JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — With depression and anxiety rising among adolescents, there is a growing movement to improve mental healthcare, and one person leading the charge is a teen herself.
Samruddhi Panse is a rising senior at Mount Pisgah and the founder of Compass Movement. She saw the seriousness of suicide among teens and decided to do something to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens between 15 and 19 years old, according to the Center for Disease Control, and 1 in 10 Georgians between 12 and 17 said they have had at least one depressive episode in a year, according the department of Health and Human Services.
Despite the pervasiveness of mental illness, there is a stigma surrounding diseases like depression and anxiety, Panse said. She hopes by raising awareness and starting a conversation she can encourage people to seek help and show them they are supported.
“We’re centered around conversation,” Panse said. “We’re centered around building this community who’s open to talking about mental health, mental illness, how we can help others and really training each other to recognize when we are at risk.”
Panse and other high school students, with the guidance of licensed counselor Carmy Howard, run a blog where teens can share their stories and advice for people struggling with mental illness.
“We’re trying to get the word out that it is OK to not be OK,” Panse said. “That’s our motto.”
The blog, at compassmovement.org, includes an “Ask Carmy” section where people can anonymously submit questions about mental health to a licensed professional.
Outside of Howard, the group is entirely run by teens. Panse believes having the support coming from teenagers is beneficial for other adolescents who are struggling.
“There is only so much adults can do,” Panse said. “You feel support and trust and comforted when adults are involved. At the same time, when everything is coming from adults it feels like it’s a one-way street, like adults preach to you and lecture you.”
The group is nearly a year old and moving forward. Panse said she’d like to start social media pages and share videos on YouTube and Instagram to reach a wider audience.
The group also hosts events at local libraries where people can share their experiences or learn more about mental health.
“It’s an open space,” Panse said. “Anyone can come. We have free donuts. We just open the discussion to talk about mental health, mental illness, and how we can build community and compassion and really learn from each other.”
Their next event will be July 27 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Alpharetta Library. There will also be a fundraiser at the Chipotle on Haynes Bridge Road on July from 5 to 9 p.m. Compass Movement is looking for writers, volunteers and students interested in starting their own chapter. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org.