a lot of the times even the counselors are just doing the damage control, they’re not doing continuing work on how to help [the students]. They’re just fixing the immediate problems that people are going through. ‘Oh, you want to fight someone? How can I help you?’ Or ‘You want to commit suicide? Well, how can we get you away from that?’ And if we were able to address this before it got to these points of blowing up, then we would be able to better equip our kids that are coming out of our schools. But we’re not because we’re not having those conversations.”

The Next Louisville project is a collaboration between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. For more work from the project, click here. 

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