UMatter Zoom Meeting
Teens who previously got together in person to discuss mental health are now meeting virtually on Zoom — this photo was taken before the stay-at-home order. (Photo: UMatter)

The stay-at-home order was issued during the spring session, so participants of the Teen Talks have been unable to meet in person.

Teen Talks, a UMatter program, is still available during the quarantine through Zoom, a video conferencing software. This program was designed to give teens a safe environment for an open conversation about mental health, suicide, hope and more.

Last fall, the program met weekly at Friendship Circle during a four-week session. Participants were split into two groups, each facilitated by a member of the UMatter teen board with a list of discussion questions surrounding one theme. Some previous topics were stress, positive thinking and “one thing I wish my parents knew.” The groups also included a Friendship Circle staff member and mental health professional. Participants stayed in the same groups from week to week to feel more familiar with one another.

“People who have come repeatedly get really comfortable,” said Amanda Smith, a Friendship Circle staff member involved with the Teen Talks. “They share a ton. People are definitely open to sharing. It makes them feel like they’re not alone.”

The stay-at-home order was issued during the spring session, so participants of the Teen Talks have been unable to meet in person. The solution was Zoom. Now teens can enter group calls using the app. UMatter has engaged more participants through social media.

“I think the Zoom calls have been great so far,” said Noa Alterman, a senior at Cranbrook who has attended Teen Talks since the fall. “It’s an effective way to continue with these programs even when we can’t meet in person.”

Her favorite part about the Teen Talks is having open conversations about mental health in a judgement-free environment. Alterman said, in one session, she felt comfortable enough to share a deeply personal experience.

“Everyone was incredibly supportive and helped me feel that my struggle was valid,” she added. “Some people even shared that they have been through a similar situation.”

An April 13 evening Zoom session focused on gratitude. It opened with an icebreaker. Participants shared one thing that made them smile recently. This was followed by an hour-long discussion about gratitude led by Smith. At the end, participants were asked to text two people they’re grateful for and share some of the big takeaways from the discussion.

“It’s been really successful. We’re getting a lot of new people who weren’t able to join before,” Smith said, mentioning one participant from Ann Arbor who could not have joined in person.

“In a time like this, it’s so nice to still have a chance to share your feelings,” said Marnie Jacobs, a freshman at North Farmington High School who recently joined the Teen Talks through Zoom. “Everyone has a chance to talk and everyone is so supportive.”

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