It’s time to reduce stigma, promote self-care, and help those in need access quality mental health care and resources.
In this mental health awareness month, UNICEF USA is amplifying the voices of young mental health advocates across the country to end stigma and spread the message that #MentalHealthMatters. If you would like to take action, join us in asking Congress to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support programming in US foreign assistance by passing the MINDS Act. For those struggling, there are resources listed at the bottom of the page.
The author, Kripa, is a high school senior from Texas.
Young people need access to quality mental health care
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 19, after accidents and homicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The link between suicide and mental disorders – particularly depression and alcohol abuse – is well established in high-income countries. Every year, the world loses an estimated 700,000 people to suicide, along with the contributions they could have made had they received the mental health care and support they urgently needed.
Due to stigma and lack of access to adequate mental health care in the US and around the world, countless students are avoiding seeking help. In many schools across the country, counselors provide mental health support. But how can students feel comfortable expressing their mental health concerns to the same adults who write their college recommendation letters? Even when therapy and resources are available outside of school, the high cost is a deterrent for many young people.
Peer support programs reduce stigma
To combat this, our school started a chapter of Hope Squad, a peer suicide prevention program. Hope Squad aims to reduce youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention.
I was nominated to be a founding member of my school’s chapter and my work started at Zoom during the pandemic. Through Hope Squad, I helped make hundreds of yellow ribbons, drew motivational messages with chalk, distributed fidget toys and stickers, and created resources with hotline information to reduce student anxiety throughout the year, especially during exams and exams. final exams, when anxiety and stress are most intense. at an all-time high. Through these activities, we hope to reduce stigma around mental health, promote self-care, raise awareness of mental health resources, and normalize mental health discussions.
As an advocate for mental health, being an active supporter of UNICEF – both in the Clubs program and in the National Youth Council – has allowed me to broaden my efforts. From sharing the struggles of my family and friends with mental health issues to promoting the MINDS Act during Advocacy Week and the August break to organizing fundraisers for better mental health resources with other UNICEF Club members, the opportunities were truly endless.
UNICEF USA advocates for better mental health care in the US and around the world
You too can take action, with UNICEF and other organizations. If you’re looking for where to start, the UNICEF USA Action Center details mental health advocacy actions, including encouraging Congress to invest in the mental health and well-being of children and teens in the US and publicizing the MINDS Act.
Let’s reduce the statistic of losing over 700,000 great minds every year to zero. By helping our peers overcome their mental health struggles and improving access to youth-oriented mental health services, maybe we can save the next Albert Einstein, the next Marie Curie, the next Rosa Parks.
Be the helper, not the spectator
This cause is bigger than you or me. It’s bigger than all of us: 50% of America’s youth struggle with mental health issues. Poor mental health is a hidden epidemic and it’s time we shed some light on the subject.
We need to create a safe space to discuss mental health in every community, county, state, country. We need to ensure that everyone – especially young people – has access to mental health services and feels comfortable reaching out to faculty, staff, administration and peers.
Maybe we can be that person who saves someone’s life and the advocates who can help change the system and break the stigma.
PS If you are struggling with mental health please know that it is enough and you are not alone. Reach out to a trusted family member or colleague and express how you feel – never hold back.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline is a free nationwide peer support service that provides information, resource referrals, and support to people living with a mental health condition, their family members and caregivers, mental health professionals, and the public. HelpLine staff and volunteers are experienced, well trained and able to provide guidance. The NAMI HelpLine is not a hotline, crisis line or suicide prevention line.
The NAMI HelpLine can be accessed Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm EST. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text “HelpLine” to 62640, or email NAMI at [email protected].
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or going through a mental health crisis, trained crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Crisis and Suicide Lifeline 988: Dial or text 988. Crisis counselors listen with empathy and without judgment. Your crisis counselor will work to make sure you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area.