Content in partnership with CA Youth Media Network

It’s Our Mental Health

Profiles of mental health: Multi-media journalist Carlos René Castro explores the activities that three young adults in the Fresno area undertake for their mental health

It’s Our Mental Health (Sam Pak via Unsplash)

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps to improve depression and anxiety. Regular exercise releases endorphins to the brain which leaves people feeling good. “Increasing physical activity directly contributes to improved mental health and better overall health and well-being,” said Paul Reed, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health.

Blake Wolf, 22, Avid Rock Climber 

Blake Wolf is a communication major at Fresno State and a multimedia reporter at “The Collegian,” his school's student-run newspaper. Away from the desk, Wolf is an avid rock climber who uses the sport to exercise and tests his mental endurance

"Rock climbing is just like any other form of working out," Wolf said. "It's good for your mind, body and soul." 

His interest in rock climbing peaked while randomly stumbling upon documentaries about the sport. Since then, he was hooked and quickly searched for a local rock climbing gym to test his curiosity.

The Central Valley native climbs at Metal Mark Climbing, a premier indoor climbing and fitness gym in Central Fresno. The gym features challenging “bouldering” terrains for climbers of all levels, and 80 different routes. In addition, Metal Mark Climbing offers fitness classes to members.

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Aside from challenges that arise during rock climbing, Wolf appreciated the tight-knit community he has built while being a member of his gym for a short time. Wolf and his buddies hang out and chat about life while supporting each other during challenging routes.

During rock climbing, Wolf focuses on the challenges each route has in store for him. He mentioned that there is no room for mistakes in the sport and that each step matters to make it past the finish line. With so much on the line to lose, Wolf is locked in to prove to himself that nothing in life is impossible.

"When I climb, I am completely in the moment," Wolf said. "My mind is 100% focused on all of the elements that must come together for me to complete the route."

Valeria Terriquez, 14, Baile Folklórico Dancer

Valeria Terriquez is an 8th grader at Kings Canyon Middle School in Fresno. The 14-year-old has been dancing for half her life and is a baile folklórico dancer at Grupo Folklórico Tangu Yuu, a local all-ages group based in Fresno.  

The ambitious dancer became familiar with the importance of mental health when her school’s administration provided her classmates with information about the importance of taking care of one’s well-being during school rallies.

“It’s a big topic that we talk about,” Terriquez said. “Counselors come and talk to us to check in on our grades and how we are doing.”

According to D. Haltigan, an assistant professor of child and youth mental health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, social media apps like TikTok have increased depression and anxiety more generally during puberty in girls.

But for Terriquez, traditional Mexican folklórico dancing is a way for her to focus on her personal development while also cracking jokes with her friends in the group. 

Close-up of colorful skirts flying during traditional Mexican dancing. Young girls perform on a stage during an event celebrating Latino culture and heritage. (Simone Hogan via Getty Images)

Under the direction of Dance Director and Instructor Hugo Martinez, Terriquez attends practice at a dance studio inside a sports training and conditioning facility in North Fresno. The studio is filled with high energy as the dancers practice fast-past moves and routines for upcoming performances.

As a Grupo Folklórico Tangu Yuu dancer, Terriquez learns dance routines from Mexican states such as Jalisco and Veracruz. Recently, she performed at the High School Mariachi Festival at Fresno City College. She credits dancing with taking her focus away from stressful class projects.

“‘I find dancing enjoyable because it decompresses me,’ Terriquez said. ”

Aside from finding joy in performing on stage in front of crowds around the Central Valley, Terriquez is proud to honor her Mexican roots and make her parents proud. 

“I love representing my parents’ culture,” Terriquez said. “I love that I am making them proud and I love that I am dancing for myself. 

Abraham Montaño, 22, Fresno State Kicker

The final score was 35-32.

On September 10, 2022, the Fresno State football team fell short in the final regulation play against Oregon State. During the game, Salinas native and kicker Abraham Montaño missed three kicks that would have advanced the Bulldogs over the Beavers. 

Montaño was trending on Fresno State's Twitter during the game for not the best reasons.

He faced backlash and death threats from the Fresno State football fans, known as the Red Wave. The criticism continued to pop up on Montaño's feed on Twitter until their next game against the University of Southern California. 

Andy Sacks via Getty Images

As a D1 kicker and student-athlete at a top football program, high expectations are placed on Montaño by family members and coaches. To ease the stress from his responsibilities on the field, Montaño finds sanctuary in his room at Topanga Ridge, Fresno State's off-campus student housing. With headphones on and an Xbox controller in his hand, Montaño submerges in the world of FIFA with his friends.

"Video games have been around since I was a little kid," Montaño said.

The game was introduced to him by his older brother Enrique Montaño, a former professional soccer player. Aside from the influence of his brother, his love of the games roots in his passion for sports.  

In high school, Montaño was a soccer star for the Alisal Trojans, but he made the difficult transition to quit playing soccer to find a new venture in football. His gamble to kick for the Trojans was a success.

Even though he chose to continue his football career, Montaño's roots in soccer still provide a sense of recharge. His goals for the future are to continue playing for the Bulldogs and obtain a master's degree in Sports Administration and become a sports broadcaster like his idol, Enrique "El Perro" Bermúdez.

This story was produced by Voices of Monterey Bay and is part of a collaborative project “You’re Not Alone” that includes content from young journalists from Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, The kNOw, Richmond Pulse, Voices of Monterey Bay, We’Ced and YR Media.

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