Forum addresses teen mental health

Mountain View agency facilitates open forum regarding teen stress and pressure

The Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) held its first of three open forums at its clinic in Mountain View as a part of the first annual event on May 7.

The event, known as the Leadership and Empowerment Program (LEaP), was run by Bay Area high school students in an effort to educate the parents of Silicon Valley on how to understand their children and how students deal with stress brought on by living in the progressive area of Silicon Valley.

The first public forum was titled “Teen Pressure in Silicon Valley,” inspired and mediated by program leader and Business Manager for CHAC Hala Kleinknecht. Kleinknecht started the first annual program to show parents from a teenager’s point of view the mental hardships teenagers face growing up in Silicon Valley.

“I reached out to the schools, they chose one student from each class, and when [the students] came in they were completely committed,” Kleinknecht said. “When we first met we said, ‘Okay guys pick a topic, It’s your platform, you pick a topic,’ and all of them picked stress, pressure [and] anxiety. Those were really important to them.”

The goal of the LEaP is for adults to be able to understand what teenagers are feeling by actively listening to their children.

“A lot of times adults talk about being teens or what it’s like being teens and what they are facing; which is great, but there hasn’t really been in our community a forum or platform for teens to educate adults on what it’s like from their perspective. What it’s like being a teen and what they need,” Kleinknecht said.

The program emphasizes teen leadership; Kleinknecht formed the program to give teenagers a voice.

“The speakers for the series will be teenagers educating and talking about their stories from their perspective and from their own individual voice,” Kleinknecht said.

CHAC is a nonprofit mental health agency whose main objective is to provide counseling and general support to local children and families. Kleinknecht, who is a Marriage and Family Therapist, believes that making the three-part LEaP an annual event will help to create a stronger rapport between adults and teenagers.

“It’s different from what the adults say or what the parents say our teens need because this is what the research says or what as therapists what we hear from our clients having it straight from the horse’s mouth,” Kleinknecht said.

In each public forum, a new subject will be chosen by the new panel of students from each level of high school so that adults and parents alike can hear what matters most to the teenage students of Silicon Valley. The program was designed for educating both parents and children on perspectives.

“Most of the time when you’re talking to your child it’s all this talking at and not really listening, and the adults here truly want to listen and they want to hear from [teenagers],” Kleinknecht said. “It’s so important that [teenagers] know how important and powerful [their] voices are and I don’t think [teenagers] realize that.”

LEaP is scheduled to have its second open forum of this year in October, and one last forum in January for the new year all revolving around the daily social issues that the teens of Silicon Valley go through.