A Young American’s Response

4 min

Juhee Agrawal
Juhee Agrawal

This week, Dr. Richard Friedman wrote an opinion piece asking the question, ‘Why are young Americans killing themselves?’ He presented the unknowns, and some of the knowns around the suicide rates and prevention methods. Then he ended with this solution:

“To start, we need a major public campaign to educate parents and teachers to recognize depression in young people and to learn about the warning signs of suicide —- like a sudden change in behavior, talking or writing about suicide, and giving away prized possessions. We should have universal screening of teenagers at school, with parental consent, to identify those who are suffering from depression and who are at risk of suicide. And we have to provide adequate funding and resources to match the mental health needs of our young people.”

Hi. We’re Active Minds. Let me introduce you to our major public campaign.

As a student leader in this grassroots movement, I am one of 16,000 volunteer advocates reaching 500,000 young adults and indirectly impacting more than 8 million others with information and resources related to mental health. We consider mental health one of the key challenges of our times, but it’s not exactly true that “we are doing nothing about it.”

We have been leading the charge to bring attention to this issue – and its promising solutions – for the past 16 years. We work to change mental health policies, train others on the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and connect students with local mental health resources. We also bring simple tools to our fellow young adults, like Validate, Appreciate, Refer (“V-A-R”). It’s three steps to make sure we’re showing up for each other with everyday struggles. Our initiatives are simple, yet extremely effective in changing the way we talk about mental health every day.

Within our network of over 550 chapters, administrators and students on campuses of all types and sizes are partnering to address student mental health head-on through innovative, data-informed strategies. They include mindfulness techniques in curriculum, for example, and integrating mental health and wellness services so that students are screened for mental health issues and referred to support. They are impacting students’ well-being by addressing underlying challenges, such as housing, food, and financial insecurity.

Too often, we focus on mental health after a tragedy and not enough on what is working well. We need to talk about and address mental health EVERY DAY – not just after a crisis happens. When we recognize what, according to the data, is improving mental health outcomes among young adults, we support schools to learn about and replicate those strategies.

Dr. Friedman was almost right: mental health has a national movement to change the conversation. Will you join us?