MTV Mental Health Youth Action Forum Participants
In Spring 2022, MTV Entertainment Group, in coordination with the Biden-Harris Administration and 18 leading mental health nonprofits, will convene the first-ever Mental Health Youth Action Forum to drive culture from awareness to action on mental health through storytelling and media. The two-day forum in Washington, D.C. will include creative and skill- building workshops, brainstorming sessions with nonprofit mentors and industry professionals, and a captivating program that will include talent and senior officials from the Biden-Harris Administration.
From the hundreds of applications received, there were 30 young people who stood out for their commitment to mental health activism, their digital and creative skill sets, and their deep appreciation for the possibilities that this exciting opportunity will bring. We are excited by the amazing work they will do together to drive mental health actions in their communities.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 19
Adia Fadaei is a Persian-American sophomore undergraduate student from Los Angeles, California, studying Psychology at Azusa Pacific University. She currently volunteers as a hotline listener at Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center, has interned with Teen Line, served on youth advisory boards at Bring Change to Mind and the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide, and collaborated with organizations including We Rise Los Angeles and Project HEAL.
San Diego, CA, Age 18
Aidan Hallinan is an 18 year old High school graduate and was selected as one of the 25 most remarkable teens in San Diego for his mental health work. He created a video describing his experiences and showed it to his whole school. He is most excited about giving people a reason to keep going and to never ever give up, and to show them that no matter what, they CAN do this!
Saint Paul, Minnesota, Age 21
Alex Ang is a senior at Macalester College pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing. For the past 6 years as a content creator and book reviewer, Alex has devoted her time to promoting mental health awareness in literature, especially in the Young Adult age category. She has also shared her mental health journey through avenues of writing and art on her social channels.
Woodbridge, VA, Age 27
Ayanna earned her masters degree in Human Resource Management after serving 8 years in the military. Ayanna is currently in HR operations advocating for DEIB and mental well-being for people in the workplace. She uses social media platforms to advocate for mental health, social justice and civic engagement and is an active Poderistas Power Squad member. Ayanna is excited to be part of the collective movement of making mental health conversations normal and make safe spaces for people who may not have one.
Ontario CA, Age 21
Beyonce currently attends California Baptist University. Her alma maters are Northern Arizona University and Ontario High School, and she is working on receiving a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology. As an advocate for mental health, she uses her social media pages and work within the sorority she’s in, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, to express its importance. She is mostly excited to not only learn more about mental health, but to also discover new ways to better advocate for mental health.
Cary, NC, Age 24
Bhavya Rai a neurodivergent management consultant, creator, & podcast host from Raleigh, North Carolina. She founded INELEGANCIES to specifically work with minority solo creators, leaders, and entrepreneurs: working to incrementally improve their holistic wellbeing by providing them with personalized consulting and a thriving socially-driven community.
In 2019, Bhavya graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and minors in Entrepreneurship / Digital Communication.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 26
Carla Ibarra (she/her) is a trans Filipina immigrant. She is currently a Master of Public Health degree student at the University of Southern California (USC) and is a council member of the Transgender Advisory Board of the City of Los Angeles.
New Haven, CT, Age 20
Carmel Alshaibi is a student at Yale University studying Global Affairs. Originally from the State of Palestine and local to Melbourne, Florida, Carmel serves as a member of the UNICEF USA National Youth Council and as a UNICEF Youth Advocate. Carmel wholeheartedly believes that the greatest investment for the future is an investment in the well-being of the present generation and is eager to join other youth in leading the charge to create a just and equitable mental health system.
Washington, D.C., Age 21
Cynthia Yue studies International Affairs at George Washington University and is the 10th U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, a program of the UNA-USA. In her current role, she has raised mental health awareness for youth around the world during the United Nations General Assembly and through collaborations with the Asian Mental Health Project. Cynthia brings nearly seven years of experience as a leader at UNICEF USA, where she spearheaded national initiatives promoting civic engagement, mental health, and diversity to over 30,000 supporters.
Troy, MI, Age 21
Danielle Boyer is an Indigenous (Ojibwe) and Queer robotics inventor and educational advocate who works to increase technical educational accessibility and cultural competency for Indigenous youths through robots that she creates and gives away for free through her charity The STEAM Connection. She is a Born This Way Foundation Youth Advisory Board member, frequent speaker on mental health and education, and is always using her classroom as a platform to provide a safe space for mental health resources and discourse.
Parsippany, NJ, Age 19
Davida is currently attending the University of Scranton, where her major is social media strategies and pre-law. She is passionate about breaking down barriers in mental health and challenging the status quo. She has done work with Justice for Black Girls and is the founder of Zachary’s Corner, a digital resource for young people. She is excited for the Mental Health Youth Action Forum to connect with people to change the system actively.
Boston, MA, Age 29
Dayna Altman is an energetic and dynamic entrepreneur, author, speaker, and mental health creator. The full force and sole operator of Bake it Till You Make it LLC, Dayna harvests her passion for mental health advocacy by using food and baking to create an authentic recipe for vulnerable storytelling by leading this organization. A graduate of Northeastern University and an active Boston community member, Dayna has experience both working in the mental health field and with youth-based non-profits.
Claremont, CA, Age 23
Diana Chao is a first-generation Chinese-American immigrant who graduated from Princeton University in 2021 and founded Letters to Strangers (L2S) when she was a sophomore in high school after bipolar disorder nearly ended her life. Today, L2S is the largest global youth-for-youth mental health nonprofit, impacting over 35,000 people every year on six continents with the world’s first youth-for-youth mental health guidebook and the first toll-free pan-African mental health hotline.
Riverton, WY, Age 18
Jazmine Wildcat attends the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY as a sophomore. She founded the Nii’iini Project (Nii’iini means that “things are good” in the Arapaho language) to help the youth of her community with their mental health by using activism and volunteering as a coping mechanism as opposed to Western medicine. By being open about her personal experiences with her own mental health has started a conversation in her community about how schools should be handling the mental health of their students.
Elmwood Park, NJ, Age 23
Jorge Alvarez is a recent first-generation college graduate who completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University- New Brunswick in Public Health. During his time in undergrad, Jorge advocated for mental health through the Active Minds Rutgers Chapter which he revived and led to be the largest student run mental health organization on campus. In April 2021, Jorge took to TikTok to share his experiences as a first-gen student and he quickly built a community of over 115,000. As a result, Jorge was contacted by TikTok to be part of Learn On TikTok, the educational content creator community, and Casa TikTok, the Latino/a/x + Hispanic identity creator community. He later went on to collaborate with Instagram and the world’s largest online therapy platform, BetterHelp, on partnered content. Today Jorge continues to create content with the goal of cultivating space for collective reflection, unlearning limiting beliefs, and breaking generational cycles. He aims to inspire all BIPOC, but especially the Latino community, to prioritize their mental wellness and serve as the representation he needed and still needs today.
Woodland, CA, Age 24
Juan Acosta was born in Jalisco, Mexico. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelors in Psychology. He has served on national committees, speaks at conferences and festivals, and is a New York Times bestselling author for a book co-authored with Lady Gaga, CHANNEL KINDNESS: Stories of Kindness and Community. At age 21, Juan drafted a historic LGBTQ+ proclamation for his hometown of Woodland, CA. He currently serves as one of the regional managers for California’s CalHOPE Warm Line.
Irvine, CA, Age 23
Justine was born and raised in Orange County, CA with roots in the Philippines. She is currently attending the University of California, Irvine for her PhD and Master’s. She graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and in Integrated Educational Studies, and currently serves as a Research Fellow for the Connecting the EdTech Research Ecosystem Center (CERES). Justine has leveraged her skills in research to be able to understand how digital tools impact mental health outcomes in young people and how we can use media as a tool for creating lasting change.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 25
Keely is the CEO and founder of C Talent. An Entrepreneur and Disability Activist dedicated to making social, systemic, and economic change, Keely founded her first company at a young age during her time in hospital, which developed into C Talent, an award-winning talent management company that represents Deaf and Disabled talent. Through her work, she has been named a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, Diana Award winner, an AdWeek Young Influential, GBEA Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and has been appointed as an Advisory Board Member to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
Alexandria, VA, Age 18
Kheira Bekkadja is a first-year student at George Mason University studying civil & infrastructure engineering. Through her experiences as being a Muslim American Woman, Kheira worked alongside Our Minds Matter (OMM) which has enabled her with the courage to openly speak up about her challenges in hopes of inspiring others to be the healthiest versions of themselves. She has also had the chance to share her story at Harvard University’s National Muslim Women’s Summit 2020, The Global Health Leaders Conference at Johns Hopkins University, and advocate with VOICE-IAF, This is My Brave, and Promote Care Prevent Harm. Kheira finds great joy in making others smile and helping them to believe in their best selves!
