10 Young Adults Transforming Mental Health

Group Photo of Young Mental Health Leaders Council

Wed, 09/16/2020 – 16:44

By Kelly Davis, Director of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services at Mental Health America

Mental Health America (MHA) is proud to announce the members of our first-ever Young Mental Health Leaders Council (YMHLC). YMHLC identifies young leaders from across the U.S., promotes their work to other advocates, and expands their ideas into new communities.

This year’s members have many focus areas, including addressing mental health through policy, music, athletics, technology, peer support, and more. Members will contribute to an annual report on transforming mental health and share their work with MHA’s audience and partners.

Learn more about them below!

Want to stay up to date on our youth and young adult mental health resources? Sign up for our email list at mhanational.org/youthalerts.

Cyn Gomez (they/them/theirs) – Baldwin Park, California

Cyn Gomez is a young adult who identifies as nonbinary. In Cyn’s free time, they were involved in clubs and sports on their high school campus. Participating in JV and Varsity Lacrosse and their schools’ GSA (Gender and Sexuality Acceptance) Club, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Club. Outside of school, Cyn is a student poll worker, food kitchen volunteer, and ambassador for the non-profit organizations Tangible Movement and LivingWorks. Cyn enjoys reading and public speaking, enjoying discussions on the importance of mental health, human rights, and social justice. In Summer 2021, Cyn will be attending Stanford for their Intensive Law & Trial Program and is currently a UC Berkeley Undergraduate.

Shyanne Hoff (she/her/hers) – Tonganoxie, Kansas

Shyanne Hoff is 22 years old and lives in Kansas, although she is originally from Missouri. She currently works at Wyandot Behavioral Health Network as a Certified Peer Support Specialist, where she shares her personal experience and knowledge with others in the hopes of fostering personal growth and recovery. Outside of work, she attends Florida Institute of Technology as a Psychology major. Shyanne also owns and runs a mental health server on Discord, a popular social platform. Shyanne aspires to help spark massive changes in society regarding mental health and its treatment in communities by advocating and speaking to others. She envisions a world where mental health is not stigmatized and is approached with knowledge and care.

Danté Golden (he/him/his) – Sacramento, California

Danté Golden is from Suisun City, California, which is a part of the North Bay Area. He uses the pronouns he/him/his. He graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Community and Regional Development. In his free time, pre COVID-19, he enjoyed attending hip-hop and EDM music festivals. He is an avid personal fitness and a Game of Thrones enthusiast. He was an all-state nominated high school baseball player and also played collegiate baseball. During his college career, he held various jobs and internships in Sacramento, California related to ensuring equitable and safe public health policy. He was a 2019-2020 Senate Fellow in Senator Scott D. Wiener’s office and staffed legislation specific to mental health, health, social services, and housing within the Senator’s legislative package. He is very excited to join Mental Health America’s Young Mental Health Leaders Council!

Jordan Nelson (he/him/his) – Queens, New York

Jordan Nelson is originally from South Jamaica, Queens, where little options to prosper existed. Jordan always wanted to provoke change in the areas that needed it most, seeing similarities in most of the neighborhoods that he grew up in. When the opportunity to enforce change presented itself, he got involved, starting and leading initiatives around criminal justice reform, alternatives to incarceration through arts, mental health, and financial literacy. Jordan won’t stop until the needs he desired as a kid are met for all the young people that come after him and then some.

Ben Ballman (he/him/his) – Potomac, Maryland

Ben Ballman is a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Rockville, Maryland. The mental health crisis in America has always been very present within and around his life. From family, friends, and even himself struggling with mental health, he sought from a young age to make change where nobody else seems to be.

To make this change, he has started and led several projects to support the mental health of his community. These have included leading a team of students to conduct research into his school district’s counseling departments, which culminated in meetings with county leaders. He also founded a mental health coalition (DMVsfmhr.org), which seeks to unite student advocates, clubs, and schools from around the DMV into a cohesive unit for change. To create an immediate change for students, he developed the Students for Students program. This program is based on the peer support model and seeks to act as an extension of the under resourced counseling department.

