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Community Notebook: Teen organizes wellness conference

Sept. 30 event to feature discussions, youth speakers

A Los Altos High School senior is organizing a free wellness conference this month to bring together teenagers to discuss and learn about topics such as identity, healthy relationships and mental health.

Nadia Ghaffari, the founder of youth mental health nonprofit Teenz Talk, said the Sept. 30 conference was inspired by the need to move these kind of conversations from where they're already happening among teens — the internet — and into real life.

"As the founder of TeenzTalk, I felt that we had made progress in starting conversations around mental health and highlighting resources online, and it was time to bring these peer connections into a live space," she wrote in an email to the Weekly. "In-person communication and small-group breakouts are incredibly powerful, and it's rare to have these safe spaces for teens to come together, learn about mental health, and connect around their personal experiences."

This will be the first annual Wellness Conference, Ghaffari said. The goal is to "empower youth voice; teens will inspire and teach their peers through their own personal experiences and methods of coping or relieving stress."

The 2017 Teen Wellness Conference will feature youth speakers, breakout discussions, team-building initiatives and other activities.

The breakout sessions will explore subjects from yoga and mindfulness and peer support, to body image, mental health stigma and media portrayals of mental illness. Some of the sessions will be facilitated by volunteering clinicians, Ghaffari said, giving young people the chance to "interact with mental health professionals in a relaxed, nonclinical setting."

The event was planned entirely by and for youth, Ghaffari said, in contrast with other mental health conferences.

The event is targeted toward young people ages 13 to 19 years old.

The conference is sponsored by Palo Alto nonprofit Children's Health Council, the Stanford University Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, mental health awareness organization Bring Change 2 Mind, Menlo Park youth clinic SafeSpace, Microsoft Silicon Valley and Kendra Scott, a retail store in San Jose.

The conference will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus at 1065 La Avenida St., Mountain View. For more information and to register, go to teenztalk.org.

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