Laila Flores, an Eastlake High School senior in Chula Vista, plans to study business administration in college and eventually wants to own her own business. As she sees it, you have to excel at managing people to be successful. To help grow her interpersonal skills and come out of her shell, she joined Mind Out Loud, a student-run mental health advocacy group.
“I got involved with Mind Out Loud because I felt like I had a knack for talking to people and developing human connections,” said Flores. “I wanted to redirect that energy on a larger scale and help youth in the community, as well as work on my people skills.”
Mind Out Loud is hosted by Wellness Together School Mental Health, which is supported by Blue Shield’s BlueSky youth mental health initiative. Though Wellness Together staff provide resources and logistical support, Mind Out Loud is student-driven to amplify youth voices. The group hosts free monthly online workshops around mental health, as well as a large annual event. There, youth will share their experiences and knowledge and are joined by special guests from the fields of mental health, government, nonprofit advocacy, and entertainment. Last year’s event was attended by 3,800 youth from across the United States, the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic, and beyond. This year’s free event will be held on April 27 from 3-6 PM PST.
One of the key pillars of Mind Out Loud is support for marginalized youth, including those who are LGBTQ+ and people of color. Flores is both, and she feels like there are many additional stressors. There’s homophobia--both external and internalized—and many queer youth are rejected by their families. Even accepting parents can make insensitive or offensive remarks.
“My parents are supportive, but I have to continually educate them,” said Flores. “But because they have my back, it gives me energy to deal with other things.”
Flores also pointed out that there’s often stigma in communities of color around mental health challenges and treatment, but that young people are changing that.
“My generation is breaking the stigma, and social media has played a big role,” she said. “You get to connect with other youth, talk about challenges, and learn from professionals who post.”
According to a 2022 survey by The AAKOMA Project, 50% of youth of color have moderate or severe anxiety or depression. But the good news is young people are being encouraged to talk more about mental health, thanks to programs like Mind Out Loud.
Blue Shield of California Vice President of Corporate Citizenship Antoinette Mayer said that initiatives supported by BlueSky, including Wellness Together’s Mind Out Loud, are having an enormous impact on reducing stigma.
“It’s one thing for a young person who is experiencing mental health challenges to see a sign up at school about mental health, but it’s another when they see their peers talking openly about their experiences and the resources that are available to help,” said Mayer. “It breaks the stigma by spreading awareness and understanding, and I’m heartened that the Mind Out Loud event draws thousands of youth from around the country. Attendees can then turn around and support their peers, creating a ripple effect.”
“The Mind Out Loud event really inspires a sense of community among young people,” said Flores. “I have a lot of faith in my generation and our values. We are so loving and accepting of each other and less closed-minded. The event is really a safe place for us to come together to share, breaking the stigma of mental health challenges.”
All youth from around the country are invited to attend the Mind Out Loud event online and can register at https://www.mindoutloud.org/events/2023.
Click here to learn more about BlueSky, Blue Shield of California’s signature youth mental health initiative.
For more information about Mind Out Loud, go to https://www.mindoutloud.org/