The Greatness of Living Life: 8 Triad teens talk mental health

The Greatness of Living Life: 8 Triad teens talk mental health

April 28, 2023
Category: Perspectives
Tags: , , , , ,

Seven students gathered in a hallway, posing and smiling. One is holding a microphone

Hear from eight incredible teens – all of them current NCCJ Youth Ambassadors – who got together to talk to each other about their mental health journeys and experiences.

Ashley, Fathiya, Nathan, Tyree, Richie, Mandi, Sam, and Kayla met to brainstorm topics within the mental health realm that are important to them. They also decided which questions María Perdomo (NCCJ’s assistant program director) would ask them during the interview.

In the podcast, they talk about what mental health means to them, the impact that talking about it has on their lives, and the things they hope other people can understand as they experience mental health issues as teens.  

María says: “I’m honored to be able to share a space with these people and am humbled that they allowed me to engage with them through this conversation. I hope you find some key takeaways about their experiences as young people traversing this world and that you can also spend some time reflecting on experiences of your own that might have come up as you listened. “


Click below to listen to the full episode, or scroll down to read the episode transcript that Ashley kindly put together for us. 

Special thanks to Tom Ehlers for recording the episode and to Richie for leading this initiative with creative ideas, vulnerability and bravery.  


Episode Transcript 

María: All right. Thank you for tuning in to our conversation about mental health today. My name is María from NCCJ, and I’m here with some of our students who are NCCJ ambassadors and they come together just about every month to have conversations about social justice, different social justice topics. They’ve all attended our summer program Anytown, and we’ll tell you eventually a little bit about that. But for now, we’re going to get started with our conversation about mental health. Thank you for tuning in. So I’m going to be the one asking questions for you all. Is that cool?  

[collective agreement] 

María: Awesome. Well thanks for being with me today and putting this together. I’m so proud of you. So, our first question is going to be what does mental health mean to you? 

Richie: Mental health means to me about the state of your mind and how you are mentally feeling and how you deal with things socially and physically. 

María: Mhm. 

Sam: For me, mental health is basically how well I am in my mind. Basically. Mental health is basically the opposite of what physical health is, which is like being well, being in your body, but in the other hand it’s mental. 

María: Mhm, yeah. Did anyone else want to chime in before we move on? 

Ashley: I also feel like it’s really dependent on your environment and people, and just like, what has shaped you from your childhood as well, that can really impact how well or how resilient you are in your mental health. 

María: Mhm, yeah! That’s true. We can talk about that later, too. So, thank you for that. My next question is, why is it important for people to talk about mental health, you think? 

Sam: It is important for people to talk about mental health because sometimes it’s a way that you can help yourself because mentally you’re not okay. And by talking to other people, it’s a way of basically curing that type of feeling that you have in your mind, whether it’s stress, anxiety, or something else, that’s why sometimes it’s best to talk to people before you commit something that’s going to end up bad. That’s pretty much it. 

María: So getting some support. 

Sam: Yeah, getting support from people around you. 

María: Yes, that’s important. Yeah, for sure. What about you? 

Kayla: I feel like talking about mental health is also important because at least for me, something’s not really real until you kind of say it verbally. And by putting those words to it and recognizing that it’s there, you can begin to really care for it. So I think it’s important to talk about your mental health so that we can, first of all, know that other people experience this too. You can relate to people, but also then you can begin to kind of fix the things that aren’t necessarily always well with your mental health. 

María: Mhm, yeah. 

Nathan: Yeah, like both of them said, you may be feeling okay on the outside, but mentally, you probably won’t be stable all the time. You could have bigger problems on the inside than you do on the outside. And it’s not always an effect of, like, everybody shows their feelings. Some people hide their feelings, while others don’t. And it’s just like the well-being of your mental state that can change your whole life, really. 

María: Mhm, yeah. That’s important. And I’m going to add something to that: do you think people talk about mental health enough? 

[collective disagreement] 

María: Everyone’s saying no. Why? 

