The Mental Health Youth Action Forum, hosted for the first time in 2022 and taking place at the White House, was a time for the next generation of mental health advocates to gather and share their experiences, perspectives, and solutions regarding mental health. Jorge Alvarez, whose advocacy through social media and on-campus as an Active Minds chapter leader has inspired thousands to take action, was invited as one of thirty participants to share his story. A recent first-generation college graduate of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Jorge has built a community of over 115,000 followers on TikTok through posting educational content on mental health and inspiring others to reflect, unlearn limiting beliefs, and break generational trauma.
Along with a select group of other youth advocates, Jorge was chosen to be part of a conversation with Dr. Jill Biden, actress and mental health advocate Selena Gomez, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy about youth mental health, where he shared his own experience and emphasized the need for culturally-relevant and competent care for individuals of all identities. “I’m a first-generation college student. So, when I went to Rutgers I didn’t really have a lot of guidance or support in all sectors of my life academia, mental health, you name it… I felt very lost,” Jorge said. “I started to realize that the biggest barrier to entry was not having someone who looked like me, a Latino man at that, talking about mental health, giving me the space, encouraging me to get the help that I needed.”
Jorge decided to be that change – he revived the Active Minds Rutgers chapter and led it to become the largest student-run mental health organization on campus. “We were very upfront when I joined the club (Active Minds) in changing the narrative to create spaces that are very intentional for Black and Brown students to speak about their mental health,” Jorge shared. Now, with a community on campus flourishing, Jorge has taken his leadership and advocacy skills online, where he is a part of the educational content creator community Learn On TikTok, as well as Casa TikTok, the Latino/a/x and Hispanic identity creator community. Jorge is making mental health accessible, in communities big and small, on campuses and nationwide, in-person and digitally.
Even with the success he’s seen so far, Jorge isn’t stopping here. He discussed the importance of continuing to share stories, saying, “Vulnerability is so powerful and vulnerability is like the enemy to anything that you keep in. Because the moment that you tap into that, you can share so much and you can build connections… I think me developing that bridge and forming that connection with my friends started to gradually cause a ripple effect, a domino effect where other people felt inspired to share as well.” The more we share our own stories, the more we’re able to destigmatize conversations about mental health and change the culture for all.
Photo Credits: Getty Images