If there’s one thing 2018 has taught the world, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate today’s youth.
You’ve probably heard that they’re organizing for gun violence prevention, defending LGBTQ rights, and defining global feminism. What you may know less about is the new generation of activists raising awareness about mental illness and developing innovative solutions to help bridge the gap between needing help and actually getting it.
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These young advocates are developing apps, founding nonprofit organizations, coordinating fundraising drives, and building campus-wide support networks. They’re taking advantage of the work activists have previously done to decrease the stigma of talking about mental health, and they’re creating their own legacy by fundamentally changing the way young people discuss and seek help for mental illness.
“They’re creating their own legacy by fundamentally changing the way young people discuss and seek help for mental illness.”
Kelly Davis, director of peer advocacy, supports, and services at Mental Health America, founded the nonprofit organization’s Collegiate Mental Health Innovation Council last year in order to help bring together these kinds of young activists. To do so, Davis solicited applications from students and recent graduates whose work goes beyond raising awareness.
Davis, 25, says young people interested in mental health advocacy can try sharing their stories; learning about local, state, and federal policies; and getting involved with community or national organizations.
“I would say that when you start talking about these issues, or even if you’re not, you’ll be so surprised how many people you’re constantly interacting with are experiencing similar things,” says Davis.
Here are eight youth mental activists — many of whom also serve on MHA’s council — whose work you should be paying attention to:
1. Ose Arheghan
Arheghan, a 17-year-old from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who uses the pronoun “they,” started their activism working on LGBTQ issues. It wasn’t long before Arheghan noticed the “intersection between mental health and queer identity.” A hostile school climate, for example, can negatively affect the mental and emotional well-being of LGBTQ youth. So last year, Arheghan applied to join the youth ambassador council of The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
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