Mental Health America (MHA) is delighted to announce our new Young Leaders Council. Previously known as the Young Mental Health Leaders Council, this group is made up of MHA-identified leaders ages 18-25 who have created programs and initiatives that fill gaps in mental health supports and resources in their communities.
The 2023-2024 cohort of 10 includes youth from across the country who are making a difference in maternal mental health, substance use recovery, college peer support, and more. YLC members will participate in monthly meetings and contribute to MHA content and an annual report on expanding or replicating their ideas. Council members will also receive opportunities to present at MHA local and national events and with MHA partners.
Learn more about them below!
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Makaila Davis (she/her) is a dedicated advocate for health equity, is committed to addressing systemic disparities, and works closely with marginalized communities. She's well-equipped to drive positive change and holds five credentials from the Pennsylvania Certification Board, including Certified Community Health Worker, Certified Peer Specialist, Certified Family Recovery Specialist, Certified Recovery Specialist, and Certified Disaster Crisis Outreach and Referral Professional.
As the founder of Angels Protection Inc., a nonprofit organization, Makaila has established a nurturing haven and support network for pregnant and young mothers, along with at-risk and homeless adolescent girls and women aged 13 to 20. Her resolute passion centers on amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard.
Beyond her nonprofit work, Makaila is actively pursuing her calling as a pastor, aspiring to extend her influence and serve her community in a spiritual dimension.
Julian Guerrero (he/him) is a first-generation college student at the University of Houston and is actively pursuing a degree in psychology. He is part of a recovery program on campus called Cougars in Recovery. He is also interested and involved in numerous things such as chess, pool, music, boxing, exercising, and anything active.
Keegan Lee (she/her) is a highly motivated teenager who strives to make a difference on an international level. She is the author of "60 Days of Disconnect," a psychological perspective of our digital world. She is also the founder of a global mental health campaign; host of a mental health podcast; school curriculum developer for digital wellness; monthly mental health article writer; public speaker; and research, resource, and community member within the Log Off movement. She also has previously served as Log Off's director of wellbeing.
Keegan is an all-state cross-country and track runner. She has presented at several middle and high schools educating students about the psychology of social media, mental health, and addiction. She will always be keen to support digital wellness and mental health for the long term. Keegan attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in fall 2023 as a Copland Scholar and member of Honors Carolina. She is studying psychological science with a minor in neuroscience. She hopes to receive her Ph.D. in clinical psychology to become a clinical psychologist and dedicate her career to mental health research.
Diana Chao (she/they) is a 24-year-old first-generation Buyi Chinese American immigrant from Southern California. Diana founded Letters to Strangers (L2S) when she was a sophomore in high school after bipolar disorder and uveitis, an episodically blinding eye disease, nearly ended her life. By beginning to heal through letters, she discovered that writing is humanity distilled into ink. Today, L2S is the largest global youth-for-youth mental health nonprofit, directly impacting over 35,000 people annually on six continents and publishing the world’s first youth-for-youth mental health guidebook for free. L2S also operates the first toll-free 24/7 pan-African mental health hotline out of its Liberia office. For this effort, Diana was honored by two U.S. presidents at the White House, named a 2021 Princess Diana Legacy Award Winner, was one of the 2020 L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth, and part of Adobe's inaugural cohort of Global Top Talent in 2019 for her work as a conceptual photographer. Having grown up below the poverty line with parents who don't speak English, Diana learned firsthand how healing is non-linear, complicated, and a process no one should have to approach alone.
Chayil Bullock-Mariscal (she/her) is a senior at Johnson Crane Smith University located in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a psychology scholar with a minor in sports management, and her focus is on children’s mental health and suicide prevention. Chayil currently serves as Miss Senior for her university, the vice president of a mental health organization called Mellow Minds, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Rick Yang (he/him) is an avid civic entrepreneur, community mental health researcher, and advocate for youth voices, comprehensive school mental health systems, and meeting youth where they are. Rick spearheaded “SchoolSight: A Comprehensive Mental Health Vision,” a mental health research-based advocacy project that sought to pinpoint the most evidence-based mental health services to implement in his county using newly planned government funding from a student perspective, partnering with various stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers on both written reports and community-based presentations. He serves as an activation team lead on Work2BeWell’s National Student Advisory Council, where he works to activate students, educators, and parents across the country to focus on mental health systems change through awareness, advocacy, and engagement. Outside of mental health advocacy, he is an avid debater, soccer player, and beatboxer.
