AUSTIN (KXAN) — At a campus of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, a group of six teens joined together to share their experiences with mental health.

This Digital Teen Town Hall is part of KXAN’s ongoing Save Our Students coverage — a long-term project examining the challenge schools face related to mental health and safety as well as the solutions being used to address those challenges. 

After feedback encouraging KXAN to work with more local students to talk about what they’re experiencing, we organized this town hall to hear from teens firsthand. 

KXAN is partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, the conversation was live-streamed Tuesday on KXAN’s Facebook page.

The discussion

The teens talked about a range of topics, from seeing their peers self harm to looking for more of a listening ear from the adults in our lives.

Many of the teens have activities they turn to as they try to release stress in their lives, some said they ride hoverboards others try to make sure they’re not spending too much time on the phone. Just about every teen mentioned relying on music, art, or athletics to help them de-stress.

“I sleep, I can’t be stressed if I’m asleep,” laughed 15-year-old Tamyrea Epps.

Many of the teens have adults in their lives who they can turn to if they have a problem. For 16-year-old Christian Thomas, she has a teacher she goes to when she needs to talk.

“He’s relatable, he’s been through a lot of the things we’ve been through,” Thomas said. She explained she goes to this teacher when she needs a listening ear because she finds the counselors at her school “aren’t that helpful.”

Many of the students expressed feeling that the adults in their life minimize the problems they face and their mental well-being.

“Even if it may not seem like a big deal to you it could be a big deal to me,” Thomas explained, adding that she wishes the adults in her life asked her more often how she was doing.

“I feel like adults put their input in,” Tamyrea Epps said, urging adults tuning in to the discussion to, “just listen to the full problem.”

KXAN asked students if they knew someone who had experienced suicidal thoughts if they knew someone who had ever self-harmed, or if they knew someone who had ever been a bully or experienced bullying. To each of those questions, almost all of the students responded that yes, they had known people who’d experienced those things.

Thomas called the discussion among the teens “eye-opening,” noting “we’re 16 and we know a lot of people that have been like struggling and going through mental health and suicidal things.”

“Yeah it was eye-opening for me,” agreed 16-year old Jelayza Garner. “Like the part where it was like, ‘well if you don’t tell an adult it might be too late’ [impacted me] because like, a lot of people tell me their problems, but you could think it might not be that serious, but it might be that serious.”

Other town hall participants included 13-year-old Cami Bass, 13-year-old Luci Burdick, and 14-year-old T’rya Epps.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

People who are facing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. More than 100 local crisis centers are a part of a national network working on this lifeline and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Save Our Students Project

A group photo of the moderators and participants at KXAN’s Teen Town Hall discussion on mental health. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

This solutions journalism project has included several community events around the Austin area to take in community input on these important topics.

Watch previous conversations with a panel of experts including law enforcement, school counselors and parents: