How young people on the front lines of mental health are making a difference (and what you can do to help!)

MHA Admin

Mon, 03/25/2024 – 12:59

by Makalynn Powell, Peer and Youth Policy Fellow

When I think of youth in the U.S., my first thought isn’t typically of young people using their voices to advocate for mental health accessibility and systematic reform. Thanks to the members of Mental Health America’s Youth Policy Accelerator (YPA), I’ve learned that young people are not only aware of the current challenges in mental health care but have also come up with real solutions. 

The 2023 YPA cohort consists of ten advocates aged 18-25 who have led inspiring mental health policy initiatives. Each member has a story filled with passion, ambition, and fearlessness that they use to transform mental health resources in their communities. More importantly, they recognize the importance of mental health policy change in improving their peers’ lives and shaping the lives of generations after them. 

Their knowledge and understanding, driven by their lived experiences as young people, have led them to use their voices and enter spaces that historically excluded young people.

Using personal challenges to reimagine support for youth by youth 

With a wide range of experiences and identities, YPA members’ stories demonstrate how damaging a lack of resources can be to the mental health and overall development of young people. While each member has a unique experience, the key theme throughout all of their stories is that they were forced to go through things alone and without adequate support. Although they did not initially have access to peer support programming, they recognized the value of having someone they could relate to with shared life experiences. Absent resources, they became determined to expand the reach of evidence-based practices like peer support and ensure that young people would have better access to mental health care overall across a range of areas and spaces.

Changing the spaces and systems that serve young people

Young people spend much of their time in schools, and YPA member Isabel Ohakamma noticed the negative effects she and her peers faced during COVID-19 quarantine efforts. She recognized the need for support within her immediate environment and used her voice to encourage changes within her school. As a result, she helped create a social club for classmates that encouraged various activities to promote communication and fellowship. Isabel’s activities club even included involvement from school counselors who offered their services to group participants at no cost.

For other members, like Tianna Celis-Webster, personal involvement with multi-system care has given them a unique opportunity to encourage system-wide reform. Tianna’s multi-system involvement at a young age opened her eyes to the experiences of other young people in similar positions. Now, she works within systems with EPIC ‘Ohana Inc. to advocate for other youth involved in the foster care system.

Creating community networks of support

YPA members have also led initiatives to make support available outside of schools and made system changes to ensure young people can receive support where and when they want it. For example, Trace Terrell struggled with depression and suicidal ideation before he began volunteering for YouthLine (a teen-to-teen crisis support line) at the age of fourteen. His work as a sympathetic listener helped him understand the importance of peer-to-peer support, eventually leading him to understand the full scope of public health concerns that many of his peers faced. 

In Colorado, Aimee Resnick witnessed the devastating effects of a lack of mental health support when one of her peers died by suicide at a young age. Wanting to take action to prevent future tragedies, she turned to policy to make a difference. Through her leadership and collaboration with others, she helped pass HB22-1052, Promoting Crisis Services to Students. This bill requires student IDs in Colorado to include information about crisis resources, giving students knowledge that there are places they can turn to when they are struggling.

Advancing diversity and equity in mental health resources

Saiarchana Darira grew up in an area that lacked diversity and, therefore, cultural awareness. Her experience with mental health support often involved feelings of disconnection and isolation because mental health providers did not understand her background and identity. By championing the diversification and cultural education of the mental health workforce, she has been a voice for young people who feel misunderstood due to their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Further, she has been a leader in climate activism, using her training as a meditation instructor to support youth dealing with eco-anxiety.

Take or make space for young people to have a seat at the table

Youth continue to prove that they are capable of participating in policy and advocacy. They possess the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make lasting foundational changes to empower themselves and their peers. If you are a young person, know you belong in every room where decisions about youth mental health are made. If you are an adult ally, you can leverage your power so that the leadership demonstrated by YPA members and other youth becomes the norm, not the exception.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: