April 27, 2018

By Luna Greenstein


Far too often, young people experience stigma that invalidates their struggles with mental health.
Far too often, young people are treated as if they are incapable of experiencing mental illness.
Far too often, young people don’t get the help they need.

Moonglass Studios/Letters to Strangers

How can we expect our youth to reach out for help with challenging symptoms when they often only receive more pain than help? When they think they will be stigmatized or told they are “too young to be so sad?”

“Apparently, human emotions are ‘too complex’ of sensations to be felt by youth,” says Diana Chao, 19-year-old founder of Letters to Strangers, in a TEDxTeen Talk. “Yet, 20% of youth ages 13-18 lives with a mental health condition.”

As a society, we should be encouraging young people to be open about their mental health rather than allowing them to struggle in silence. Especially considering what’s at stake: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34. In other words, fighting stigma matters.

NAMI is committed to fighting stigma so the next generation is encouraged to get help when they need it. We also want youth everywhere to join our fight. So, we’ve teamed up with Adobe Project 1324 to get young people involved in breaking the stigma—through art.

Partnering with Adobe Project 1324

Adobe Project 1324 shows that while overcoming stigma is challenging, it can also be a way to channel creativity. Artists between 13-24 years old can participate in our #NoStigmaNoShame challenge by submitting their original design, illustration, photo or video—anything that expresses how mental health impacts them and their creativity and how they break stigma.

This project offers a platform for youth to share their experiences in unique ways and lead by creative example to encourage others to do the same. As an intern at Adobe, Chao will serve as a curator for the project; Chao is an artist as well, using several art forms to articulate her bipolar disorder and build greater empathy with like-minded young artists.

“Adobe Project 1324’s partnership with NAMI to amplify the young, creative voice is important because the story of youth is the story of our future. To challenge mental health stigma and expose just what’s at stake, we need this generation’s powerful stories—we need their art,” says Chao.

NAMI will highlight featured submissions at a pop-up gallery inside the 2018 NAMI National Convention and across our social media channels. Additionally, finalists selected by Chao and Adobe will also become eligible to apply for the Adobe Creativity Scholarship. These scholarships provide college and post-secondary education tuition to young people who are studying a creative field and using creativity as a force for positive social change.

Ending mental health stigma starts with connection and connection starts with sharing. It may be simple, but it isn’t easy—it takes bravery and encouragement to talk openly about mental illness. Let’s support young people as they share their talents, their struggles and their voices—so they know their mental health matters, regardless of their age.


Anyone interested can submit their piece from now until May 15.


Laura Greenstein is manager of communications at NAMI.

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