WATCH | How this teen poet is raising her voice for mental illness

Being a teenager is hard enough. While dealing with schoolwork, navigating friendships, and handling the challenges of growing up, many also face mental illness.

Jessica Robus started experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression at just 11 years old.

At first, she battled to speak to others about her emotions. But as she learnt more about mental wellbeing, Robus no longer wanted to hide.

Today, she is using her talents in music, theatre and poetry to become a voice for struggling South African teens.

"Approximately one in every five teenagers suffer from some mental illness,” Robus says.

To find solace and understand what she was going through, she turned to writing. By the age of 14, Robus published a collection of poems called A Few Slivers of Light about her journey with mental health.

“There isn’t just one way to cope with your emotions,” she says. “This has helped me by giving me a creative outlet that I can express my feelings, see what they are, and better know how to manage them.”

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A passionate artist, she freely conveys her experiences through her songwriting and performances as well, creating a space of compassion for others.

Mental illness can affect anyone of any age, and being honest about its difficulties can pave the way for acceptance.

Opening up the conversation about mental health, Robus is supporting youth who may otherwise remain silent.

“I hope others my age recognise themselves in my words and be able to feel a little bit less alone, and more heard and understood,” Robus says.