Bronx, NY, Age 25
Maddox (he/they) actively works to de-mechanize humans from the conditions that have been instilled on us, through different art mediums and practices. He is a visionary cultural worker who uses his lived experience and expertise to influence systemic change, and is enthusiastic to amplify his innovative approach of the intersections between sci-fi and organizing, as it pertains to the health and liberation of marginalized communities.
New York, NY, Age 25
Mahmoud was born in Cairo, Egypt, but currently lived in Queens, NYC. He graduated from the City College of New York with a B.S. in Social Entrepreneurship. Mahmoud is the founder and CEO of FloraMind, a tech-enabled company empowering young people to flourish through culturally-relevant, scalable, and equitable mental health & wellbeing solutions.
Baltimore, MD, Age 26
Marcus graduated from Saint Francis University with a degree in Management Information Systems and Cyber Security Administration. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Alston for Athletes & Athlete Haven, where he uses his lived experience as a bi-racial athlete to help other athletes with their mental health and overall well-being. Due to his advocacy efforts, he was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of NAMI Maryland.
Burbank, CA, Age 21
Meera Varma is a senior at UCLA studying Psychology. Her struggles with mental health cast a dark shadow over many of her experiences as a teenager and were compounded by cultural stigma she faced when she sought treatment as an Asian-Indian woman. The cultural stigma she endured is what fueled her passion for activism. Meera currently works with Active Minds Inc., The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and The Shawn Mendes Foundation as an activist. Meera takes the conversation around mental health even further through her podcast, No Filter with Meera Varma. Her mission is to change the narrative surrounding mental health and encourage people of all communities to get the help they need and deserve.
Chapel Hill, NC, Age 28
Nancy graduated from Duke University in 2015 with a BS in Psychology and is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology at Georgia State University. She recently took a break from graduate school to focus on her digital mental health company, Inquiry Health, which creates self-help apps that are grounded in evidence-based psychological treatments and science. At the Forum, she is most excited to learn from other participants and develop innovative approaches to make a positive impact on mental health.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 19
Sophie Szew (she/her/ella) is a Jewish Latina interning at the U.S. House of Representatives. Sophie is an internationally recognized poet and journalist, a Mental Health America Young Mental Health Leader, California Mental Health Consortium Member, the founder of the Youth Latinx Leadership Conference, and a teacher to unaccompanied and undocumented child immigrants. As an eating disorder survivor, Sophie combines her own experiences with injustice brought about by mental healthcare inequity with her passion for writing, advocacy, and leadership to uplift the voices of minority communities and fight for the systemic de-stigmatization of marginalized bodies.
Newark, DE, Age 18
Sreeya Pittala is a senior at Newark Charter School in Newark, Delaware. She’s been able to accept the reality of the mental health crisis of teenagers and is willing to create change in her own community. She’s spoken on various platforms about taking action towards mental health awareness and is deeply involved in her school’s mental health club, a chapter of Bring Change to Mind.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 26
Thea Touchton was born twenty-six years ago in Midland, Texas. She moved from Texas to Los Angeles to build her own production company- Sueñito Media and currently volunteers on SAG-AFTRA committees to build more diverse roles for women, the LBGTQAI community, and the Latinè community. She has been making podcasts, videos, and doing photo shoots to end the stigma around mental health since she was a teen.
Columbus, OH, Age 26
Uele Boxill is a writer, photographer, and peer recovery supporter based in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of Capital University (Bexley, OH), Uele now works for a state government agency, and in 2020 created River of Joy Studios, a web-based project that creates inspiring messages for those who feel lost in life yet hold onto hope for tomorrow.
Chino, CA, Age 24
Zane is studying communication and public relations at Cal Poly Pomona while interning at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Universe Public Engagement Intern. Zane have worked in leadership roles at several organizations like being President of his Active Minds chapter, serving as President of Sources of Strength Suicide-Prevention Program, participating as the Vice-President of the Access and Disability Alliance, establishing his own public relations agency on mental health (Landing Dreams PR), and being the Executive Director of the Multicultural Council. Zane decided to leverage his passion for storytelling and mental health to create a digital magazine (PositiveVibes Magazine) where we share experiences of the underrepresented and silenced voices.
Los Angeles, CA, Age 24
Zoë is a 24-year-old UCLA graduate from Los Angeles. Shen works as an artist, illustrator, and substitute art teacher. She studied Psychology at UCLA and tries to utilize psychological research in her art and comics to educate and raise awareness for mental health and mental illness.