Like many teenagers this year, Olivia Fan has struggled with the isolation and stress of social distancing and COVID-19.
When first faced with an extended time at home, Fan was unsure how to respond. Instead of turning to video games, social media apps, or Netflix, Fan decided to use the extra time to focus on something important to her: mental health.
Fan began a blog called Essentially Olivia to write about this topic, specially focused on the struggles teens are facing.
“Recently I feel like teenagers have been struggling with mental health,” Fan said. “I feel passionate about writing and speaking vulnerable topics like mental health. As time went on and it became more clear that the pandemic would last more than a few weeks, I realized that it was important for my mental health to get creative. So I started a blog.”
Fan is 16 and attends high school in Plano.
“I think that this area has so much pressure on students to do well academically,” Fan said. “This is great, we want to do well so we can go to college, but we also need to have that balance. It is important to take time to take care of ourselves in other ways as well.”
Fan and her family are open about mental health and stress in their home. Fan credits her ability to write about this issue to the fact that her family encourages each other to be honest with how they are doing.
“Without my family talking about mental health, I would not feel comfortable sharing my struggles online,” Fan said. “I get so much support from my family, both emotionally and with the blog. My sister helps with the webpage as well. I am really lucky to have so much support.
“I am not a professional writer,” Fan writes on her blog. “Nor a doctor. Nor a mental health expert. I am a teenager. I know I don't know everything in the world there is to know about mental health, and I would never mean to come off as ignorant or entitled. But I'm hoping that blogging will not only serve as a platform but also help to expand my own knowledge on these topics, topics that I think are very important!”
Fan encourages her readers to reach out, either to her on the blog or elsewhere.
“I definitely want to talk to people and see if they are alright,” Fan said. “I know there are times that people will need professional help. I think it is important that we encourage people to reach out and make those appointments if they need them. I know people fear that stigma, but it is better to reach out than to struggle.”
Fan’s blog Essentially Olivia offers a variety of resources as well as Fan’s personal experiences. “I spend a few hours a week doing research and making sure that my content is clear and accurate,” Fan said. “Once you write something on the internet it is there forever, so we have a responsibility to make sure that it is accurate.”
Fan lists contact information for a variety of mental health resources, LGBTQI+ resources, and suicide prevention information.
Each blog post is relatively short, taking only a few minutes to read, yet the posts are filled with information on a variety of topics.
“I never want to write something and just post it. I always take the time to edit and make sure that it is exactly what I want to say,” Fan said.
While each post is based in mental health, Fan approaches the topic in a variety of ways, including poems and through a social justice lens.
Olivia Fan’s blog can be found at oliviazfan.wixsite.com/essentiallyolivia.