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FAQs - Essay Contest

Speaking Up About Mental Health! This Is My Story Essay Contest Frequently Asked Questions

Requirements, rules, prizes and registration

Where can I find the rules for the contest?

The eligibility rules for the Challenge are available in the Announcement of Requirements and Registration.

What are the prizes?

The total prize amount is $7,000. NIMH may award prizes for up to six winners from a pool of $5,000. The Calvin J Li Foundation may award up to four winners from a pool of $2,000. Up to 30 finalists may also be selected to receive a letter of recognition. More information about prizes is available in the Announcement of Requirements and Registration.

How do I register?

Participants may access the registration and submission platform at Challenge.gov. To register, click the red Login button at the top right hand corner of the Challenge.gov page and follow the prompts to create and verify your account. Once you have registered with all required information, upload your essay which must be typed, no longer than 2 pages, single spaced in a font size no smaller than 12 point. Photos, graphics, or other images are not allowed. If the participant is under the age of 18, the participant must first download the Parent/Legal Guardian Consent Form from the website, have the form completed and signed by the parent or legal guardian of the participant, and then upload the signed form along with your essay. More information about the registration and submission process is available in the Announcement of Requirements and Registration.

What are you looking for in this contest?

Briefly, the Speaking Up About Mental Health! This is My Story Challenge (Challenge) invites U.S. high school students, aged 16 – 18, to write and submit an essay addressing ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma and the cultural barriers young people may need to overcome when seeking mental health treatment, especially in diverse communities.

Solutions submitted to this Challenge could include:

  • Creative ideas to start a conversation
  • Innovative ideas to remove/reduce/lower barriers
  • Suggested changes in school policies
  • Other areas of concern to individuals and their community

We are looking for ideas and solutions. We are not looking for a report on the facts of mental health.

Age requirements

What is the age requirement for the contest?

The eligibility criteria state the essay author must be aged 16 to 18 at the time of submission. Students must be at least 16 years old and younger than 19 years old on May 31, 2019.

Submission Questions

Is there a link or address to submit their essays?

All essays must be submitted electronically. To submit an essay, first register using the red Login button on the Challenge.gov website. Once you have registered and verified your account, return to the Speaking Up About Mental Health challenge page and use the red Submit button in the top right corner to upload your essay.

You need to click on this and agree to the “Terms and Conditions.” Once you agree, click on Submit again and then continue to fill in the fields and upload your document. See the directions below from the website.

Follow these instructions to submit:

  1. Register for an account on Challenge.gov.
  2. Make sure you are logged in to your Challenge.gov account and on the Speaking Up About Mental health! This Is My Story Challenge.
  3. Click "Submit" and agree to the terms and conditions of this challenge. You must agree to the terms and conditions before proceeding to the submission page.

Essay format questions

Are there any requirements for citing sources for this essay? What format do you prefer (APA or MLA), and should the students include their sources in a separate file or just at the end of the same file with the essay?

Either format is acceptable. The citations can be included at the end of the essay; however, the essay should not exceed two pages INCLUDING the citations.

How long should the essay be?

Essays must be typed, no longer than 2 pages, single spaced in a font size no smaller than 12 point. Photos, graphics, or other images are not allowed.

Am I allowed to cite sources, and if I cite sources, are they included in the two-page maximum?

If you include citations the length of the essay should not exceed two pages INCLUDING citations. Remember, we are looking for ideas and solutions. We are not looking for a report on the facts of mental health.

How strict is the essay format? Are poems acceptable as a type of creative writing piece?

The contest rules state that the submission must be in essay format. However, one of the evaluation criteria is creativity, so referencing poetry as a form of expression, or providing some of the poem in combination with writing composition, could succeed in capturing the depth of the issue or the solution.

Our hope is that we may be able to open up the submission category in sequent years to include other forms of creative expression to highlight mental health awareness and seek solutions to decreasing stigma.

Other questions

Are home-schooled students eligible to participate?

Yes. We are looking for ideas from a variety of students. Students in alternative programs leading to a comparable high school diploma who otherwise meet the criteria, including being age 16 -18 at the time of submission, may submit an essay.

Are personal anecdotes encouraged or discouraged?

We are looking for all different points of view in the essays. Personal anecdotes may be useful if they can be used to illustrate your idea for a creative or innovative solution. However, please do not include any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in your essay. PII is information which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, such as your name, social security number, date and place of birth, etc. The Announcement of Requirements and Registration encourages students to work with a sponsoring adult. The sponsoring adult should be in a position to advise the essay author as necessary to facilitate the submission of their essay. Examples of a sponsoring adult is a parent or other family member, community leader, teacher, school counselor, principal, other school official, minister, priest, or other religious leader, or person with a similar standing in the community.

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Note: The National Institute of Mental Health is a research funding agency, but we provide a list of resources for informational purposes. If you or someone you know has a mental illness, there are ways to get help. Use these Resources https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml to find help for you, a friend, or a family member.

If you are in crisis and need immediate support or intervention, call, or go the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ ). 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, 7 days a week. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.