January 15, 2021
My name is Jackie Lai, and I’m Trinity’s Big Sister. Trinity and I have been matched for three and a half years, and she never ceases to amaze me. She’s incredibly intelligent, responsible, empathetic, and wise beyond her years. At 16 years old, Trinity has an amazing awareness of everything going on around her, but she still finds the drive to focus on being the best daughter, sister, student, friend, and person she can be. Recently, I asked her if she would write about what it’s like to be a young person in the United States right now, and I urge you to read her post and take her words to heart. I’m so proud to be her Big Sister.
“Being a teenager in today’s society is not easy. Especially in American society. There are many things that we have experienced or been exposed to in our country that have had a negative impact on our mental health. A short list of these include: fighting for basic human rights, social media, and the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only do we have to make extremely important decisions like figuring out what we want to do for the rest of our lives, we have to do it while being suffocated by the continuous violence we are witnessing in our country. When we look at our country, we see blood being shed all over. For example, there have been many mass shootings in schools and churches in the recent years. We live in fear that one day we will be the victims of this gun violence. We live in fear that one day we might be killed or hurt by the police because the ones that are killing our brothers and sisters and the ones that are supposed to be protecting them are wearing the same uniform. When we walk in peace for black lives, LGBTQ rights, and gender equality, we are tear gassed and beaten. But when white supremacists and Trump supporters breach the Capitol of the United States, the police did not use these same aggressive tactics. We are furious because there is only so much we can do it about it.
“COVID-19 has played a significant role in stress and depression for this generation. Stress rates in teenagers are higher than they have ever been. We barely have any human contact outside of our families. We have to watch our parents struggle financially. We can’t go to school or see our friends. We have major stress about completing our school days virtually because it is very difficult. We miss out on important events in our lives like graduation. This has been a roller coaster for teenagers that struggle with depression and anxiety. With all of this happening, we still have to deal with the pressure put on us by our parents and teachers.
“Social media is linked to depression and anxiety. It is a playground for cyberbullying and body shaming. We are told that we have to dress and look a certain way to be accepted by society. There are unrealistic lifestyle expectations. It has a negative effect on self-worth and confidence. This causes some teens to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. Abusing drugs and alcohol makes depression and anxiety worse.
“To summarize, this generation of teenagers are dealing with so many emotions because of the status of America and social media. Our mental health is struggling as a whole. We need to find better ways to cope. We also have to recognize the problems that we are dealing with and encourage each other to not be afraid to seek help during trying times like these.”