Ari Sokolov (she/her/hers) – Paradise Valley, Arizona

Ari Sokolov is a 19-year-old founder, designer, and developer that has won national and international awards from the National Center of Women in Information Technology, the U.S. Congress, South by Southwest, Target, and Apple for her work. Currently, Ari is the CEO of the Trill Project, a mental health application with over 75,000 users. She is also a contributor to mental health technologies in the open-source community and an advocate for minorities in STEM.

Marcus Alston (he/him/his) – Ellicott City, Maryland

Marcus Alston was born and raised in Howard County, Maryland. He went on to play D1-AA Football at Saint Francis, where he was a member of the 2016 NEC Championship team. He graduated from Saint Francis in May of 2018 with a major in Management Information Systems and a minor in Cyber Security Administration. In September 2018, he was diagnosed with several underlying mental illnesses, which he was dealing with for a decade. This put Marcus in a dark phase, but it helped him find his purpose. A year later, Marcus founded Alston for Athletes, a sports mentoring program that emphasizes mental health awareness. Alston for Athletes’ goal is to partner with local high schools and colleges to provide mentorship to the younger generation of student-athletes who are struggling mentally

Claire Yu (she/her/hers) – Naperville, Illinois

Claire Yu is 18 years old – a rising freshman in college – and uses she/her pronouns. Coming from a Chinese American community that prioritized fulfilling the model-minority stereotype above all else, she quickly realized that there were many cultural, social, and personal barriers that prevented students like her from speaking freely about mental health. Because of this, she searched for “small” ways to start conversations: writing about mental health days in the school newspaper, speaking out against the school district’s approach to screening its students for mental illness, running in 5ks dedicated to destigmatizing mental health, etc. Eventually, she joined the Asian Mental Health Collective and worked with the Asian Mental Health Project. Through collaborating with these groups on making mental health resources more accessible to the AAPI population, she realized that working within existing structures could be just as impactful as building something from the ground up. Through Mental Health America’s Young Mental Health Leaders Council, she sincerely hopes to do everything in her power to serve as a cheering squad and support system for other youth, especially those with ethnic backgrounds that make it harder for them to have open dialogue about their mental health.

Cameron Vigil (she/her/hers) – Parker, Colorado

Cameron Vigil is 23 years old and currently lives in Parker, CO. She formally serves as the Rocky Mountain Engagement Manager at Young Invincibles. As the engagement manager, she leads community leadership development programs in Colorado and offers hands-on public policy experience to diverse young adult leaders. She has experience with developing and implementing direct and indirect advocacy programs built upon strength-based approaches to serve underrepresented communities. Cameron stays engaged with her childhood community (Pueblo, CO) by co-creating and running a local scholarship dedicated to financially supporting students interested in pursuing higher education and reducing mental health stigma and youth suicide. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Colorado State Youth Council (SYC), a sub-committee of the Education & Training Steering Committee of the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC). Cameron graduated from the University of Colorado Denver in 2017 with a BA and from Regis University in 2019 with a Master’s in Nonprofit Management (MNM).

Arthy Suresh (she/her/hers) – Parkland, Florida

Arthy Suresh is a rising senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On February 14, 2018, Stoneman Douglas experienced the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. Following the massacre at her school, Arthy was attuned to the mental suffering on her campus and focused her energy on co-founding a Mind Body Ambassador program at her school in collaboration with The Center for Mind Body Medicine. She has been leading mind-body medicine workshops for her peers, community members, and doctors across the state of Florida to teach mental health coping skills. As a result of her achievement, she was selected by her district school board to spread her Mind Body Ambassador program to schools across the district. Arthy likes to spend her free time dancing. She has trained in the oldest classical dance tradition of India, Bharathanatyam, for 12 years. She aspires to be a well-educated psychiatrist in the future and hopes to integrate mind-body medicine as a form of alternative medicine in the healthcare world!


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