Ashley: It’s uncomfortable sometimes. A lot of people don’t want to like–some people want to escape from what’s going on in their head. And so, if they’re going like day to day trying to get away with it through talking to other people or distracting themselves with work or activities, they don’t really want to confront it. But I think it’s really important that we confront it and have that space and resource available to people to know that it’s okay to talk about it. 

[collective agreement] 

Sam: Also, there’s not like, many people you can talk to because if it’s like someone who’s an adult or someone who’s older, they’re actually like sometimes they’re going to think it’s fake or it’s a game or it’s not real. Basically, they’re just going to tell you “oh, you have a problem,” or this or that. Just like how they think a lot of people–mental health, a lot of people take as a joke also. 

Ashley: Or it’s like “it’s all because of your phone!”, or they project it onto things that may help you, or it’s like other things that are not effective or dependent on it. 

Nathan: And just like a way of–my bad–that, most people don’t trust as many people as other people would, and they’re more dependent on themselves with the thing that they like to do. So, for me, just listening to music just calms me down more than talking to somebody else. 

María: So you have your own way of kind of dealing with mental health issues. Richie, you were going to say something? 

Richie: Yeah, I was going to say I think another reason why sometimes it’s weird to talk to people about mental health is because you’re afraid that because you’re telling them about it, they’re going to judge you about it and they’re going to see you in a whole different aspect than they saw you as before. 

María: Yeah. Making assumptions about someone who may be speaking about some of those issues. Yeah, absolutely. So, the pandemic happened, right. We’re still kind of at the tail end of it, in the US at least, but that had a huge effect on everyone, right. Literally everyone on this planet. But it had specifically a really big impact on young people. How did the pandemic affect you and your mental health? 

Mandi: So, the pandemic, it really affected me a lot. When it first happened, I was like, oh my God, yeah. I’m probably never going to see y’all again. We’re going to be at home. And yeah, it really affected me because I was like, I can’t see anybody, I’m literally at home, all the time. And I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to be at home too much because it drives me crazy. So I’m just there and I’m like, I need to go outside. And also with school and stuff like that, it really took a toll on my mental health. Every single day I would “skip” class, I just simply would over sleep or just not join in on my Microsoft Teams video chat for school. And I was just so behind on school work, and it just really affected me–really bad, really bad. 

María: It was hard to do online learning. 

Mandi: Yeah. 

María: And stay focused. 

[collectively yeah’s] 

Ashley: And teachers didn’t care. 

[collective agreement] 

María: It was hard with the teachers? Hard on the teachers too, right? Yeah! It was hard on you as well. Yeah, how else did the pandemic affect you? 

Tyree: Well, when it first started, you would think it was just two weeks off, but once you really got into the depth of it, it’s kind of still going–ongoing right now. And it really affected me, especially when I’m at home and we are always at home. It kind of affected the way you interact with others. So, for a while after the pandemic, I felt like I didn’t know how to interact. It was almost like you’re a body, you’re not doing anything, you’re just saying the basic and then–especially in school, I would go to class, but I wouldn’t pay attention. I would just sit there, half the time on my phone or watching TV. I feel like I never really learned anything. So, when it came time to test and stuff, I was struggling you know, because I wasn’t mentally prepared for anything, because when I’m at home, it’s like you don’t want to do anything. It kind of just puts you in almost like a sad place because you’re just at home all day. It’s like, boring and just kind of dull! 

María: Yeah, absolutely. It’s hard to focus with all of that going on, right? Especially thinking about, like, how do I even talk to people again? And how do I interact with people at school? And all of that constantly in your mind can keep you from paying attention and staying focused. Richie, did you want to add on to that? 

Richie: Yeah. So, for me, even before the pandemic, I always had bad depression-anxiety related to school. So, when the pandemic happened, I was in 8th grade, and after the last time I was in school before that was fifth grade. So three years later. And when I was in 8th grade, I was doing well for once with school and basically forgot most of my issues, and I didn’t miss any day. And then the pandemic hit, got COVID, and then everything just went downhill from there for me. 

