At Active Minds, we believe policy is key to enacting lasting mental health change – and students play a huge role in facilitating this change. Our new policy platform identifies core policies that we value as an organization and helps us determine what actions to take and legislation to speak out about.
Last month, we unveiled our legislative agenda, which includes four priorities that aid in promoting social equity:
These priorities aim to advance and support mental health policy as youth and young adults nationwide continue to change the culture around mental health.
As you begin to familiarize yourself with these policies, you may wonder: how can you influence the public conversation and get involved with mental health advocacy? Fatima Anjum and Tyren Boyd, two previous participants in the Active Minds Mental Health Advocacy Academy, share below the importance of student advocacy efforts, as well as simple steps for getting involved today.
One of the key points in understanding the importance of supporting mental health policy and advocacy is recognizing that we all have mental health, and our mental health interacts with various social issues. Historically oppressed communities, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals, have their struggles amplified by a lack of mental health support. These groups are less likely and able to seek help for mental health concerns, and when they do, rarely receive appropriate care. Thus, it’s incredibly important to advocate for access to care, as well as access to other necessities that influence our ability to seek care. “Access to healthcare is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Without access to adequate healthcare, individuals may not receive the mental health treatment they need, leading to a decline in their mental health. Affordable housing is also important for mental health because housing [conditions] and homelessness can increase stress and anxiety, while also making it more difficult for individuals to afford healthcare,” Fatima shared. Advocating for mental health directs public attention to issues like these, and underscores the need for adequate support.
In addition, using your voice to advocate for mental health helps you serve others, in your community and beyond, in meaningful ways. Tyren’s advocacy campaign, Mental Health Madness, is a wellness fair that allows individuals to learn about different mental health organizations across the state of Mississippi. The campaign is a step toward normalizing seeking help, as well as increasing access to mental health resources and services. From the community level, students can begin to effect change on a state or national level, especially when they choose to learn about and support mental health policy.
“Active Minds has aided me in unpacking what social justice is and how I can go about advocating for social justice issues, whether that be on the local, state, or national level,” Tyren shared.
“They’ve provided me with the space and platform to not only be heard but also the privilege to connect with policy experts.”
If you want to get involved in policy, learning about different mental health issues and which ones resonate most can be helpful. “You can start by educating yourself about mental health-related issues by reading books and articles, and educating yourself on the policies and laws that impact our well-being,” Fatima shared.
Tyren suggests, “Find your ‘Why?’. Advocating is a passion — you have to have the heart to do the work.”
We will continue to raise awareness of the importance of mental health policy and highlight the unique role that students play in advocating for mental health. By discussing mental health issues through a social justice lens, empowering fellow students, and learning about how policy functions, youth and young adults have the power to transform change.