By Nora Abdelfattah and Yashi Srivastava
We've all heard of the terrible effects vaping can have on a person's physical well being: popcorn lung, cancer, and addiction being only a handful of the side effects vaping can have on the body. What isn't discussed as much, however, is the impact vaping has on one's mental health.
Our Incorruptible.US group decided to bring attention to the issue by "Stopping the Stigma and Stamping out the Stress." We participated in South Brunswick High School's annual Mental Health Wellness Fair, sponsored by their Wellness Committee, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fair's primary event were three live presenters, who spoke virtually via Zoom and YouTube Stream.
The first presenter was comedian and psychologist Matt Bellace PhD, who focused on finding a healthy and "natural high" for high school and college students, to prevent addiction to drugs and similar substances. The second presenter was Dr. Ketan Trivedi, who spoke from Methodist Mansfield Medical Center in Texas, and provided insight about his experience on the front lines, battling COVID-19. The final presenter was Yuko Inzana, a clinical social worker from Princeton, who talked about mental health support from a strengths-based perspective.
In addition to the live presenters, the Mental Health Fair also shared multiple wellness-related videos, such as DIYs, infographics, and shout-outs from athletes Julian Love, Tracy Eisser, and John Leglue, all focusing on the importance of mental health and what one can do to improve it.
While many videos were submitted by outside organizations and individuals, many were made by South Brunswick High School's own clubs, students, and staff! From making homemade stress balls to dealing with our emotions through mindfulness, to de-stressing with goats, the fair touched on a range of inspiring, humorous, and serious topics alike. SBHS truly did a wonderful job of encouraging everyone to remain positive and seek out help and resources when needed.
Alongside videos and presentations, the fair included a webpage dedicated to providing resources to anyone who needs them, including NAMI, the BRIDGE Center, and our school's Student Assistance/Guidance Counselors. Even though the event is over, the website remains available for anyone who wants to access any such resources. Right now, it's important to keep ourselves mentally well, which includes reaching out for support when necessary. There is absolutely no shame in needing help. All of us need to take care of ourselves, and sometimes, that means talking to someone if needed.
As for Incorruptible.US' role in the fair, as Middlesex County's representatives, Nora and Yashi created a video linking the vaping epidemic to mental health along with talking about the mission of the statewide
Incorruptible.US campaign. We approached the topic from both a scientific and emotional perspective, and appealed to our viewers through facts, consequences, and experience. Even if only a single person watched the video and listened to what we had to say, all our effort and research would have been worth it. Nothing is worth more than knowing you helped someone and inspired them to change their life for the better.
The mental health fair was a huge success and remains an experience neither of us will ever forget. It's been nothing short of an honor working with our peers to set up the Mental Health Fair and speaking to those who attended. We hope that, next year, we will be able to attend the event in person, and interact with our peers not only virtually, but personally. Until then, we hope everyone stays safe, strong, and happy!