María: Yeah. All of it together can really affect your mental health. So, I want to move on to a topic that I think you’ve already sort of mentioned a little bit in terms of sort of the relationship with youth and adults. Social media. We know social media has many different impacts on not just young people, but everybody. For you all, how does social media affect your mental health? What does that look like? 

Ashley: I feel like there’s kind of a pressure to be on it because all your friends are on it, and that’s like the only way to connect with the world. But at the same time, we see too much of the world and too much information, like, overload at once. So that affected my mental health because I feel like I wasn’t doing enough. There was always different activism or different protests or different things you can support around the world. And it felt like I was a bad person because I couldn’t help out or support everyone at the same time. And at the same time, seeing other people going through their day to day activities makes you feel kind of alone. You’re like, “oh, I wish I could do that,” or “I wish I had friends who would do that with me too.” So, it’s like a double edged sword. 

Kayla: For me, I know social media is kind of like this whole other world because you think about it, before social media, you only really knew what you experienced. But, with social media, you can experience other people’s experiences. So it’s like you don’t really just live your life anymore. You get to live your life through all these different lenses and all these other people’s lives. And I feel like it’s draining and I feel like it kind of consumes people nowadays. And I know for me, like, me and my brother was talking about it the other day. With social media, it’s like–just our phones in general, really, like just technology. We’re on it all the time. And when we were little, that wasn’t really a thing because we were talking about how when we were younger, we used to go outside and you would see people outside interacting with each other or walking their dogs. And you could go to the neighbor’s house and ring the doorbell and someone would come out and play with you. People just interacted like that. But nowadays, unless you’re going out to buy something, you don’t really leave your house. 

Kayla: It’s almost like–to do something, you have to spend money. And when you’re not spending money or out spending money, you’re at home, like on your phone or watching TV. And so, that’s draining on your mental health: not actively doing things. You become so reliant on technology because that’s the only way you feel “happiness”. Because you feel satisfaction from it, and so your body thinks it’s happiness, but in reality, you’re just draining yourself, and you’re not actually gaining anything from it. And so I feel like it’s really painful in a way, and it’s kind of sad because when you look at it, that’s really just what the world is right now. It’s like: spend money, technology, and then either work or go to school. 

María: Yeah. And that’s a cycle, right? Yeah. 

Ashley: Really bad codependency on social media. 

María: Do you want to read the next question? 

Mandi: No. Reread the question. 

María: How does social media affect your mental health? 

Mandi: So, social media does affect my mental health a lot and I think–well, pretty much everybody else too, because from today, I couldn’t stop being on my phone. Every single day I can’t stop being on my phone. I’m just constantly scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, playing this game, playing that game; saving somebody from a fire, things like that. 


María: We’ll get the details of that later. 

Mandi: Sometimes I just sit in class and I’m just constantly on my phone and it’s like I want to get off, but it’s just I can’t get off. And once I force myself to get off–I don’t know how to explain it, I get some sort of like headache or something. I just need to get my hands on my phone again. And I’ve never been in a situation like that before, and it’s just tough to get out of it. And I think a lot of people can relate. It’s just hard to put your phone down because you’ll hear your parents say, put your phone down so you can do this, do that. But I don’t think they understand how hard it is to put it down. Because, you know, I’m trying to get that high score on Roblox. Playing that survival–that natural survival game. Yeah, I love–that game’s a W. Been playing that for years! Anyways. 

María: And you get used to it, right? Sometimes, I don’t know if this happens to you all, but if I go to the doctor and I sit in like, the waiting room, I automatically–I don’t even think about it anymore, it just kind of happens where we all pull it out and then all of a sudden I’m deep into my Instagram, and I don’t even notice. And that can be really difficult to like, you’re saying like, you try and you try and you try to pull yourself out of it and thinking about, like, I’m going to ask a different question with this too. What are some things that you all do with your social media to kind of help with some of that? Or do you have resources to do that? And if you don’t, that’s fine. You can say you don’t. 

