Teens create 'Project Oyster' podcast to help peers navigate through mental health and hardship

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, three Gunn High School students are putting the topics of depression, suicide and identity in a podcast meant for their peers. It's titled "Project Oyster."

"High school itself is a very interesting time," podcast co-producer, Vardaan Shah told ABC7 News. "It can be very hard for some people."

"Relatable stories that create emotional connections" is the tagline. Each episode features a Gunn High School student guest, past or present, and a conversation about mental health and maneuvering through high school life.

"We were scared if we labeled ourselves as a mental health podcast, people would be like, 'Oh, that's a little weird. I don't want to go and listen to that,'" Project Oyster main host, Sophia Lu said. "So, we started on an episode of family embarrassment."

"A universal topic," as Lu put it.

"The podcast kind of serves as a place where people share their stories," Shah said. "Other people can listen to it and see that 'Oh, I'm not a loner.' That we're going through the same thing and that sort of thing."

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Since last fall, nearly 800 people have tuned in. Topics covered have gotten more raw and adolescent issues have become more real than ever.

The Project Oyster team said they understand their position. They recognize Gunn High School has already made headlines years ago for suicide clusters.

They don't offer any advice and instead take extra measures to make sure their approach is approved.

"We always talk about, how do we safely represent this? And we consult with trained adults on 'Oh, what is the best way to talk about this topic before we interview anyone,'" co-producer Hanna Suh said.

The podcast's name is reflective of actual oysters, and like mollusks, many of the recorded topics are tough for people to open up about.

"The goal of our podcast is to get people to open up about their struggles," Lu added. "Because I think people talking about mental health and it just being communicated around, that helps to destigmatize it."

The lessons within are pearls of wisdom.

"At the end of every episode, we mention a list of different crisis text lines and ways people can get help," Suh added.

All three are incoming seniors at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

Go here to visit the Project Oyster website, where you can find ways to connect with the teens and listen to episodes.

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