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What is the Youth Advisory Board on mental health?

In this Together | PACER Center’s Youth Advisory Board on Mental Health
A presentation about advocacy, leadership, thriving during difficult times, and hope for the future

Youth board members share information about the advocacy and education work they do on behalf of youth with mental health needs, and why this work is important. (1:40)

What inspired you to join a board on mental health?

In this Together | PACER Center’s Youth Advisory Board on Mental Health
A presentation about advocacy, leadership, thriving during difficult times, and hope for the future

Youth board members share why they became an advocate. (1:59)

How has being an advocate helped you?

In this Together | PACER Center’s Youth Advisory Board on Mental Health
A presentation about advocacy, leadership, thriving during difficult times, and hope for the future

Youth board members share how being an advocate helps them – providing purpose, building skills, and learning how to make a difference for other. (3:18)

Darcey, 16

I am from a small town in central Minnesota. I enjoy Shop and making wood projects, Robotics which is a sport at my school where we build robots and compete with other schools in competitions, FFA and collecting agates. My dad got me into collecting them when I was 5 and I have probably over 2,000 agates. I will never stop collecting them.

I have a diagnosis of ADHD, ODD, depression and Anxiety.

PACER helped my parents understand how to help me handle my school and personal “ups and downs”. I have been a part of the PACER Youth Advisory Board for 3 years now. I travel 2 hours one way each month to attend but it’s worth the time to be able to know I can help others by telling my story.

I hope to go to Community College and study early childhood development. My dream job is to be a preschool teacher because I have always loved working with kids. To accomplish my dreams, I will go to college and work hard to get the support I need like extended test time and somewhere I can go if I need a break. I will feel amazing and happy that I have achieved my goals.

Grace, 18

This year I am headed off to college to study outdoor leadership. I enjoy being outside camping, hiking, going on bike rides and just chilling in the sun. I also love animals.

I have mental health and learning disabilities, and am on the Autism Spectrum, and that made school a struggle for me.

Who knew a new school could change your entire life? I found a public project-based Charter School. This school opened-up a whole new door of opportunities. I got credit from doing what I love, making a mini roller coaster, writing stories, and building stuff. I went to Washington D.C., Guatemala and on quite a few camping trips. These trips give you a chance to get to know peers and staff. Staff care about you and your life. Pacer is like this in a way too, they help you, talk to you and care for you.

As I look to my future, I plan to obtain good coping skills like yoga or meditation and to stay mentally stable, in a good place. I color and exercise to help me cope. I also hope to milk a cow. I am extremely excited to go to college to get a fresh start. l will try my best and keep looking for opportunities to find and love myself, try to open-up to people and create some close friendships.

Just remember when you fall, you can get back up!

Arabella, 14

I enjoy refereeing and watching soccer, reading all sorts of books, going on hikes, thrift shopping, United States academic decathlon, playing games and doing art.

I have a disability of Autism, OCD, and ADHD and Anxiety.

One person in my life who has really helped me is my little brother Oliver. Oliver is the kindest person I’ve ever met. He loves to try to take care of me when I’m sick, try to make me smile when I’m sad and he does his best to make the best of any situation. One specific memory that always brings a smile to my face is the letter he wrote me before I went to camp last summer. The envelope read “Open if you are lonely.” Inside there was a letter saying how much he missed me and couldn’t wait for me to get back. Sometimes I think back to this to remind myself that I am his role model and he will never stop looking up to me.

My goal in life is to use my Arabic and French skills to help change people’s lives in Arab countries. When I become a Humanitarian Linguist, I will want to jump right into work and start changing lives. To get to that point I want to make sure I keep doing good in high school, keeping building on my passion and about what I want to do.

Makenna, 15

In the fall I will be in 10th grade. I enjoy abstract and paint pouring with watercolors and acrylics, writing poetry, horror and short stories. My favorite food is strawberries, I eat them up every time we have them in the house.

I have a disability of Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, PTSD, and ADHD.

Someone who has helped me was my boyfriend. We both liked fishing and animals and enjoyed fishing together on our camping trip. He showed me the truth to mental illness. He opened my eyes to people pretending mental health isn’t real and how badly things can end when that happens. He took his own life. I was devastated. I realized the importance of talking about mental illness and suicidal thoughts and how the support of family and friends can make a difference for someone struggling.

I hope to change someone’s life for the better. I really want to be a good friend and a foster parent and to able be there for somebody who needs help. I want to go to college to be a herpetologist because I love reptiles. When I achieve my dreams, I will celebrate with a trip to Australia to see all the wildlife and play in the ocean.

Mira, 16

I am interested in modeling, fashion, art and being creative. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, love animals and being active.

I am diagnosed with depression, PTSD, and anxiety. I have been hospitalized several times and I struggle daily to regulate my emotions and thoughts.

I have found that doing self-care such as exercising, journaling, or meditating helps me manage my mental health symptoms. I joined the Youth Board because I really wanted an outlet to find a way to speak up and stop the stigma that surrounds mental health.

My mom made sure I got the help I needed and support through PACER. She is always there to support me and help me cope.

In the future I want to continue developing my creative self through writing poetry, painting and one day designing my own fashion line. I want to inspire people around the world to believe in themselves and to value who they are regardless of their mental health struggles. We all have a story to share. Despite what people look like on the outside, we don’t know their story. Don’t be afraid to speak up, share your story, and change the future. One of my favorite quotes is “You can have a bad day without having a bad life.” This quote always reminds me that things can get better.