Ashley: Are we answering that now? 

María: Anybody can answer. 

Ashley: Well, I feel like using my phone, like for good. Like, you know, calling people or texting other people. Like, I feel like playing with games with your friends can help my mental health too, because it’s like a good place to have something to bond over while also having the space to talk about or vent about the day you had. And other people are like, “oh, me too!” So it feels very vindicative to know that other people are really having fun with you, but also sharing the same problems as you. 

María: Mhm. Can be a bonding experience. 

Sam: For me, for example, just listening to music, that’s one of the things that the phone–I guess, music is everywhere now because of phones. Even now that people have, like, Apple Watches, you can listen to music anywhere you go. I feel like sometimes certain music helps you with your mental health because depending on how you’re feeling, you can listen to that music. Or depending on how you’re feeling, you can listen to music. And sometimes it helps you feel better, I guess. 

María: Taking the things that actually have a positive impact in your life. 

Sam: Or even like, if you don’t want to read, there’s audio books that you can do. 

María: To kind of distract you from the other pieces of it. That’s good. Yeah, I need to do that more. 

Ashley: ~Knowledge~ 

María: Yeah, knowledge. #knowledge. So, what stigma do you think exists around mental health topics and conversations? 

Ashley: So, stigma for personal experience as an Asian American in my community, it feels like mental health is not mental health. It’s just a hindrance or it’s just a weakness. And it’s not something that can get you into that Harvard scholarship or get you into that lawyer degree or stuff like that. So it just feels like it’s not really allowed. You’re not really allowed to have those feelings. And if you do, they kind of like–make us–diminish your feelings and just like “get over it” or like it’s all because they try to allocate those causes on different things they have problems on with you instead of trying to talk with you about it. And I feel that I kind of perpetuate the cycle of making you feel bad and making you do worse and never actually addressing the problem. And I understand that that comes from a place that because they never got to express themselves or understand mental health, which is why I feel like it’s really important to talk about it now, because then in the future generations, we can allow the younger folk to understand how to cope and deal with stress in a healthy way. 

María: To have tools, yeah. Yeah and if you want to tie this to sort of I know that we have varying cultures represented in the room and sort of how your family kind of goes about these conversations. So, we can tie those two questions together about stigma that you know exists about mental health. And then if you want to go into talking about your culture or your family, how that is kind of dealt with, you can put those two together, for sure. 

Fathiya: For me, as an African American and also as a Muslim, I feel like in my culture, it’s more like your mental health doesn’t exist. There’s nothing for you to get stressed about. All you have to do is go to school. Stuff like this. My mom always says, all I need you to do is clean up, go to school. That’s it. There’s really nothing you should be stressed about. And anytime you say, hey, I’m feeling this, this or that, and you go to a trusted adult, but they would go ahead and say, “well, when I was your age, I had to do much more than you’re doing now. So you aren’t stressed, it’s just how, it’s just what you see on the media and stuff like that, that’s what’s affecting how you feel.”  And then not all, but I feel like in some religions, many people are like, if you’re depressed, it’s just the demons. You have to pray it away, stuff like that. They don’t take it seriously. They take it, like, spiritual. They don’t actually ask you what’s wrong. They don’t check up on you. 

And one of my personal experiences was when I went to the doctor, and my doctor has referred to my mom–they’re best friends by the way. She referred to my mom many times to go get me to a therapist. And what my mom has done, I spoke to her about it one day, and she was like, “I have took to you to therapists,” and I don’t remember going to any therapist offices. So I asked my mom, and she said, “your school counselor”. And that was funny to me because I remember in middle school, my school counselor would just ask me about my grades, and then she would be like, well, I don’t understand why you feel this way, because your grades are really good. And my mom would agree as well. My mom recently put me with another therapist that she knew, and nowadays–she’s not a licensed therapist, but she has background in it, and she’s helped me better than the school counselor. But I feel like instead of thinking of mental health as like thinking of mental health as a weak thing, like a weakness, you should embrace it, talk about it more, normalize it, instead of just pushing it away. Because I know I feel like a lot of people in my community have a lot of things that they go through.

