How can teenagers who are struggling with their mental health find meaning and purpose during the pandemic?

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In the past year, everything shut down and normal life was taken away from us. Everyone had to go and hide away in their homes for a while until a solution was found. While some of us have returned to a somewhat normal life over a year later, some of us are still stuck at home. And even though some of us are able to go outside now, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of a lot of people. Especially teenagers. With high school already being as stressful as it is, doing it all from home (or in a slightly messy hybrid/in-person form) is adding to the stress. With the lack of communication with our friends and the loss of motivation to complete work, some teens are questioning meaning and purpose in their lives. And my Catalyst Conference project is here to help with that!


Although meaning and purpose are connected, it’s important to remember that they are actually quite different. According to a Forbes article, meaning is the significance of something, and purpose is the reason for doing something. Because many teens are struggling with mental health and feeling hopeless, they’re struggling to figure out the significance of their life and why they’re doing the things that they’re doing. With these feelings of confusion, many teens are also currently struggling with their mental health. 


As previously stated, the pandemic has severely impacted the mental health of many teens. An article from TIME Magazine mentioned a study that was done by a nonprofit called FAIR Health which found a significant increase in several mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and more among groups of young people since the pandemic started. Another article from PBS showed how different teens changed during the pandemic and many of them had different things to say. Some teens said that because of all of this new free time at home, they’ve started to think a lot more and are rediscovering themselves. Others said that they really miss things like being with their friends and some commented on how stressful pandemic life is. To gain a better understanding of teen mental health issues, I also interviewed my school’s counselor. She said that she has seen a recent increase of anxiety and depression among students at my school. She also said that virtual students seem to be finding school quite difficult these days due to a lack of communication with others, family issues, and other things that come up at home. 




According to an article from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, there are several ways to find purpose in one’s life. 

Reading – Reading allows us to see the purpose of other people (aka fictional characters) and question our own purpose 

(Note: Fiction and poetry were seen as the most effective ways to find purpose for adolescents) 

“Cultivate” awe, gratitude, and altruism – Because experiencing awe makes us feel connected to things that are larger than ourselves, feeling grateful allows us to give more back to the world around us, and altruism allows us to help others, cultivating these three things can help us in finding purpose in our lives. 

Community – By connecting with others and building communities, we start to think about what kind of people we surround ourselves with and how we can impact/help them

Writing – Similar to reading, writing allows us to creatively think about our own lives and how we can find purpose in our lives



Finding meaning in one’s life is slightly different from finding purpose. I mentioned that there were specific things to do in order to find purpose in one’s life but it’s harder to do that with meaning. According to, the meaning of life is different for everyone. Some people may find meaning in the work that they do. Others may find meaning in a loved one. It all depends on the person! Despite this, there are still ways we can simply look for meaning in our lives.

There isn’t actually that much searching we need to do; we just need to observe. As previously stated, meaning can be found in several different ways! Here are a few meaningful experiences to look out for: 

  • Falling in love
  • Making a big decision all by yourself for the first time
  • Reuniting with someone
  • Realizing you’ve conquered something difficult
  • Seeing your affectionate pet after a long day

…..And many more! 



Thank you so much for reading about my Catalyst Conference Project. I hope you enjoyed it! I also hope that you were able to learn something new about mental health, meaning, and purpose, and that you’re able to use what you’ve learned in your life! Feel free to leave some feedback in the comments or in this Google Form!

Once again, thank you!




  1. Hi Selina!
    This is a good project! I noticed that you mentioned reading as a way to help find purpose, and
    I also noticed you had a bookcase behind you in your video, so my questions is what are some books that you have read that helped you find your purpose?

    1. Hi Onalise!
      Thanks for reading! I’d say one book that helped me find my purpose was “The five people you meet in heaven” by Mitch Albom. It’s about a veteran named Eddie who dies trying to save a girl, and wakes up in an afterlife with five people who explained things about his life. After talking to those five people, he learned a lot. The book discusses topics like forgiveness, love, and more. It’s super interesting and made me think about my own life and how I can change it for the better. I learned that I should let go of the past and that everything happens for a reason. I’d definitely recommend it!

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