Everyone’s lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, but teens may be in an especially fragile state as regular school schedules are halted and time with friends disappears.
Blue Shield of California and DoSomething.org teamed up to help these teens.
The insurer and nonprofit created New State of Mind, an online platform where teens can share stress-reducing tips to better manage mental health during these uncertain times.
“Adults aren’t the only ones thrown into a topsy-turvy environment, but they do have more control of their environment.” said Bryce Williams, VP of lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield of California. “How do we provide a forum for these teens to express their feelings, stresses, anxieties to their peers in large format where they can cosolution with their peers and other teens who have much more influence and credibility with them than adult figures with fancy letters behind their name.”
Blue Shield and DoSomething.org began their partnership last fall, but this is the first initiative they have launched together.
New State of Mind is tapping into DoSomething.org’s six million members. The nonprofit focuses on connecting young people with causes like voting drives, gun violence, LGBTQ rights and teen mental health. It also offers scholarships for teens who volunteer and contribute to these causes.
Williams said DoSomething is handling much of the direct outreach to teens, using social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The nonprofit also partnered with fashion and lifestyle influencer Justina Sharp to get the word out.
Blue Shield, meanwhile, is focusing on the parents through social media.
“Our angle is a little different,” Williams said. “Blue Shield skews more toward the parent figure. It’s a nice partnership with DoSomething reaching teens and Blue Shield letting parents, caregivers and family members know as well.”
The team at Blue Shield knows how vulnerable teens can be and how often teens experience mental health issues. The company hopes to help young people learn to manage their stress and anxiety before mental health conditions appear.
In California, one in five teens is facing a mental health issue, Williams said. Those stats spurred the insurer’s initial partnership with DoSomething.org and creation of the BlueSky initiative that supports mental health for middle and high school students.
“The larger issue is that 50% of all mental health disorders begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24,” Williams explained. “Rather than waiting for manifestation of mental health issues, we have a real opportunity to work at the root cause with teens. That generated our initial interest in the BlueSky initiative and partnering with DoSomething.”
The New State of Mind effort is seeing a massive response so far. In the first three weeks of the campaign, there were 27,000 responses from teens on the platform, Williams said.
A few common themes emerged among the responses, he added. Young people are exercising and staying active to combat stress; listening to or playing music; doing mindfulness activities like meditation; and reading and writing, whether that’s journaling or reading books.
“All of those areas are self-energizing, self-actualizing behavior,” Williams said. “These teens are acknowledging the stress, anxiety and change and understand that they have it within their power to deal with it, make it better and share tips with friends, family and people they don’t even know on the platform. When you read the quotes, there’s something so profound about how open these teens are.”
Others have recommended baking, taking care of plants, creating schedules with calendar apps or just having a good cry.
One 17-year-old member captured how many teenagers are likely feeling right now, writing: “During this pandemic, the thing that is stressing me out the most is life after I’m officially done with high school. When I say that I mean college, getting a job, and getting some kind of ID (currently I do not have one), and making money. To help with this I focus on what I can control and do now. There is no use in stressing about something you cannot control. Do what you can now and everything will fall into place.”