Another thing is that we don’t talk to strangers about our problems. Family secrets. A lot of people talk about how you have to keep it in the family. There’s no reason for you to go to a therapist. I remember I had this one fight with my mother, and it was about, “why would you go tell a therapist about some stuff? But I’m your own mother”. And it really brought the question to the community, because the community is all about tell your family, come to your family about stuff. Why would you go to a stranger about family stuff? They’re scared that you will tell some stranger about the family secrets and stuff like that. And since we’re family, we’re supposed to protect each other. But because of that insight that they have, you don’t really get any help. You just have to push it down. 

María: Yeah. So, families or cultures that are very family oriented, and it’s supposed to stay in here. We’re supposed to do it. We’re supposed to deal with it. It’s not leaving this community. Yeah, I get that, for sure. 

Sam: That’s sometimes like the way that, for example, the Latinx/Hispanic community–that’s a topic that’s very also controversial because just like how they were talking about–in the Hispanic community, basically, if you have mental health problems, sometimes those mental health problems are not real. Or sometimes they’re just like, oh just…for example, parents don’t really believe in therapists or things like that because there’s even studies done that supposedly there’s not as much of Spanish speakers therapists in the US as English speaking. Due to the fact that how our community thinks and how sometimes they don’t take–for example, I know I’ve seen a lot of videos that’s supposed like the way parents used to, for their kids mental health, is sometimes they think by putting their hands on them or hitting them or anything like that, that’s how you solve that mental health problem. Or sometimes they take mental health as an issue as you’re not okay, you’re different, let me fix it that way, or something like the church has to fix because most of the Hispanic community is Catholic or Christian, and a lot of things they do is associate a lot of the problems with the church. So, that takes a bad turn, and sometimes that’s why a lot of Hispanics are the way they are. 

María: Mm, yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. That definitely has an impact on how those conversations go. We’re going to go to Tyree, and then I think Kayla and Mandi, if you want to chime in. 

Tyree: I think a big thing is kind of like stereotypes, and I know one of the big ones was growing up was more like men don’t cry, men don’t really show emotion. And I feel like once it kind of fills up the bucket until–once it explodes, that you can’t show this, that. Men do this, that, and the third, and then it really affects your mental health that you have to just be bland and you can’t really show anything. You always have to have this almost like act hard, and you can’t really do anything about that. And as the build up goes and once you get to a point, it’s like, well, where did all this come from? What’s really happening? It’s like, well, how society view this, you can’t really speak on anything because it’s almost like that’s a feminine thing to do, why are you trying like–men don’t cry and just stuff like that. 

María: Yeah. How does that affect you? 

Tyree: I feel like over time, it got better. When I was younger, it’s like, you would almost show emotion in private, and you couldn’t really show it in public. So, I’d be in my room. I do show all emotion then, or by myself, because I wouldn’t really do it in front of family, even though sometimes my family would encourage it, it’s just how society viewed it. I would never show it in public. 

María: Yeah. 

Ashley: And sometimes, because people don’t talk about it, you don’t know how to cope with it. And I feel like a lot of times that in turn results in violent actions to release all that sadness and energy which is not good for anyone in the long run. 

María: Yeah, yeah. So, we’ll go–we’re going to go if you two have anything, and then I saw Richie, and then, yeah. 

Kayla: I was just going to say, I know for me, it’s also a thing where it’s like age. Like the oldest in the household has more responsibilities. And so because of that, you’re kind of expected to be this example or like, take on this role where you’re helping to raise and shape the lives of your younger siblings. And because of that and all that responsibility, it’s like when you show weakness, it’s like, I don’t know, maybe you’re not worthy. Maybe you’re not good enough to do what was expected of you. And I feel like that can also be harmful because you get to this point where with what you said, you’re just holding everything in and one day it kind of just explodes. 

María: Yeah. The bottle will fill up and overflow, right? Yeah. 

