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National Contest Encourages High School Students to Write Short Essays Exploring Mental Health

Institute Update

In 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory  to highlight the urgent need to address the mental health crisis among youth. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 years old experienced mental health challenges.

In an effort to address this public health concern and spark conversations about mental health among high schoolers, the National Institutes of Health invites students ages 16 to 18 years old to participate in the “2022 Speaking Up About Mental Health!” essay contest . Essays should explore ways that individuals or society can address or eliminate mental health stigma that young people may face when seeking mental health treatment. The contest, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), will award multiple winners a total of up to $15,000 in cash prizes.

Ideas for essay topics could include:

  • Resilience and coping during challenging times
  • School policies or practices that could help reduce stigma
  • Conversations about mental health or related stigmas
  • Barriers to mental health treatment
  • Other areas of concern to individuals and their communities with respect to mental health

Through these short essays, teens can express their own thoughts and ideas about the mental health challenges they and their peers face. They can also share possible solutions for improving communication and understanding among teens, parents, teachers, guardians, and other caregivers.

Additional information:

There is no application fee to participate, and entries must be submitted by April 30, 2022 on . Winners will be announced in September 2022.

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