Jonathan Jean Charles (he/him) is a 19-year-old college sophomore at the University of Miami. Born to two Haitian immigrants in Miami, Florida, Jonathan is a COPE (Counseling Outreach Peer Education) Peer Educator where he works alongside other peer educators to raise awareness of mental health concerns, promote emotional well-being among the undergraduate student body, and raise cognizance of topics such as suicide prevention, body image, depression, and sexual assault. In his role, he also connects students with mental health resources, organizes events, and serves as a role model to fellow students. Jonathan’s efforts to be an advocate for marginalized populations are also seen through his roles in other departments on campus, such as Housing and Residential Life and Multicultural Student Affairs.
In February, Jonathan worked with a group of peer educators to facilitate a break-out session at the Students of Color Symposium. In an increased effort to help destigmatize mental health, Jonathan served as a volunteer for the Sandler Center for Alcohol & Other Drug Education during his freshman year of college. There, he helped lead peer education programs designed to educate students about the negative health and legal consequences of the high-risk use of alcohol and other drugs. Jonathan is currently double majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and medical anthropology with the goal of becoming a physician. His hobbies include reading, writing poetry, weightlifting, and playing basketball. His two biggest values are authenticity and intentionality.
Anastasia Erley (she/they) is a junior at Swarthmore College studying neuroscience and environmental studies with hopes to further her education in the medical field. Anastasia is a volunteer at Mental Health Partnerships, where she's part of a Peer Advocacy Fellowship led by Brittany O'Neil. In addition to her fellowship, her volunteer work has centered around advocacy work, while also contributing to event planning and social media content creation.
Anastasia is also passionate about sharing personal experiences and resources on her mental health Instagram account, @theselfhealthline.
Her dedication continues to extend to her college where she's working as an officer in the student mental health and well-being group on campus, known as Speak 2 Swatties, to kickstart peer support groups.
Kaisar Perry (they/them) is a staunch advocate for mental health within their home community of southern New Hampshire and their school community of western Massachusetts. Be it through music, cultural affinity, theatre, or even tea-time event hosting, Kaisar is always searching for how they can best engage their communities with inviting conversations surrounding mental health. In their journey to serve as a valiant combatant against an all too pervasive mental health stigma, Kaisar brings with them their passions for arts and crafts, drumming, piano playing, acting, and exploring nature. They believe that, by demonstrating their authenticity within community spaces, they can inspire others to do the same, empowering peers to connect on the mutual grounds of their shared humanity. Honing their skills at community connection, Kaisar is currently studying and working at Amherst College, majoring in psychology as well as law, jurisprudence, and social thought.
Whitney Andrastek (she/her) graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in May 2023. She majored in democracy and justice studies with minors in criminal justice and anthropology/sociology. She has won numerous academic awards throughout her college career and was a student athlete on the college cheer team. Since graduation, she is now a member of the Manitowoc County Chamber Leadership Program, which works on young professional leadership in the community. Whitney works as a justice advocate/program coordinator at NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) Manitowoc County. Her key roles and projects include coordinating Crisis Intervention Team training for three Manitowoc County police agencies, which is a 40-hour training for police officers on how to de-escalate mental health crisis calls, and administrating Manitowoc County Early Jail Diversion program and Mental Health Court.
She is also on a team with another partnership through the GAINS Center that is working on veterans suicide prevention through sequential intercept mapping of the community. Whitney enjoys combining her interests in the criminal justice system with mental health to advocate for those who fall victim to the system. She is passionate about creating change and awareness in her community. In her free time she enjoys reading, watching documentaries, working out, and spending time in nature with family and friends.