Kayla: And that’s when you get a mental breakdown and the stressing and anxiety and you start experiencing these other issues that you may have not experienced before, but because you allowed yourself to continue that way, all of a sudden it’s just, you know…combust. 

María: Yeah. Did you want to add something? 

Mandi: I feel like your upbringing can really shape the way your mental health is, because I don’t want to talk about my experience, but for many others I’ve seen, when I would go to sleepovers or I would just go to my cousin’s households, I would see the way my aunties or my uncles will act towards their children. And it really like I don’t even know what to say, man. It really shaped them to the people that they are today. When I look back and see the people that they were before, there’s a difference. And I feel like because of the way they were treated, because of the things that they went through, it really shaped them into something negative. Now I see some of my cousins, they act–they’re basically going to end up being the new aunties of the community, is what I want to say. 

María: You pass it down from generation to generation. 

Mandi: Mhm, and it’s just not going to be a positive thing. I just hear the gossiping. I just hear the drama, the drama that’s going to unfold soon enough. I hear all the “are you dark?” Or are you this, this, and that, like–it’s really just like yeah, it’s not good. 

María: Yeah. That can definitely be passed down, right, and continue to impact. 

Mandi: Because a lot of their parents, for what I see now, they had mental issues when they had their children and that just passed down to them and just like what I mean by pass down, it’s like the way they acted towards them shaped them into who they are. Some of them are very quiet. They don’t talk that much or they’re just very reserved. They don’t tell people what’s going on. They just stay very quiet. 

María: Yeah. Can certainly have a big impact on how you communicate with others. Did you want to add something? 

Richie: Yeah. Back when we were on the male topic about holding mental health in, a study shown–which I could be wrong, that most middle aged guys, when they have depression, that will most likely lead to gambling problems or alcoholism because your dopamine is so low and winning something or just basically getting rid of the feeling of depression will boost it. So that’s why most of that stuff happened. 

María: Finding ways to cope that may not be good for you. 

[collectively nods] 


María: That makes sense. 

Ashley: Especially finding external things instead of looking inwards. 

María: Mhm, yeah. These are great experiences and thoughts into this conversation. Thank you all for sharing so thoughtfully and vulnerably too. So, I have one more question for you, and anyone can chime in on this one. So, how has NCCJ impacted your mental health? It can be Anytown or it can be just the group of friends that you have. Whatever you want to share about that, just bring it on. We’re happy to hear. 

Ashley: I feel like NCCJ and the people in it has really unleashed a chaotic side of me in a good way. I feel like more true to myself and that if I say something maybe out of pocket or that people wouldn’t be mad at me for it. Like something that they laugh along or like they show me or–understand where I’m coming from or speak to me and not like an aggressive way to teach me what to do better next time. So I feel that’s, like, all around it creates a really safe and open community to talk about–not just open to all mental health, but like racism and all that kind of experiences. Because all of us, we have had similar experiences. That’s why we are at NCCJ and want to advocate for that. So, it feels great to have a common cause because I feel like that’s what brings people together the best. It’s just mutual understanding. 

María: Yeah. 

Nathan: It put a really good mental stability for me as I was more like a shut in and tried not to do too much outside of the house. I would be kind of like the class clown just to relieve stress, kind of. And for me, that was sort of “fun” for me at the time. But after going to NCCJ, after realizing all these things, it’s good to show emotion and not to feel too bad about things that you do or that are moderately bad. You just have to learn from your mistakes and just become a better person in general. And just putting a cap on certain things is not always a good or a bad thing. It’s just depending on what kind of subject or kind of group that you’re with. 

María: Mhm, yeah. 

Tyree: When I first went to Anytown, I think before it, I wasn’t as open. But when I finally got there and started talking, it always seemed as my opinion mattered, and anything you say is always going to be like they want you to continue and they want you to bring it open. Anything you say that you can talk freely about anything and it always matters. Mentally, I feel like there I felt mentally free and I can really talk about anything and just I felt open. 

María: Yeah, that’s a good word: open. 

