Mental Health America (MHA) is proud to announce the members of the 2022-2023 Young Mental Health Leaders Council (YMHLC). YMHLC identifies young leaders from across the U.S. who have created programs and initiatives that fill gaps in traditional mental health services in their communities. Through YMHLC, members connect with other leaders, share their work with MHA’s audiences, and expand their ideas into new 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. YMHLC members will contribute to MHA’s annual Young People’s Mental Health Report and will share their ideas and initiatives with our audience throughout the 2022-2023 academic year.
Learn more about them below!
Want to stay up to date on our youth and young adult mental health resources? Sign up for our email list at mhanational.org/youthalerts.
Crystal Widado (she/they) is a student journalist, public speaker, and high school senior. After dealing with personal struggles with suicide in middle school, they became extremely passionate about teen mental health and intersectional approaches to their generation’s conversations surrounding mental health justice. Crystal combines the power of story-telling through journalism and public speaking in her work for multiple youth-led organizations. They are currently the social media coordinator for Mind Out Loud, the Chief Operating Director and Writing Director for Each Mind, and have been leading her school’s mental health club for the past 3 years. Crystal also advocates for system-based change on a state level by serving as one of six students in the CA Department of Education’s Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup. Outside of her mental health advocacy, she’s the Editor in chief of the school’s newspaper and captain of the debate team. In her free time, Crystal enjoys cafe-hopping around Los Angeles, bullet journaling, and listening to podcasts.
Jill King (she/her) is a 21-year-old junior Psychology student at Georgia Southern University. She is a disabled advocate and co-founded her university's first disability advocacy group, Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group, run by and for the disabled. The group works with advocacy groups throughout the state of Georgia, provides training on the Americans with Disabilities Act to staff and faculty, and participates in panels to educate faculty, staff, and others in the campus community. In addition to her work with the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group, Jill researches psychology within the disabled population's well-being along with minority stress. She is open about mental health and well-being in her advocacy work and writing. She plans to go on to be a therapist focusing on the disabled population and giving both accessible and culturally competent care.
Mariama Bah (she/her) is a 24-year-old mental health advocate born in Guinea, Africa. She emigrated to the US in 2009 and calls Raleigh, North Carolina home. She is the founder of Nation of Diversity (NOD), an organization focused on reducing homelessness and supporting mental health through art and music. NOD conducts homeless outreach, including providing hygiene kits, clothing, blankets, and hot meals, in addition to hosting community empowerment programs and events focused on the power of art and music to promote creativity, mindfulness, and mental health. In her free time, she enjoys putting a smile on people’s faces, traveling, learning about new cultures, and creating art and music. She firmly thinks that God sent us here to learn from and help one another create a world that is like heaven. She simply wants to be known as the girl who always had a smile on her face.
Abdullah Elahi (he/him) is an 18-year-old senior at Memphis University High School in Memphis, TN. He is also a Pakistani-American Muslim. He has been a member at Bridge Builders, a diverse leadership and community building organization in Memphis, since 2020. He is also starting his second year in Bridge Builders’ Mental and Emotional Health Matters cohort, a part of the organization’s CHANGE program focused on making “systemic change in Memphis around issues of social activism.” His cohort’s vision is to increase access to mental health services and resources within Memphis-Shelby County schools to create supportive school environments. Additionally, he is the president and found of the Mental Health Club in his high school, an all-boys school where mental health was especially stigmatized. His values are to help those around him in any way, shape, or form whether that is through mental health advocacy or simple acts of service. His skills are his creativity, ability to plan and execute, leadership, and cooperation. In his free time, he likes to draw/make art, play ping pong, and hang out with his friends.
