*Trigger Warning: This article discusses sensitive topics revolving around the mental health space*
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight Gen Zers who have been using their power as youth to create a transformative impact in the mental health space. Ranging from founding nonprofits to creating apps, these Gen Zers have healed from their own past trauma while expanding their work to be advocates for their own People of Color (POC) communities. As we see the stigma around mental health continue to harm several POC communities, these advocates took action to not only reduce the stigma, but provide much-needed resources in their communities.
Miana Bryant is the Founder of The Mental Elephant, an organization striving to spread mental health awareness and provide resources through promoting positive coping skills. Bryant started this organization after being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in her freshman year of college. She hopes to focus on expanding this organization to provide programming and resources to historically Black universities, specifically, as she has experienced a strong stigma around mental health in those communities, as well as growing The Mental Elephant into a strong mental health facility where people can receive direct services. Now, Bryant works on The Mental Elephant while also working as a Licensed Behavioral Health Technician at Behavioral Framework.
You can find Miana Bryant on LinkedIn
After her friend passed away from suicide in 2018, Melanie Zhou founded Oasis, a nonprofit that developed a peer counseling program and key partnerships with institutions in the Denver area. The nonprofit also aims to destigmatize mental health and bring people together. Zhou became the youngest winner of Denver Startup Week’s pitch by winning $100K in funding. Currently, Zhou is going into her Junior year at Stanford University, majoring in Computer Science with an emphasis on human-computer interaction.
After struggling with mental illness since 6th grade, Breanna Kennedy thought it was time to take action. Coming from a Southern Black family that “experienced generations of oppression and, moreover, has developed an unwillingness to discuss taboo topics such as mental health,” as they state in a personal narrative, Kennedy joined the Yellow Tulip Project, where they worked as an ambassador and later, co-director. The Yellow Tulip Project works to offer programming and resources to create safe spaces to be open and vulnerable about mental health. Now, Kennedy attends the University of South Carolina – Aiken, and studies Pre-Veterinary Sciences Biology.
Though Breanna does not have any socials, you can find them on the website of The Yellow Tulip Project.
Winner of Mental Health America’s MPower Award in 2020, Satvik Sethi has truly made an impact in the mental health space. As the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Runaway, he works to spread mental health awareness and tear down the stigma against mental health in POC communities. His work has been recognized by UNICEF, Vice, and World Health Organization, among many others. Currently, Sethi continues to work hard in providing more resources through his social ventures, including Runaway app.
Founder and Executive Director of Letters to Strangers, Diana Chao, doesn’t let anything stop her. At the age of 13, the first-generation Chinese-American immigrant was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and survived a series of suicide attempts before finding a way to heal- writing. She wrote letters to strangers, realizing she wasn’t alone. Chao then founded Letters to Strangers, a nonprofit in which members could write anonymous letters to open up about their mental health struggles and find support. Chao was the only American winner of the 2019 Global Changemakers and the NAMI Young Leader award, and often speaks at mental health-related conferences and panels. Now, Chao focuses on her art work through Moonglass Studios, and continues her mental health advocacy work through social media channels as well as her nonprofit.
Mental health is a constantly fluctuating space in so many different communities, but what has held the community together is the rise of young advocates like the aforementioned five who work hard every day to spread awareness and break the boundaries of the stigma around mental health. As we continue to open up our stories, it’s important to remember to recognize the work of these hard working individuals, and the thousands of youth who campaign for mental health education, awareness, and policy.