How to Get Involved in Mental Health Advocacy As a High School Student

Jaylen Waithe
Jaylen Waithe

Are you a high school student looking to become more involved in mental health advocacy in your community? Chances are, if you’re reading this, you fit this description or know someone who does.

Well, allow me to tell you some amazing news: the Active Minds Mental Health Advocacy Academy is gearing up to take on its next class of mental health advocates!

What Even Is the Mental Health Advocacy Academy?

Okay, now that we’ve established that you should be ecstatic about this breaking news, you’re likely wondering something along the lines of “What should I be excited for exactly?” 

Was I right? Well, let us take a bit of a dive into what this program is and why you want to be a part of it.

The Mental Health Advocacy Academy, or the “Academy” (as we veterans tend to colloquialize it), is a paid program for high school students that provides young adults the resources and support to create their own mental health advocacy campaigns in their community. As a member of the Academy, you will meet regularly with Active Minds staff who facilitate learning opportunities with key stakeholders in the mental health policy and advocacy conversations. These stakeholders range from members of Active Minds partner organizations like Young Invincibles and The Trevor Project, to lobbyists, municipal, and state government officials. 

What’s Student Advocacy in Mental Health All About?

In your sessions, you will often be presented with a lesson from the invited speaker, after which you and your fellow members will engage in meaningful discussion regarding the key takeaways of the presentation’s main ideas. In these sessions, you will learn about the complexities and nuances surrounding the larger mental health conversation, including methods of building support, navigating red tape, creating SMARTIE goals, and much more! Moreover, you’ll have occasional one-on-one meetings with Active Minds staff to ensure that you’re consistently on track for the cumulative Academy Showcase at the end of the program.

What Was My Experience Like?

When I was a part of the academy, I developed what I call W.E.M.B.L.E., or the Workshop for Elementary Mental Health, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ Education. Here’s the big idea: students from my high school partner with three local elementary schools to conduct lessons within fourth and fifth-grade classes three times a semester. The goal? Teach young children the basics of mental health and diversity and ultimately reduce the future impact of bigotry and prejudices against marginalized communities.

Active Minds Mental Health Advocacy Academy member Jaylen Waithe's advocacy campaign titled "W.E.M.B.L.E."

A screen capture from the presentation I used during my Mental Health Advocacy Academy Showcase in December 2021

Most of us can agree that middle school is rough. Sure, there’s the physiological perspective; but there’s also the mental health perspective. In middle school, children are susceptible to a wide variety of external pressures, vying to mold the mind of a young, newly-minted adolescent. Thus, if we can incorporate, through age-appropriate means, the ideas of mental health, racial and ethnic diversity, gender nonconformity, and sexual orientation in late elementary school, we can beat society’s intense, and sometimes extremely bigoted, external pressures.

Why Should You Apply?

Making your voice heard is a great start to getting involved in mental health advocacy as a high school student. And what better way to sharpen and refine your voice for maximum impact than the Active Minds Mental Health Advocacy Academy? This program will provide you with the resources to set you on the right path toward a lifetime of stewardship in mental health advocacy, but you have to apply first!

We can agree that mental health advocacy is a necessity.

So, what will you do about it?