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When I was 11, I was diagnosed with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). At the time, I didn’t know how to handle it. I started medication and went to therapy, but what helped the most was having a supportive family and community around me. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have all these resources and support systems until a couple of years after I was diagnosed. These struggles had a large effect on me – I had a hard time getting through the school day, had trouble socializing, and did not want to do any of my daily activities. I soon realized that not everybody had the same resources as I did, so I made it my goal to advocate for other young people across the country who I knew were struggling, but couldn’t seek support.

A few years later, I got involved in the advocacy space and worked on many different policy areas. I even helped start a youth-led policy advocacy organization. The time had come to advocate for what I had gotten in this space to do: change the landscape of youth mental health. 

When I was 13 (I’m now 15), I coalesced with other young people from around the country and wrote a resolution in the US House of Representatives that would declare a youth mental health crisis in America based on our collective lived experiences. To many young people, the policymaking space seems so foreign and often is portrayed as an area where citizens, especially young people, can’t make their voices heard. 

Our resolution, H.Res.434, was introduced by Congressman Seth Moulton after we spoke with his staff and they were blown away by our ideas and the work that we had done. The resolution included recommendations for school districts, city councils, and state and federal institutions to take in order to address the youth mental health crisis. We spoke with hundreds of Congressional offices and worked diligently to gain support for H.Res.434 from both Democrats and Republicans. Additionally, we worked on engaging external organizations to bring in various stakeholders to support this legislation. We worked with teachers, students, parents, mental health experts, and various other community members to advance this resolution.

Despite how divided Congress currently is and the lack of opportunities for young people to make their voices heard, with our work, the resolution garnered strong bipartisan support. Young people have the power to influence the policymaking process and bring lawmakers together in support of critical issues like the youth mental health crisis.

While it may seem daunting, the truth is that when you start advocating for yourself and your peers, you realize that there’s no one else who can do your stories justice. My advice to all young people who see the need for a stronger and more widespread conversation about mental health and the need for actual action is to start advocating at any level you can. Go talk to your principal, your school board, your superintendent, and get these conversations going in your local community. Go testify before your state legislature and ask for more mental health resources to be allotted to students. As I’ve learned along the way, the decisions that people in power make about young people’s well-being often go without us in mind. 

As Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm used to say, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” No matter your capacity to serve, your background, your identity, or how old you are, you matter and your voice is needed today.


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