UT students gather around the food trucks on West 26th Street and Rio Grande, laughing and sharing stories. Here, Teens Thrive holds their Cold Cookie Company profit share while members enjoy each other’s company over dessert.
Student organization Teens Thrive, which started last spring, dedicates its efforts to educating middle and high schoolers 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.
Snehaa Arya, a human development and family sciences junior and president of Teens Thrive, said her own experience with mental health before arriving at UT compelled her to seek out an organization that prioritized mental health.
“Before I even started college, mental health in my teenage years was super difficult,” Arya said. “I knew I wanted to found an organization, … have a community of people who are also interested in (mental health), make friends that way and make an impact.”
After conceiving the idea of Teens Thrive, Arya said she decided to reach out to people via GroupMe and gauge interest. After the club gained traction, she founded the official organization and centered their efforts around mental health discussions.
“We’re so busy, and when we think of taking time for ourselves, … it feels like we’re lazy or we’re not doing as much as we could be,” Arya said. “It’s worth giving people time to reflect with people who are also supportive … and on that same journey of personal growth.”
Psychology junior Syed Abdullah, head of Teens Thrive’s social media committee, said issues students face today emphasize the importance of learning about mental health at an earlier age.
“There is a lot of increased pressure on our youth, and that pressure can melt on a person,” Abdullah said. “There is a lot of glorification of workaholic culture, … and targeting mental health education at high schoolers is important.” Abdullah said they aim to start setting a positive mindset so children and teenagers are ready once they graduate and become adults.
Abdullah also said he feels grateful to be a part of Teens Thrive. The organization not only helps him maintain his own mental health, he said, but also helps him pursue his career path as a mental health professional.
“It’s very rewarding,” Abdullah said. “In doing this kind of promotion, … I feel that I’m making a difference.”
The organization also works with schools in Texas to carry out lesson plans about mental health topics. Ruby Soto, a human development and family sciences sophomore and program development officer, said based on school requests, the organization creates lessons on topics ranging from self-reflection, anxiety management, journaling and more. She also said her role as an officer helps her hone in her leadership skills and supports her journey in handling her own mental health.
“I knew the basics of (mental health), but doing research for lesson plans, looking things up, really truthfully helped me” Soto said. “Teens Thrive is such a welcoming space … (and with) the opportunity to help run events, I feel like my leadership skills have grown.”
Soto said that she hopes new members who join Teens Thrive feel comfortable expressing their emotions 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 not feel discouraged or ashamed. … We’re here to help.”