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Teen’s Mental Health Engagement | Daystar Academy Event Review

Director of CandleX

I am a mentor, besides being a psychotherapist. I like being in the role of a mentor because it gives me space to interact with teens without worrying about the therapist-client boundary, where I could use my platform, CandleX, to provide them precious opportunities to influence other teens through talking to them in person, experiencing being in the spotlight of an advocate. Leo Yu, my mentee, came with me to a workshop that I was invited to conduct in an international school (Day Star Academy) in Beijing.

Leo wrote a summary of the framework and steps that every teen could take to do something on mental health.


Author: Leo Yu (17 years old)

Time: Feb 2024

It was on Nov 29 when I attended an offline event called Project for Change at Daystar Academy as a mentee and guest speaker of Xiaojie, founder of CandleX and the main speaker of the day. That day, I opened my heart to a group of students around three years younger than me, aspiring to promote mental health awareness. I shared my personal story about the process of communicating with my parents. In contrast, Xiaojie shared her personal experience in starting CandleX and introduced several methods for project creation. If you are a teenager who does not know where to start/directionless, you can follow these three steps.

First of all, having a mentor is very important. The mentor could be your favorite teacher, school counselor, or parent. In my case, it’s someone who’s not in any of those roles. My mentor is an independent adult who doesn’t play any other role in my life other than mentor. And very fortunately, she’s a psychotherapist.

Let me guide you through my experience, which I recommend to you.

Step 1: Write Your Struggles

We all have struggles and challenges, specifically about sharing our experiences and personal stories. I had a complicated and challenging process trying to communicate with my parents that I would like them to balance expressing love vs providing advice when they communicate with me. During this struggle, I found it hard to speak with them because of the fear of being criticized and reprimanded. Sometimes, although I gathered my composure so that my parents and I could have a peaceful communication, the words I used to express myself limited what I truly intended to say in the first place. We can find our inner voice through free writing when we write what we are currently thinking. I believe that writing during this process serves as a therapeutic tool, allowing us teens to process our emotions that we often find difficult to convey in mere words when communicating. Through writing, we gain insights into our resilience and discover new perspectives that we could incorporate into our articles and lives. By recognizing and acknowledging our stories, we can develop a stronger sense of identity and better understand who we are.

Step 2: Communicate with a mentor

I turned my writing on parental expectations and parenting styles to Xiaojie, my mentor in my path towards promoting mental health awareness. She provided me with an area of my writing where I could improve, where I could allow the audience to see and correlate with me in a broader picture. Many teenagers may say they cannot find such a mentor within their environment. I suggest seeking school counselors- they are a resource I believe needs to be more utilized. School counselors are in place initially to address student academic and behavioral performance issues. Still, one could use counselors as mentors in writing, as they are experienced in a way that allows us to express more and have a clearer picture of who we are.

Step 3: Revise your own story.

When I was communicating with my mentor on my written work, we went through several cycles of editing, revising, and improving the personal story that I was writing. During this process, it initially tended to be frustrating how there seemed to be flaws even when I was trying to express myself in written words. But revising helped me to express more of myself in descriptive details and memories that have long been hidden in my subconscious memory. I started to enjoy revising as I clearly understood who I was. Through revising our written works, we examine and identify patterns, insights, and areas for personal growth, allowing a process of self-awareness.

Step 4: Share Your Writings

This step is scary because you need to learn to be vulnerable. By reading and listening to each other's personal stories, we can gain insights into different perspectives, experiences, and struggles of others. The initial step taken from a person’s comfort zone in sharing their story may be difficult. Still, we could always start sharing with someone close to us, friends and family, to promote an environment of compassion and authenticity with one another. In the process of sharing our work, we are open to connection with other teenagers. We connect with others on a deeper level.

Through writing, revising, and sharing, we can foster empathy, understanding, and community among participants as we realize we are not alone in our challenges.


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