‘Lets have a real talk’: Bitney Prep senior launches podcast, provides safe space to discuss mental health during pandemic
A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020” revealed some sobering statistics that many of us have sensed already. Seeing them spelled out as cold data points, though, is shocking.
This study indicates that “overall, 40.9% of 5,470 respondents who completed surveys during June reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including those who reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), those with TSRD (a trauma- and stressor-related disorder) symptoms related to COVID-19 (26.3%), those who reported having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%), and those who reported having seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days (10.7%).” One of the conclusions of this study was the obvious need for intervention and prevention efforts that prioritize young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers, especially on a community level.
Against this backdrop, Bitney Prep High School Senior Louie Jacobson has made it her mission to break the stigma that mental health is a taboo topic. To this end, as part of Bitney Prep’s Learning Through Interest program, Louie has started a podcast titled “Let’s Have A Real Talk” which she describes as “a safe space for people to share their stories and inspire others.”
Louie continues, “I’ve always had a passion for mental health and helping others. I’ve struggled with mental health since I was young, and I wish I had a tool like this to help me because I thought I was the only one. I want youth and adults to draw comfort from my podcast in knowing that they are not alone.”
While this is a difficult subject to talk about, Louie has a positivity about her that shines through as her guests tell their personal stories about dealing with mental health issues. When asked what she hopes her audience will understand or learn after listening to her podcast, Louie is very clear, “Simple, that receiving treatment doesn’t make you weak, sharing your story doesn’t make you an attention seeker, and it’s extremely important to talk about mental health.”
Louie is grateful for Bitney Prep High School, whose Learning Through Interest program has given her a set day to work on this project. Bitney has also provided her with resources like a membership at Nevada County Media so she can record and edit “Let’s Have A Real Talk” using professional equipment. “I feel super supported by Bitney Prep and the school community. I am a senior and this has been a huge opportunity for me to take on a leadership role,” she says.
Reaction among her peers and her teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Alison Harper, Bitney Prep’s Math teacher and Louie’s advisor, is especially impressed with the bravery and the professionalism that Louie is exhibiting throughout this project. “Louie knows she is taking on a huge burden by producing ‘Let’s Have A Real Talk’, and she is demonstrating a level of maturity and empathy that we strive to imbue in all of our students. Louie is not only becoming a role model, but she’s providing a service that our community desperately needs. I’m so proud of her.”
As for how “Let’s Have A Real Talk” will be part of Louie’s future, she says, “I can see myself doing a lot of volunteer work in the future. Mental health has always been a passion of mine and I think it always will be. One day I want to work in speech pathology, which has a lot to do with studying behavior, so, in a way, this podcast could be tied to that. I want this podcast to be able to be used as a resource for various organizations in the future. If it helps even just one person I’d be happy. I just want to inspire others and help people.”
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April is National Poetry Month and the Nevada County Community Library is celebrating with special programs, grab bags and fun activities all month long.