Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide statistics.
MTV Entertainment, in collaboration with a group of leading mental health nonprofits including Active Minds, hosted the first Mental Health Youth Action Forum at the White House. Five of the thirty youth mental health leaders in attendance are affiliated with Active Minds, including Jorge Alvarez and Diana Chao, who were chosen to participate in a conversation with Dr. Jill Biden, actress and mental health advocate Selena Gomez, and the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.
During the hour-long presentation, recent first-generation college graduate Jorge Alvarez, who served as the co-president of Rutgers University’s Active Minds chapter, shared his story about his work with Active Minds and the need for representation of Latinx stories about mental health. Active Minds Speaker Diana Chao also shared on the importance of starting conversations and fostering human connection, particularly through her nonprofit organization, Letters to Strangers, and her work as a mental health public speaker.
Active Minds’ Chief Program Officer Laura Horne was also in attendance, as she had spent the months leading up to the forum mentoring the young adult leaders in advocacy and storytelling. “I’ve had the privilege of working with the young adults leading the charge at the forum over the past few months. Many of them I’ve known for years through my work at Active Minds,” said Laura. “I’ve seen their passion, heard their stories, and encouraged them to share their perspective on their campuses, in their communities, and even now on a national stage. Their voices are needed, and their solutions are incredibly valuable.”
In the U.S., teens and young adults face a mental health crisis. According to The New York Times, a troubling spike in the treatment of teens for self-inflicted injuries has arisen in recent months and years, and nearly one in five teens have recently seriously considered suicide.
“Active Minds has long led the call for young adults to be given a seat at the table in regards to mental health. The Biden Administration and MTV are bringing this extraordinary group of young adults together to share their big, life-saving ideas with change-makers and, in so doing, widely and publicly reinforcing this important shift,” said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds.
The forum, which emphasized the power of storytelling through partnerships with media, illustrates the need for everyone invested in this pressing issue of our time to work to erase mental health stigma. Active Minds is committed to supporting the next generation of mental health advocates in the effort to change the culture about mental health. The future of mental health will require authentic storytelling representing every type of young adult.
“There is a lot of ‘noise’ out there [regarding] mental health, especially on social media, [which] includes misinformation, toxic positivity, and recycled self-care content,” said Laura. “Youth are craving authentic story-sharing that validates, confronts, and builds social connections around the hard realities for many in trying to access mental health care in the U.S.”
For almost 20 years, we have been unwavering in our commitment to promoting the young adult voice in the mental health conversation. At Active Minds, we believe that if someone has a story, they are qualified to tell it, and we must empower young adults to share their experiences because silence will not end the mental health crisis.
We are proud to have worked alongside leading organizations to coach and empower young adults to share their stories and ideas to help change how our communities talk and treat mental health. It will take all of us being active in this movement to help prevent the loss of life and continue to shift the culture about mental health.
To learn more about Jorge’s story and his involvement in the forum, click here. To read more about Diana Chao and her mental health journey and participation in the forum, click here.
Photo Credit, First Image: Getty Images
Photo Credit, Second Image: White House