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Leadership Development

Mental Health America's Youth Leadership Development Initiatives identify, empower, and elevate the next generation of mental health leaders. Previous Youth Leadership Development partners include Harvard Medical School and YouTube.

Young Leaders Council

The Young Leaders Council (YLC) is made up of young people (18-25) who have created programs and initiatives to fill gaps in mental health support and resources in their communities. Each year, 10 leaders are selected and participate in this six-month leadership development program where they build connections, receive mentoring, share their ideas, and expand their knowledge, skills, and network. The YLC has a 3% acceptance rate with over 2,000 applicants since the program launched in 2017.

Program graduates have gained leadership positions in the public and private sectors, including at Google, UNICEF, the National Academies of Sciences, and the White House. YLC efforts and leaders have been highlighted in the media, including Teen Vogue, and by partner organizations, including the National Governors Association.

Learn about YLC
Young Leaders Council member Jaden Stewart

Youth Policy Accelerator

The Youth Policy Accelerator partners with young people to identify and create policy solutions that are most important to them. In this two-month intensive program, participants build confidence, explore their interest areas, gain policy knowledge, and develop skills like storytelling. They then co-create a campaign and resources to advance their collective priorities.

Graduates of MHA’s youth policy leadership initiatives have spoken at MHA’s Regional Policy Council meeting and Annual Conference, attended Annual Hill Day meetings with U.S. congressional offices, and engaged in advocacy with our state and local affiliates.

Learn about YPA

Evolving Impact Network

The Evolving Impact Network is an ongoing personal and professional development community for the more than 100 graduates of MHA’s youth leadership programs. It includes monthly learning sessions across a wide range of topics in mental health advocacy, including community care, mental health rights, and media, as well as ongoing internal and external leadership opportunities.

Young Mental Health Leaders Council Member Prameela Boorada presents at the 2022 Mental Health America Conference

Current research projects

MHA's youth research initiatives partner with young people to document and advance their priorities for mental health change across policy, research, programs, and practice. 

Sam Gerry accepts the mPower award at the 2022 Mental Health America Conference

Breaking the algorithm: Redesigning social media for youth well-being

A youth-led initiative for youth-led solutions to promote mental health online

Launching at a national summit with leaders from across the country, our youth-led project team will integrate expert dialogue, youth-driven design, focus groups, surveys, and research. Our team of young leaders will co-create recommendations for mental health-friendly social media platforms and advance them in collaboration with leading partners and advocates.

Learn more about Breaking the Algorithm

Sydney Daniello conducts interviews at the 2022 Mental Health America Conference

The campus mental health crisis: Convening stakeholders to drive research and change

A student and lived experience-led project to eliminate mental health discrimination in higher education

Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), this project specifically targets three main areas to increase campus accessibility for students with mental health disabilities: accommodations, crisis response, and reintegration. The insights and recommendations presented will be the culmination of extensive discussions from student workgroup meetings and a national convening to identify research priorities, as well as gaps in available research and interventions. 

Learn more about the campus mental health crisis


MHA’s Youth Leadership reports document youth perspectives and recommendations to address mental health as well as provide inspiration and guidance to expand the work being led by young people across the U.S.

MHA’s Youth Leadership reports have appeared in The New York Times, NPR, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. They have been used to create policy and advocacy priorities, including updating federal regulations on mental disability-related discrimination and national and state school mental health policies.

Read our reports

events and updates

Sharing and building power with youth mental health leaders, Mental Health America

Webinar: Sharing and building power with youth mental health leaders

Mental Health America’s 2021-2022 Young Mental Health Leaders Council discuss their recent report on intergenerational collaboration in mental health.

Kelly Davis moderates a mainstage panel discussion at the 2022 Mental Health America Conference

The campus mental health crisis: Convening stakeholders to drive research and change

This research project is led by Mental Health America, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

Aliza Lopez headshot

Mental Health America announces 2023 award winners: Aliza Lopez earns mPower Award

Aliza Lopez is a 17-year-old mental health activist and graduate of MHA’s Our Future in Mind youth leadership program.