Photo courtesy of the author.
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.
In this essay, Detroit teen Tykesha Boyer, a Local Circles participant, describes what she learned about youth mental health and coping strategies while surveying her peers.
I’ve been involved in Local Circles for some time, and while conducting research for the program, I learned a lot about mental health. Through the data gathered, I was able to see how many teens were affected by the pandemic in terms of their mental health, as well as what affected them the most and what they did to cope.
I enjoyed working with my peers and participating in workshop groups and gathering data on mental health, mental illness and mental disorders, while hearing people’s experience and their perspective. The information I received from the workshops piqued my interest, which helped in my research so that I’ll know how to ask the questions and what will be required in the questions.
We learned about two ways to collect data for this research topic: surveys and interviews. I was surveying to collect data. I enjoyed being creative and developing a survey to share with others in order to learn how the pandemic affected their mental health. As a result of the data collection and reading process, I learned a little more about anxiety, isolation and depression. I also learned the difference between mental health, mental illness and mental disorders, as well as the most common mental health concerns among young people.
I had no idea what I would have done with mental health before this research until we got further into the session and discussed the various obstacles of the pandemic. For example, I heard how my Local Circles friends’ mental health has been affected during the pandemic while brainstorming and expressing our coping ideas. We had deep conversations, where they expressed what they did to cope and what didn’t help them. Hearing what peers in the group have to say about their mental health helped me relate to the data. Even if someone is struggling with their mental health, research can help them find ways to cope.
I surveyed teens who talked about what they had to stop doing and what they had to start doing to improve their mental health – things like quitting their jobs to stay home and stay safe, listening to music to express themselves or writing about their days.
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. This research allowed me to direct others and collect a little more data on how the pandemic affected teens in another way.
I noticed that many teens didn’t talk to many other people to cope. Instead, they were more likely to tell us that they turned to music, writing and art. For example, from the data collected from the survey question “How do you deal with mental health challenges caused by the pandemic,” there were 24 votes for music, 20 votes for talking to family and 14 votes for sleeping.
It has been a difficult time for everyone, and hearing how people are feeling or how they are feeling is very important. If you don’t speak, you will be keeping all of that pain or problems to yourself. Allowing yourself to be open and express yourself will help and make things a little easier, and you’ll find someone who can help you who relates to you. Not only can I improve my mental health and cope with the pandemic, but I can also use my new knowledge and data to help others and spread the word to help teens who have had a difficult time and aren’t coping well.