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Shrewsbury teen's mental health podcast aims to help fellow high school students

Shrewsbury teen's mental health podcast aims to help fellow high school students
Shrewsbury teen's mental health podcast aims to help fellow high school students 03:01

SHREWSBURY - According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 40% of high school students reported poor mental health during the pandemic.

To make matters worse, there is a shortage of therapists to treat these kids who are suffering from anxiety and depression. The CDC survey found four out of ten kids reported feeling "persistently sad or hopeless," and one in five saying they have contemplated suicide. Compounding the crisis is the shortage of therapists needed to help treat these kids.

That is part of the reason high school senior Katelyn Smith, who is from Shrewsbury, turned her brother's old bedroom into a makeshift studio and started her own podcast called "Modern Adolescence."

She created a makeshift studio in her brother's old bedroom, complete with video camera, lighting, and editing equipment. She researches mental health topics and schedules interviews with fellow classmates and professionals.

Katelyn understands what it is like to live with mental health challenges. Her own struggles started before the pandemic when she fell victim to the competitive grade culture in her school.

"It was very tough seeing my peers knock out A+ after A+ after A+ when I was struggling, and I saw my worth in my grades," she recalled.

With the help of a therapist, she learned how to work through her feelings, but during the pandemic, she noticed many of her classmates were also struggling with anxiety and depression.

"A thought dawned on me that no child should deserve to feel that way, and, child-to-child, there wasn't really a discussion about mental health."

Katelyn has produced episodes on everything, from asking for help when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or sad to tacking the transition back to in-person learning. While we were there, she recorded parts of an episode about the college admission process.

"A school 10 years ago that you would have been a target for is now suddenly unattainable," she said into the microphone.

According to Mass General psychologist Ellen Braaten, providers are so overwhelmed with kids who need help that many are forced to wait for an appointment. She believes teens can benefit from hearing their peers talk about having similar struggles.

"Teens talking to other teens, it can improve their self-determination, it can improve their self-esteem. They become more hopeful. They just have increased better mental health overall," she said.

Katelyn is heading off to college in the fall and hopes she can have the same impact on campus that she has had in high school.

"It's the actual kids who come up to me and they are like, 'This is so important. This actually helps. I feel seen in my struggles.' That's what really makes it all worth it."

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