Detroit teens in their own words: dealing with men...

Detroit teens in their own words: dealing with mental health during the pandemic

Students working with nonprofit Local Circles spent the fall researching youth mental health. Here's what they learned.

local circles students sitting in a circle

Local Circles students. Credit: Benjamin Williams

This series was published in partnership with Local Circles, a Detroit-based nonprofit organization that offers employment opportunities in youth-led research to increase college and work readiness for Detroit teens. Find out more about Local Circles.

How has the pandemic affected teens’ mental health? For the Detroit high school students working with Local Circles, a nonprofit that offers job- and college-readiness programs centering youth-led research, that question has been top of mind. 

The teens in Local Circles’ cohort last fall chose teen mental health as the issue they wanted to research, working together to design a survey for their peers that could measure awareness of mental health, the impact of the pandemic and their knowledge about resources to get help. They interviewed people in their own communities and distributed the survey to social workers and educators to expand their reach, collecting findings for analysis. 

“A lot of [adults] don’t take the mental health of kids that seriously,” said Local Circles participant Amaya Nard, 17. “They think that if you’re a kid, you don’t have anything to be stressed or worried about because you have adults taking care of you.”

Read more: At Detroit nonprofit Local Circles, teens use research projects to blossom and empower their communities

“It’s a late Thursday afternoon in mid-December wh about 10 teenagers begin to pop into their final Zoom meeting of the day. It’s clear they’re all at the brink of Zoom fatigue, but after just a couple minutes, they start to perk up.”

In mid-December, Local Circles students attended two writing workshops facilitated by Detour Detroit and the Detroit Writing Room so they could share more about their research and experience in the program with their communities. 

Six students wrote about the work they did with Local Circles, their own mental health challenges and more. Read their pieces below. 

What is Local Circles, and what makes it so special? 

By Drew Smith Jr. 

“The organization gets youth to think outside of the box and think of topics and questions that are not being told and asked. But this still doesn’t really explain why I enjoy this program so much.”

How school stress harms teens’ mental health

By Loria Browner

“Trying to do schoolwork like normal feels like pretending. The stress is gnawing at you like you’re stuck in a trap waiting to be eaten.”

How youth mental health is affected by racism, homophobia and misogyny 

By Amaya Nard

“In Black households, many children are taught about how to interact with law enforcement to lower their chances of being harmed or even killed, with the threat of police brutality hanging over our heads. In a country that is systematically racist, life can sometimes feel hopeless, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.”

We surveyed teens about their mental health. Here’s how they’re coping.

By Tykesha Boyer

“While connecting the data through the surveys, I had to push past my anxiety in order to be social and get the work done. I believe that getting out of my comfort zone to examine how the pandemic affected my mental health helped me cope.”

How can I reduce stress? One teen’s guide

By Stephanie Haney

“I know I stress out more than I should, and sometimes I just don’t know how to relax. I’ve tried different methods – some work for me and some just don’t, but they’re all worth a try, from listening to ASMR to writing it out.”

My time in Local Circles

By Tyrell Boyer

“I’ve been in Local Circles for a good year and a half now, and it has taught me so much. Local Circles taught me that I should be proud to have a voice in our society and not be ashamed of it. Local Circles also taught me to believe in myself and not give up. That’s why Local Circles is my favorite organization.”