Why #MentalHealthMatters

I am so excited and pleased to hear that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) has announced the theme for this year's International Day of Youth on August 12 is mental health. They have launched a campaign called #MentalHealthMatters. Finally, a UN campaign focusing on the mental health of our young people globally, which if we stride in this progression, we can combat the World Health Organization's prediction that by 2030 depression will be the leading global disease. Over the past 20 years, I personally have been working to improve the lives of our youth here in NYC and it is my passion.

The first and foremost important aspect of improving the mental health of our youth is de-stigmatizing, which is the focus of this campaign. UNDESA is asking for submissions from all of artwork, illustrations, photos and/or stories about the positive impact that speaking out about mental health issues has had on the lives of young people. These submissions will be compiled into a video broadcast shown at the UN on the International Day of Youth.

We should take this opportunity to not only say this is the work of the UN, but also our work locally to improve the lives and mental health of youth here in the United States. Do we want to turn on the news to hear about more school, college, mall, movie, workplace, and marathon shootings? We need more media attention focused on preventing these shootings through bringing mental health dialogue to the forefront, rather than more reports of mass shootings. I am asking everybody to join this campaign in whatever way they can if you believe mental health matters.

In 2011, I joined the International Year of Youth discussions, with the theme dialogue and mutual understanding. Over 250 students attended an event, "Youth Interfaith Dialogue and Mutual Understanding" held by the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Youth Program at the UNICEF House. This event highlighted the importance of religious and cultural tolerance anchored on mutual understanding. Manhattan Multicultural Summer Youth Program alumni sat on the panel with high level leaders of interfaith tolerance, suggesting avenues for programs and actions on the ground.

I hope this year we ALL participate in UNDESA's International Day of Youth discussion #MentalHealthMatters. A true discussion on mental health can help reduce the stigma and mobilize people to get the care they need in order for our multicultural societies to flourish and live in harmony and peace. We can all consciously improve the mental well-being of our world by tapping into our hearts and making it our mission to discuss mental health matters. I urge influential leaders such as President Obama, all elected officials, celebrities, artists, musicians, and everyone to join this campaign. We all need to join this campaign. If it only takes making a 6-15 second video to influence the discussion on mental health matters, why not contribute to this vital need?