Sam: What NCCJ has done for me like mentally, it has helped me a lot because it has shown me that I can actually give my opinion, and sometimes there’s people out there who are not going to mind my opinion, like what I think. Anytown has also shown me to be more open to other people the way other people think, because we don’t all think the same. And sometimes I feel like that’s what takes a lot of our mental health, because we may believe that there might not be people who might listen to us out there, but in reality there is because it’s just depending on the community that we grew up on, sometimes that kind of takes an effect on us. But here in NCCJ, going to Anytown, you get to learn from other people’s perspective in life, since there are so many people from different backgrounds, different places and cultures. 

[collective agreement] 

Richie: What was the question? 

María: How has NCCJ impacted your mental health? 

Richie: Ok, long list. So, NCCJ and all that when I first went to Anytown that was–I heard about it last year at school, and in the beginning of that school year, I was out for like four months because of my anxiety and depression, all that school, PTSD and all that. So, when summer came, I said, “hey, I want to go to this”. My parents were very worried about that, but they allowed to it. And then my anxiety and depression kind of disappeared after the bus and getting there and then throughout I was, just fine. And then I didn’t want it to end and I didn’t want to let go of the family that I made there. But afterwards, we still meet at these meetings and even after I had the same issues again this year, early on the year, with depression, anxiety and PTSD, which has now led me this year to drop out of high school for this year or for the future. But even though I still have depression, anxiety and all of that, somehow when I’m with NCCJ people or at these meetings, it kind of just goes away, which is awesome. 

María: We’re glad to have you with us, Richie. 

Fathiya: For me, Anytown and NCCJ has helped me a lot because I honestly did not like talking to people, or if I did, I had to put up a front and have to be this way or that way like my mom grew up. She raised me. She was like, you can’t do this, this or that or the people are going to talk about you. You don’t want people to talk about you, right? And then after coming to Anytown, after saying what I want to say, I came back and I was like, you know what? I don’t want to do stuff that other people are just fearing, what other people are going to say, what other people are going to do. And then I started doing what I wanted to do. Being unapologetically me. 

María: Yeahhh, we’re snapping over here. 


María: Yeah. That’s beautiful. I love that. The power of being yourself, right. And having those spaces. 

Mandi: So, I really loved Anytown. I really felt like it really cleared my mind because I remember before I went, my mind was just very cluttered. I’m like, oh, my god, what am I going to wear? What am I going to do? I’ve got to do the dishes, I got to do my laundry. Someone broke glass on the ground. And I got to clean it up. So, yeah, after going over there, I just felt my mind just becoming nice and clear. I could think, I could talk, I could just relax. Give me a peace of mind. I met great people. I met great counselors. I just met great people altogether. And I just felt like it’s a nice experience to just have. 

María: Yeah, absolutely. Kayla? 

Kayla: For me, Anytown was really important because coming right out of the pandemic, I forgot to interact with people, to be completely honest. 

María: Absolutely, yeah. 

Kayla: And Anytown, I feel like that was the absolute best possible place for me to start out because it was like a new start, going to Anytown and then going back into society. It was like I had a new point of view because I’m not going to lie, I was kind of at that point where I was like, “wow society is just terrible ya’ll”, there’s nothing we can do about it. We just stuck with it. This is it! And then I guess Anytown just kind of reminded me that you still got a little bit of hope. Very small, slim, tiny piece, but it’s hope. And so I thought it was important in that way. It just reminded me of–kind of there’s good in the world and it allowed me to learn about some of that good, some of the different people that we have so close to us and just the greatness of living life. 

María: Yeaaah! It’s good to be reminded of that, right. Well, thank you all so so so much for sitting together and having these difficult conversations. Again, these are our NCCJ ambassadors who come together just about every month, sometimes more, to have some of these conversations around not just mental health, but overall social justice issues and human relations issues that we need to be talking about. And so, I appreciate your time and your bravery and vulnerability to be in this space with me today. Thank you all. You did it. 

[collective cheer]