Selena Gomez, MTV and Biden-Harris Host Forum

  • The Rare Impact Fund of Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez’s organization focused on youth mental health, is partnering with the Biden-Harris administration to host a Mental Health Youth Action Forum on May 18 in Washington, D.C.
  • A total of 30 youth mental health activists participated in the forum.
  • Several nonprofit partners participated, including The Trevor Project, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Born This Way Foundation.

On May 18, MTV Entertainment (MTVE), Selena Gomez’s Rare Impact Fund and the Biden-Harris administration hosted the first Mental Health Youth Action Forum live on the White House website.

“Mental health is very personal to me, and I hope that by using my platform I can help others feel less alone and find more resources,” said Gomez.

In 2021, MTVE established Mental Health Action Day to shift the mental health conversation from awareness to action for a day.

This year’s focus was on the mental health crisis affecting teens and young adults.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)1 in 7 young people between the ages of 10 and 19 suffer from a mental disorder, with suicide being the fourth leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19.

“Recovery is not always the same as healing. Over the past decade, an alarming number of young people have struggled with mental health issues,” first lady Dr. Jill Biden said at the forum.

“It takes courage to be honest about the struggles you face and tell your stories,” the first lady continued. “I’m so proud of everyone here today, and the president is proud of you too.”

Vaughan Bagley, director of social impact at the MTV Entertainment Group, said that while many people in the United States are aware of this problem, they often don’t know how to tackle it.

Ayanna Kelly of Poderistas Power Squad, one of the leaders who attended the forum, said a lack of security and persistent stigma around mental health are key reasons for the crisis.

“The lack of psychological safety to discuss this topic and combating stigma are systemic issues that, quite frankly, hinder the ability to have these conversations,” Kelly said.

“Lay about the intersectionality of different identities and lack of resources, and you end up with young people finding unhealthy ways to distract, withdraw and express their emotions,” she added.

Kelly cited access as another reason for the youth mental health crisis, saying a lack of accessibility can be a burden for the underinsured. This is especially true for young people in marginalized communities just trying to survive.

“There’s not enough time in a day to find the right person when you’re going to school full time, working multiple jobs and raising babies,” Kelly said.

What sets this forum apart from others like it is the young people. The purpose of the forum is to shift the conversation from awareness to action by supporting campaigns by young advocates.

This shifts the story, allowing people with firsthand experience in the mental health crisis to help others.

“Movements are built and maintained when we change hearts and minds. We are building a movement to address mental health,” said US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy.

“These young leaders deeply understand the unique challenges and barriers their peers face in taking action to maintain their mental health,” Bagley said.

“They know what stands in their way and are positioned to help them overcome it [these challenges]so we are honored to give them the opportunity to develop campaigns that showcase their voices and ideas…”

After serving 8 years in the military, Kelly earned her master’s degree in human resource management. She now uses her platforms to advocate for equality, inclusion and mental wellbeing.

“As the daughter of immigrants, I was always told that I had no reason to be sad, I should be thankful for what I have because of where my people come from, and to put a smile on my face. I’ve learned to hide my true emotions and invalidate them,” she said.

“I didn’t seek help for my mental health until I was in my mid-twenties, wondering how I could be so sad and hopeless… The lack of awareness about mental health crippled almost my entire core family. I couldn’t have made it through that time without seeking help,” Kelly said.

“Together they have developed creative campaign concepts to reach their peers with mental health messages, using storytelling and media as their tools for change,”Bagley said. “These campaigns can manifest as podcasts, video series, digital art, and the like, all of which encourage young people to take care of their mental health.”

The Mental Health Youth Action Forum was held at the White House and included senior officials from the Biden-Harris administrationfirst lady Dr. Jill Biden; Susan Rice, White House domestic policy adviser; and US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, among others.

The first part of the forum was streamed live online, and Bagley said participant presentations were reserved for those who were in the room later in the afternoon.

The overall goal is to saturate social media feeds with mental health content that stems from ideas presented in the forum, leading to a change in how mental health is addressed with young people.

“I’m open-hearted so that my brown babies don’t have to live in a world where they’re burdened with intergenerational and collective trauma without the resources to heal,” Kelly said.

“I hope black and brown people can see themselves in me. I want them to see that they can heal, and they have the tools to do that,” she said. “I want our impact to go beyond the press and this forum. I want the systems and communities we live in to support rather than hinder our healing.

Selena Gomez, MTV and Biden-Harris Host Forum

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