The 2022-2023 Mental Health America Young Mental Health Leaders Council (YMHLC) represents young leaders from across the U.S. who have created programs and initiatives that fill gaps in traditional mental health services in their communities. This year’s cohort is working to address mental health across many areas including education, housing, foster care, addiction recovery, and state-level policy.
Over the next several weeks, get to know the 10 amazing individuals using their lived experience and youth perspective to make big differences in the lives of those around them.
Name: Mariama Bah
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina (emigrated from Guinea in 2009)
Leadership and other positions: Founder of Nation of Diversity, a nonprofit organization that focuses on reducing homelessness and raising awareness for mental health through creative arts
Photo submitted by Mariama Bah
Why did you want to join the YMHLC?
I love the Mental Health America Youth Mental Health Leaders Council because it gives young people the opportunities to advocate for mental health, and they support and lead the council in a better direction. The YMHLC has helped me realize I am not here to cure the world or to cure mental health, but to raise the awareness of it and bring people together to show compassion and love for others – because we all struggle with mental health. Since I have joined the Leaders Council, my work has doubled, and I have more opportunities with people around the world trying to connect with my nonprofit. I am so grateful for this opportunity.
Tell us about your work and interests.
My nonprofit focuses on helping adolescents and adults to focus on their mental health to prevent them from being homeless. We do this by providing a peer group creative arts space, doing all types of arts to talk about mental health and support one another while creating at the same time. I feel like we are all too close to being homeless, and every day we have to work extra hard mentally to be comfortable in this world. Every other week we give to people experiencing homelessness hot meals and hygiene kits, along with some inspiring artwork to keep going and local resources for shelter and therapy needs.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from other YMHLC members?
We are here to raise awareness and help others as much as we can in the midst of all that we have to take care of ourselves. We all get so caught up giving to others, which as a person who loves to give will never stop, but I need to take care of myself in the process, too, and to keep remembering that I am not here to cure mental health.
What are your mental health advocacy goals?
I want to store confidence in people and make them realize they are special, that each one of us in this world is different and we all have a purpose and something to offer and teach one another. I believe we all have special gifts, and we can utilize those gifts to spread love.Just because you have anxieties, depression, or other illness, it doesn't define you. You are still beautiful.
Photo submitted by Photo submitted by Mariama Bah
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Funded, in part, by a donation from JCPenney.