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NIH Announces Winners of High School Mental Health Essay Contest

Speaking Up About Mental Health! essays explored stigma and social barriers in seeking mental health treatment

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health announces 10 winners of the “Speaking Up About Mental Health! This Is My Story” national essay challenge, which was designed to spur conversations among youth about mental health and encourage them to seek support for themselves and others.

“Only about half of young adults with a mental illness receive treatment,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “We issued this essay contest to jump-start a conversation about the impact of mental illness among high school teens, barriers faced when seeking treatment, and innovative approaches to overcome those barriers.”

The NIMH and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), both part of NIH, led the contest in collaboration with the Calvin J. Li Memorial Foundation. A panel of judges from NIMH and NIMHD and the award approving officials selected the winning essays based on their organization, creativity, clarity, and quality of writing. Selected from more than 160 entries from 38 states and Puerto Rico, the essay winners and those receiving honorable mention awards addressed the challenges of stigma, fear, and improving mental health education and treatment, particularly in vulnerable populations. NIH will award cash prizes to the contest winners and certificates to those receiving honorable mention.

Although the contest was open to all high school students nationwide, it 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. 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. The winning and honorable mention essays are available at .

“I found the creative solutions from this diverse group of teens to help raise awareness of mental health challenges that many of our young people encounter to be a reason for optimism that we will reduce the burden of mental illness in the future,” said NIMHD Director Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D. “These essays can motivate all teenagers to address the gaps in mental health care that youth and young adults face, especially those from racial or ethnic minorities, disadvantaged communities, and sexual gender minorities.”

For anyone in crisis and in need of immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) through  and 1-800-273-8255 is available. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact to the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network, where trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, callers should dial 911 or go to a hospital emergency room immediately.


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 .

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