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Young Voices on Mental Health

YI is committed to uplifting the voices of young adults across the nation. Check out their stories on mental health below:

I have always been an advocate for mental health because I have family members who have struggled with it. In 2020, I experienced my first noticeable episode, despite having received mental health first aid training. I initially called for a mental health 72-hour hold on myself, but it wasn’t until coworkers intervened and called one on me that action was taken. I was picked up by a group of officers and ambulance staff who were familiar with my situation, and I was guided to the ambulance, where I strapped myself in.

Reflecting on this first experience within the mental health system, it was far from positive. What was supposed to be a 72-hour hold stretched into almost two weeks due to receiving inappropriate medication. The staff didn’t believe me when I expressed my readiness to leave and spoke to me in a demeaning manner.

Conditions within the facility were challenging; there was only one shower for multiple patients, leading to difficulties in accessing it. Additionally, I faced the discomfort of menstruating without feminine hygiene products. Feeling isolated due to COVID restrictions and personal hygiene concerns, I struggled to engage in therapy sessions that were often cut short. My family faced obstacles in visiting me, further compounding my sense of isolation.

Throughout this period, I battled with insomnia, stress, and PTSD stemming from past traumas including experiences of human trafficking and domestic violence. These factors, combined with the inadequate response to my mental health crisis, made me feel broken and undermined my trust in myself.

Despite the challenges, I eventually found a therapist, a person of color who I could culturally relate to and converse with in both Spanish and English. However, the search for the right therapist was arduous, with many professionals failing to respond to my inquiries.

In the following year, I experienced a second episode, which was handled differently. Although my call for help was taken seriously, the response from the ambulance staff was distressing. I was restrained and sedated against my will, exacerbating my distress and leaving me with physical bruises.

Despite a brief 72-hour hold, I was encouraged to participate in a partial hospitalization program. However, the prescribed medication worsened my physical symptoms and didn’t alleviate my grief or mental distress. This experience highlighted the flaws in the mental health system, particularly in its approach to trauma and patient rights.

I believe there is much work to be done to reform the mental health system, starting with trauma-informed training for police officers and ambulance staff. Additionally, increased funding is necessary to improve access to mental health services. This investment should precede initiatives such as drug decriminalization to ensure that individuals receive the support they need. 

Elected officials must hear stories like mine to understand the urgency of reform and the importance of prioritizing mental health resources. Ultimately, awareness and access are crucial in finding effective solutions for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

–Anonymous young adult, CO.


I’m 26 years old and have been in and out of therapy since I turned 18. Throughout those years, I faced misdiagnoses and inadequate medication management. During my college years, accessing follow-up care was particularly challenging because my permanent address was in a different county in Colorado than where I was residing. It baffles me why accessing psychiatric care in Denver is restricted just because my household is located in Delta County. 

In 2020, I was finally properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2. However, since then, I’ve encountered difficulties in maintaining consistent medication and attending appointments. These struggles stem from inadequate insurance coverage and the frustrating policy of restricting Medicaid recipients from scheduling appointments after a no-call, no-show. 

–Cidney Fisk, CO.


I advocate for the inclusion of mental health treatment under insurance coverage, or the establishment of alternative payment options for individuals with low incomes to access treatment. Fortunately, my personal experience with accessing mental healthcare has been positive. The clinic I attend for my mental health needs accepts my insurance, which has been a significant relief.

I want healthcare providers to understand that there are people who genuinely seek mental health treatment but may not be well-informed about their options for payment. For instance, when I was younger, I hesitated to seek treatment because I mistakenly believed that my insurance didn’t cover mental health services, or that I would have to pay out of pocket. By increasing awareness about available payment options and ensuring that mental health treatment is covered by insurance, we can make treatment more accessible to those who need it.

–Melissa Tovar, CA. 


When I first started undergraduate, both my twin and I struggled with extreme homesickness, despite attending the same university. Being far from home and suddenly independent was a significant adjustment. Throughout my freshman year, I found myself withdrawing from social activities, only attending classes and retreating to sleep. I neglected my appearance and avoided interactions with others. Concerns about my behavior prompted my professors to mandate counseling sessions at the college campus center. It was there that I began to confront my anxiety, depression, and overall mental health. 

As I engaged in counseling, I gradually became more social and started prioritizing self-care, including my eating habits. However, by sophomore year, I found myself overwhelmed by a heavy course load of 19 credit hours in math and sciences, compounded by daily bullying, stalking, and harassment. Despite having a support system, I felt isolated and alone. Just as I was beginning to establish rapport with a new therapist, my mental health began to deteriorate. I resorted to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as pulling my hair and turning to junk food for comfort.

It wasn’t until I experienced a severe mental breakdown that I sought help. Over the next two years of undergrad, I remained committed to counseling and focused on self-improvement. It was during this time that I discovered my passion for helping others navigate similar challenges.

Now, as I prepare to graduate with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling this December, I am proud to have found my calling. My ultimate goal is to become a college therapist, providing support and guidance to students facing mental health struggles, just as I once did.

–Anonymous young adult, MS.


I’ve wrestled with chronic depression since the 6th grade, though I didn’t understand it until I reached adulthood. Instead of seeking proper treatment, I turned to alcohol as a form of self-medication. Despite struggling, I received little support or recognition of my mental health issues during my college years. The administration and school infirmary never inquired about potential mental health concerns, leaving me to cope on my own.

Before landing my current job, I went without health insurance for seven long years. During that time, I spiraled into self-destructive behavior, and it’s a miracle that I’m still here today. Thankfully, I’ve gained more insight into my mental health journey over time. However, now as a parent of three children, I’m witnessing my oldest grapple with similar challenges at a young age. At just 15, he already relies on medication to manage ADHD, depression, and anxiety. The thought of his future fills me with fear and uncertainty.

Our health care system is undeniably broken. I find myself in a frustrating limbo: earning too much for Medicaid yet not enough to afford insurance. With two of my children also diagnosed with ADHD, the monthly doctor appointments for their medication add up, placing a heavy financial burden on our family.

The state of mental health care is particularly dire. It’s outrageously expensive, often not covered by insurance, and the pool of providers is shrinking due to burnout and vicarious trauma. My son has cycled through three therapists who abruptly quit due to personal issues, and I’ve faced similar challenges with my own mental health providers.

I firmly believe that our bloated military budget could be better allocated to expanding access to health care, including mental health services, for all. Additionally, Congress must mandate that insurers cover mental health treatment at least as comprehensively as physical health treatment.

Moreover, I implore our elected officials to recognize the role they play in exacerbating our societal challenges. Their divisive rhetoric and constant attacks only fuel negative emotions and worsen our collective mental health. Instead of working to improve our lives, they seem intent on stoking discord for their own political gain. It’s time they prioritize the well-being of their constituents over partisan bickering and contribute to healing rather than further harm.

–Anonymous young adult, KY.