Sia Agarwal: Creating Mental Health Resources

by Veda





Sia Agarwal is a sixteen-year-old from the Bay Area. She is the founder of Decompress, a platform that promotes mindfulness.



How are you able to interactively engage with your course viewers and audience?


In the Decompress Course, users can submit their thoughts and answers to the mental wellness check-ins. With their permission, I post their answers to the Community Board, a space where responses and posts are presented. So far, people have posted about goals they would like to achieve, their favorite places to be, and their thoughts on how they de-stress. It’s interesting to see how different people are experiencing the Decompress Course in unique ways.


How are you able to spread awareness about the Decompress website in an effective way? What tools do you use to encourage prospective users to join your course?


I’ve been contacting school districts, mental health organizations, youth mental health alliances, and my friends/family to get the word out about Decompress. When I reach out to these organizations, I make clear that Decompress is an accessible mental wellbeing resource for all students everywhere. I also spread the word through social media (“shout outs and link in bios” sort of thing).


The best place to learn about Decompress is the website itself. Prospective users can also check out my Instagram or LinkedIn page. I post about new topics on the course and opportunities to get involved. I use my Instagram page to post ‘snapshots’ of that day’s topic. The Instagram page is just starting to gain momentum. Because there are many insightful and helpful guides and graphics for mental wellbeing on Instagram, I want to assimilate them into different resource categories that align with the Decompress’s course topics (with credit to the creator!).


What made you decide to offer your course for free, in contrast with other wellness/health courses that charge their subscribers?


I want to make Decompress as accessible as possible.

Talking and learning about your mental wellbeing in this world already has so many barriers - ranging from stigma to paid subscriptions - I didn’t want to add one more.



How do you research and compile pertinent mental health topics and self-care exercises to cover in your course?


I try to go for topics that usually don’t come to mind at first when you hear ‘mental wellbeing’. I draw from many things that I feel strongly about. For example, People like to say that climate change is now up to the young people of today’s world. Whether that may be true or not, climate change will impact our lives in our physical and mental wellbeing. So for one day’s topic, I decided to cover how climate change affects mental health today and in the future. I haven’t seen that talked about a lot in mainstream mindfulness services or websites. Hopefully, users find it as interesting as I do!


In addition to that, I try to think of topics that I think that people my age struggle with. I have found that topics that talk about school-related stresses and struggles resonate with users especially. I type that topic into the search bar, and I go from there. I have a few go-to websites like Headspace, TED, and mindful.org, that I really like.


How does Decompress stand out from other initiatives that promote mental health and well-being?


I think that because it’s written from a student’s perspective, what Decompress has to offer is more applicable to its users’ lives and experiences.

I put things that I think I or my friends would benefit the most from.

For example, I try to choose meditations or videos that aren’t too long because I’m not too sure how many kids or teenagers would want to watch a thirty-minute TED talk about time management or an equally long meditation audio. I try my best to include fun and unique activities, such as journaling or flower pressing - activities you don’t normally associate with mental wellness. But it can help with stress all the same.


In addition to offering a health & well-being course, what other activities does Decompress partake in?


I am starting a blog on Decompress where members can submit their writing and thoughts on their wellbeing. It could be an opinion a student has on school life or a poem describing their day. I’m excited to see what people have to say and how others can get inspired to write as well. I am very passionate about writing. I believe that writing has a lot of power to connect us with other people’s experiences, allowing us to empathize with them and learn something about ourselves in the process.


How can teens and other youth members get involved with Decompress?


I am always looking for youth clubs and organizations to partner with to spread the word about my project. I want to reach as many students as I can! Of course, one can always sign up for the Decompress course and contribute to the Community Board. Once you’re a member, you can post to the Board with your answers and you can write for the blog.


What are some of your future goals and aspirations with Decompress?


My hope is to reach 100-200 users in the next few months. I hope to partner with youth mental health alliances and school districts so that students across counties and states can have access to free mental wellbeing resources.



What is your advice for individuals wanting to spread awareness about mental health in a project-based manner?


I would say to start by researching what topics you’re interested in.

Start reading, listening, writing what catches your attention.

I find that there is a lot to learn from just the people around me, including my friends and family. You can draw on your experiences as well. What are the places that you would like most help on? If there was one thing you wish you could talk to someone about, what would be it? There is so much to learn about mental health and wellbeing; I’m very much still learning, too.


What is your go-to snack whenever you’re feeling down?


I like a plain blueberry waffle.


Check Out Decompress

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Website




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