Madi: HS Senior Draws on Personal Experience in Fight to Expand Mental Health Services

Three years ago, I was a high school freshman and I was holding on to this world for dear life, because parts of me didn't want one anymore. A year later I realized that I need some help and two years later I came to terms with myself to accept and welcome the help into my life. 

The journey of accepting that you need help, welcoming that in your life, and allowing yourself to grow for the good of your wellbeing is definitely not easy by any means. When I decided I wanted to help myself, I also decided that I wanted to help others as well. I wanted to help others who have experienced such situations similar to mine.

I started small by advocating in my school for better mental health resources for students and staff such as: yoga, a therapy dog, lessons on how to better manage our mental health, mindfulness classes, and meditations. I advocated for the need for less stress on students when it came to classes and better accommodations within the school to help those who need access to mental health flexibilities such as: late work, more time on exams, and mental health days.

Once I got myself started in school, I began advocating throughout my county. I joined my county's Human Rights Student Leadership Council on behalf of my school and community with the goal to advocate for better mental health equality and equity in the school system and the community. In addition, I spoke at the Human Rights Commissions Board meeting to continue to carry out that goal.

I decided to join the Poor People's Campaign of North Carolina while focusing on health equality and equity because of how I have seen those who are economically challenged oftentimes not be able to afford the health care they need. For instance, many teens in our community struggle with underlying mental health conditions, but treatment for these conditions are expensive and oftentimes most families can not afford the necessary and appropriate treatments.

After seeing too many teens suffer, and sometimes even take their own life, I decided that I must be an advocate for not only mental health and disabilities, but also for health care equality, equity, and rights. Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. It should be available to all, not just those who have the economic privilege to have it available to them.

I have continued my work in advocacy through an instagram and a blog with a focus on mental health and disability rights, equality, and equity.(@madi.paige.graham)