Zain Rasheidi Jackson-Brown (he/she/they) is a 22-year-old cis-male who uses the pronouns he/she/they. Zain is the lead youth mentor and outreach coordinator for foster youth in the Antelope Valley (AV) in California. Zain works with the Lost Angels Children's Project Industrial Art Youth Center, a nonprofit that serves disadvantaged youth, families, and distressed communities through innovative vocational training, social enterprise, and traditional outreach programs. Zain recruits foster youth to enroll in the Lost Angels apprenticeship and jobs training program that teaches students classic car repair and shop skills, in addition to providing support around industry basics, soft skills, and career placement. Zain also works with other local organizations including Antelope Valley Partners for Health, the Children's Center of the Antelope Valley, Penny Lane, and Volunteers of America. In all of Zain’s work, they focus on identifying and educating foster youth about workforce training along with other mental health and social programs and resources available to them in Lancaster and Palmdale, California.
Savannah Frye (she/her) is the Regional Coordinator for Peer Recovery Specialists and Family Support Partners within the Northern Virginia area. She was born and raised in the area and briefly moved to Harrisonburg, VA to obtain her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. She found her passion for the intersectionality of the justice system and mental health and moved back to Northern Virginia to obtain her master’s degree in forensic and legal psychology. While doing this, she began to work as a peer recovery specialist with a local nonprofit. In her current role, she has had the opportunity to expand her previous peer support work at a regional level and advocate for positions for those with lived experience within the behavioral health system. In her free time, she loves to do yoga, take her dog, Chubbs, for walks, and binge-watch her favorite shows (currently re-watching Modern Family).
Jose Caballero (he/him) is a huge advocate for mental health. In 2021, he founded the first mental health awareness organization, In Touch, at Miami Senior High, a 118-year-old school that lacked mental health awareness and support for students. In Touch currently has over 400 members who are working on expanding a more open-minded understanding of mental health in their community. After graduating from high school in 2022, he continued his mental health advocacy by starting his own blog, "Get In Touch," where he writes about mental health stressors and uses his psychology major to educate people about current issues in communities and society. He is a passionate, charismatic, and down-to-earth person who wants to advocate for the betterment of his communities.
Maya Nittoor (they/them) is an 18-year-old youth liberationist and intersectional mental health advocate. Growing up in Camden County, New Jersey, mental health issues have been interwoven with Maya's life experiences from a young age. At 16, they volunteered for over 200 hours as a peer supporter, having over 900 conversations with 150 youth and helping connect an additional 250 people to peer support. The ability to foster a positive mental-health community with other teens reinforced their understanding that youth-led approaches are necessary to tackle youth issues. At seventeen, they became a Youth Ambassador for Telosity, an investment management company that funds digital youth mental health & wellbeing startups. They have also collaborated with the nonprofit YouthRoots to develop a policy initiative at the New Jersey Department of Child and Family Services. Currently, Maya is majoring in Psychology at Temple University and is an intern at Samaritans Southcoast, a crisis center that takes calls from the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. As they stated in an interview with the nonprofit, All Tech is Human, "Communities built on empathy and knowledge make for a promising future."
Rei Scott (he/xe) is a current social work student at Ohio State University, where he also works part-time as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Advocate. This summer he graduated from Columbus State with an AAS in Social and Human Services as a first-generation student. Xe serves on several advisory boards and is an Executive Board Member of the nonprofit Students With Psychosis, a nonprofit focused on psychosis that empowers student leaders and advocates worldwide through community building and collaboration. Rei most recently spoke on a panel at the 2022 Early Psychosis Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Rei is very passionate about social justice, with a special interest in advocating for the mental health needs of those with intersectional identities as someone within that population. In xir free time, Rei enjoys art and crafts such as cross-stitching and card making. He also has two cats he loves to spoil and collects items such as stationery and video game merchandise as a hobby.
Las Vegas, NV
Faria Tavacoli (she/they) is a Las Vegas resident and student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). She is majoring in public health and minoring in neuroscience. At UNLV she has been in leadership roles in a variety of initiatives, including serving as Health & Wellness Coordinator to bring mental health programming and education to Clark County and creating a mental health toolkit and campaign on campus. Faria is passionate about the intersections of public health and neurology and she hopes to aid low-income communities in her own city and beyond borders to ensure mental wellbeing and eliminate health disparities. In her free time, Faria winds down by skateboarding through the streets and skateparks of Vegas and by drinking coffee while socializing at her local coffee shop.
Funded, in part, by a donation from JCPenney.