Resource materials from experienced mental health partners such as the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing, Bring Change 2 Mind and the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto will be available.

But Ghaffari hopes to avoid the clinical, academic atmosphere that typifies mental health conferences geared toward adults, parents and health care providers. Parents will be encouraged to only attend the conference over the lunch hour, a time for teens to browse the resource booths.

Conference goers will be treated to a performance by the Dayna Clay Band and a taco bar as well as lineups of inspirational teen speakers and team building activities.

The core of the conference, however, will be breakout sessions of small groups of about a dozen participants each in the morning and afternoon, Ghaffari said.

Participants will be asked at signup for their preference of three breakout sessions, which will likely be led by a mental health professional paired with a teen co-facilitator.

The sessions revolve around five themes: Yoga, Mindfulness and Creative Expression; Peer Support: How to Maintain Healthy Relationships; Healthy Habits: How to Be Well; Breaking Down Media Portrayals of Mental Illness; and Identity & Acceptance.

Ghaffari is still working to finalize facilitators for the breakout sessions but so far she has enlisted help from teens far and wide, including Chloe Sorensen, who graduated from Gunn High School in May.

Ghaffari and Sorensen met through their work in helping to plan the Stanford Mental Health Innovation Challenge, which brought together 90 teens from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in June to learn about mental health challenges and come up with innovative solutions.

Sorensen will lead a session on “Storytelling for Change” alongside Annabelle Gardner, co-founder of the San Francisco-based Young Minds Advocacy, where Sorensen is interning this summer.

“The idea is to help empower young people to share their own stories and use their stories for good and use them for change,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen knows firsthand the necessity and importance of student voice. She said she felt helpless and powerless after losing a number of friends to suicide, especially after what she saw as a lack of effort in the Palo Alto community to seek student input in decision making in the wake of suicide clusters.

“If you’re trying to address their needs but you don’t know what their needs are, you’re not going to get very far,” Sorensen said. “I realized this was an opportunity to speak up.”

She attended school board meetings and other community events to share how mental health has impacted her life and her friends’ lives and why it’s so important kids have access to care.

Sorensen also co-founded the Gunn Student Wellness Committee to raise awareness for teen mental health issues after the suicide of one of her peers in November 2014.

Over time, the Palo Alto school district got better at incorporating youth voice, Sorensen said.

Ghaffari and conference organizers are mindful about having speakers and facilitators who are representative of the teens who will be in attendance.

That means being culturally sensitive, having panelists who are Spanish speakers or from the LGBTQ community, and asking what pronouns participants prefer.

Ghaffari hopes the conference will attract a variety of young people: from those who are already mental health advocates to those who may be struggling.

She emphasized that the conference will be a non-expectation environment.

“If you’re maybe shy about seeking help or learning about resources, this is a great place to show up and blend in with the crowd,” Ghaffari said. “You don’t have to talk about your experience with mental health if you don’t want to.”

Children’s Health Council’s Liza Bennigson, who coordinates the Teen Mental Health Committee of which Ghaffari is a member, said the conference will give teens a sense of camaraderie with someone who is going through the same thing, which can be really powerful for stressed youths with developing minds.

“What’s nice about the conference is it’s proactive,” Bennigson said. “If you think of mental health as a spectrum, almost the earliest chance to intervene is with people who aren’t in a crisis situation. It’s a really great way to raise awareness with people before they’re in need.”

Bennigson said the conference isn’t just about suicide prevention, but about overall wellness. She likened wellness to teaching a child how to swim.

“You’re not calling it drowning prevention,” Bennigson said. “Parents may think that but that’s not really going to inspire a child to swim. It’s a similar mindset when figuring out how to get teens to talk and have a conversation and I think it’s about talking about wellness and how to stay well — and that’s what we’re doing with this conference.”