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Fearless Storm Lake, Iowa high schoolers launch mental-health podcast with emphasis on Latinos
STORM LAKE, Iowa
With skyrocketing mental-heath concerns devastating a generation of Americans, two Storm Lake (Iowa) High School girls are fighting back one podcast at a time.
Briana Acosta, 17, a junior, and Darlyn Alvarado, 17, a sophomore, have posted some of their many recorded episodes (available on all major podcast platforms) of Mental Health Matters, Too! One of the first podcasts is a discussion with a teen mom. More podcasts are in the production pipeline, they say, as urgency persists and interest grows.
The mission is mental-health awareness, the chasing of stigma in favor of fact, openness to what for previous generations have been isolating, closed-door battles with depression, anxiety, trauma and other diminishing, debilitating, and as astonishing statistics from the CDC show, even death as an all-too-increasing escape route for Americans from the wars inside their heads.
According to Centers for Disease Control data released this week nearly 3 in 5 (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021—double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.
Briana and Daryln build trust with the sources, and ask tough, penetrating questions, creating a podcast defined by its frankness.
The podcast is in English, but the girls, both Latina, said they want to slay misconceptions in their own community where seeking for help is taboo or not accessible for financial reasons to immigrants struggling to manage basic needs.
Storm Lake is one of the more diverse cities in Iowa. At least 30 languages are spoken in the local schools, one district official said.
“My parents didn’t believe in mental stuff at all,” Briana said. “They have taken me to church, called in a priest. At that point I got exhausted.”
So, she said, it was time to talk. On a podcast.
“At first I was just doing it for fun, nothing serious — I was like ‘I just need credit,” Briana said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to start a podcast about mental health.’ I have been struggling a lot, ever since eighth grade with mental health, depression, anxiety.”
The students posted their first podcast in December. The podcast features trained professionals and students and other sources.
“At first, we thought it was going to be non professional, just something fun, but then we actually started exploring, researching stuff,” Briana said. “That’s when everything started getting serious. We started getting a bunch of listeners and a lot of people were supporting us. We want to bring awareness to the topic of mental health.”
Darlyn said there are differences between the way mental-health issues are managed, often socio-economic. In one podcast, Darlyn presses a school official on whether the district is responsive enough to the needs of a changing student body on mental health.
Many people just don’t consider getting assistance, she said.
“My family, they don’t have insurance,” Darlyn said. “When they get hurt, they don’t go to the doctor.”
Storm Lake High School has a podcast studio where Briana and Darlyn record the podcast. Mental Health Matters Too! podcasts drop weekly.
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