Aug 30, 2023

Here we are again: wondering how another summer slipped by and preparing for the start of another school year: backpacks, lunches, homework, friends.

Ten years ago, that might have been the end of the list, but this year, checking in on students' mental health is a priority for many of us.

Most students experience positive mental health, but even those who do may find the obligations of school stressful and overwhelming at times. Students with mental health conditions often feel stress more acutely. If we learned one thing from COVID, it’s that we all struggle from time to time, and having information to understand and communicate what they are experiencing is critical for students.

Although youth mental health has always been a priority for MAMH, the last few years have reinforced the need for initiatives such as our #JustAsk mental health awareness campaign during COVID; grants to schools to support access to behavioral health urgent care for students; and expanded resources on Network of Care Massachusetts to help families find information and resources about mental health, including how to find a provider in their community.

At the heart of our work is this: We want to empower individuals, including young people, to better understand, value, and protect their mental health. We do this through promoting mental health education, which is highlighted in this newsletter. And we do this by supporting and celebrating youth leaders who lift up their friends, peers, and communities by sharing their stories and advocating for change. Here are a few we’ve been proud to partner with these past few years:

  • Sophie Nystuen, a rising senior at Brookline High School, founded Breathe as an online “safe space” for youth who have experienced traumatic events to share their stories, feelings, and wisdom. Sophie will be joining MAMH as a special guest speaker at this year’s Friend & Leader Award Dinner.
  • As a student at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Carson Domey led a successful effort to include the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the back of all ID cards. Carson, who is now entering his sophomore year at the University of Texas in Austin, chairs the National Youth Council on College Mental Health at the Mary Christie Institute and is currently working with MAMH to expand access to mental health education.
  • Noah McDowall founded Youth Wipe Out Stigma (WOS), a statewide advocacy group led entirely by youth ages 14-18 to advocate for policies promoting youth mental health and wellness. In addition to promoting parity and improved access to services, WOS is leading efforts to have student absences for mental health reasons be recognized as valid, excused absences by schools.
  • Sorina Condon is a 2-time winner of MAMH’s Mental Health Matters art contest. Sorina uses her talents as an artist to let people know that “no matter how old or young you are, it's okay to just be struggling at some point or another.”

At MAMH, we are privileged to advocate with these and many other youth leaders, like mental health education advocates Lucas Johnson and Angela Wallace. Their efforts to talk openly about mental health, to remind us that it’s okay to not be okay, and to use their experiences to promote change are the very definition of leadership. As we all work to support student mental health, MAMH will continue to lean into the creativity, compassion, and wisdom of youth to lead the way.

With gratitude,

Danna

“The efforts of youth advocates to talk openly about mental health, to remind us that it’s okay to not be okay, and to use their experiences to promote change are the very definition of leadership.”
picture of Allison Wallace
Carson headshot 2023

Caption Left: Angela Wallace, Right: Carson Domey

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Sophie Nystuen headshot

Caption Left: Sorina Condon (photo credit- The Scituation), Right: Sophie Nystuen

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