BAKERSFIELD, Calif — Throughout the pandemic, many have struggled with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses due to isolation and stress from the unknown. But a group of teens is trying to help those that are hurting.
“You are not alone, no matter how much it feels like it,” Natalie Tun, a teen officer with NAMI Kern County, said.
Both Natalie Tun and Ritik Kumar have a passion for helping those who are struggling with mental health, and they are a part of their school's National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) club.
“There is a NAMI club at independence high school, and it came to my mind that there should be something like this in Kern County as well, not just at our school," Ritik Kumar, a teen officer with NAMI Kern County said.
Ritik and Natalie got to work and helped create a county-wide teen support group through Zoom, called "Just Like Me."
“Just Like Me" is an emotional support group. It is a way for teens to really communicate with each other about their own mental health struggles,” Kumar said.
According to Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, anxiety and depression have been on the rise throughout the county since the start of the pandemic, and Ritik says that isolation has been the hardest part for teens.
“People are really struggling with finding someone to connect with, people are struggling with, from what I have seen, being really motivated to do more in school,” Kumar said.
And Natalie knows first hand the negative impacts of poor mental health as she has struggled her self.
“I’ve had a long mental health journey. I've struggled with it for a while and over the years I have really learned how to take care of myself and what I need to do if I get into a bad mental health situation or something is going wrong in my life. I find it really helpful to talk to other people and really connect about my own mental health struggles,” Tun said.
But, Natalie and Ritik don’t just want to help others, they also want to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, since they believe it isn’t talked about nearly enough.
“High school does not talk about mental health, and that is why I am really glad that the NAMI club came in," Kumar said.
“I always thought that making a big impact is really important and in Kern County, a lot of people need to talk about mental health more. I think that is overlooked sometimes,”
And for students who may be struggling with anxiety or depression during this time, Ritik and Natalie want you to know that you are not alone.
“There is only one you in this world and you have to sometimes find your own identity and that itself can be a journey,” Kumar said.
“I always thought that making a big impact is really important and in Kern County, a lot of people need to talk about mental health more. I think that is overlooked sometimes.”
The group meets every Sunday over zoom from 2 to 3 pm. If you want to join, you can register online.