Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

 Archived Content

The National Institute of Mental Health archives materials that are over 4 years old and no longer being updated. The content on this page is provided for historical reference purposes only and may not reflect current knowledge or information.

Nationwide Essay Contest Challenges High Schoolers to be Frank About Mental Health

Multiple winners to be awarded by NIH and the Calvin J. Li Memorial Foundation

Press Release

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youths aged 15 to 24, yet only about half of young adults with a mental disorder receive treatment. In an effort to address this disparity and further conversations about mental health among high schoolers, the National Institutes of Health invites students ages 16 to 18 years old to participate in the “Speaking Up About Mental Health!” essay contest. Essays should explore ways to address the stigma and social barriers that adolescents from racial and ethnic minority populations may face when seeking mental health treatment. The contest is led by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in collaboration with the Calvin J. Li Memorial Foundation , and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) . NIMH and NIMHD are components of NIH.

“Teens have important stories to tell about their experiences with mental health treatment, and we hope this contest will give them an opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas. It’s clear we need to work with them to better understand mental health stigma and the barriers they may face when seeking mental health treatment,” said Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH.

Ideas for essay topics could include:

  • Creative ways to start a conversation about mental health or related stigma
  • Innovative approaches to remove, reduce, or lower barriers to mental health treatment
  • Suggested changes in school policies or practices that could help reduce stigma
  • Other areas of concern to individuals and their communities with respect to mental health

This contest was started as part of the Healthy Mind Initiative , which aims to increase mental health awareness and promote suicide prevention in Asian American and Pacific Islander youth, although the contest is open to all high school youths nationwide. The goal of the initiative is to reach a population that may view mental health care negatively, or may not consider it at all, due to stigma, lack of awareness and education, or differences in cultural conceptualization of mental health.

“Every year millions of Americans struggle with mental illness, which does not discriminate,” said Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of NIMHD. “Severe mental Illness occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and access to treatment is a special challenge for disadvantaged populations.”

Contest rules and prize information:

There is no application fee to participate, and entries should be submitted by May 31, 2019 on . Winners will be announced on Sept. 30, 2019. The contest is open to all current U.S. or U.S. territory high school students ages 16 to 18 at the time of submission. Some entrants may not be eligible to receive an NIH prize, but may be recognized as a finalist and eligible for a non-NIH cash prize from the Calvin J. Li Memorial Foundation. Prize winners and finalists will have their essays posted on the Healthy Mind Initiative  website.

For more information on the rules of the contest and registration requirements see the contest webpage at  or contact

For further information:
Nancy Tian, Ph.D., LCDR, U.S. Public Health Service

Erin Shannon, NIH

Read the Frequently Asked Questions


About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH  is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website.

About the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD): NIMHD leads scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities by conducting and supporting research; planning, reviewing, coordinating, and evaluating all minority health and health disparities research at NIH; promoting and supporting the training of a diverse research workforce; translating and disseminating research information; and fostering collaborations and partnerships. For more information, visit the NIMHD website .

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website .

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®