“Throughout my life, I have struggled with mental health issues. They always have been and will continue to be a part of my story. Mental health affects everyone in many different ways. Our mental health determines how we perceive the world, what we think and how we treat others.

There was a time in my life when it was easier to bottle up my feelings than share them with the world. Society pressured me into believing that my emotions were not normal. This societal standard continues today.

I care about mental health because I remember all of the nights I spent feeling alone. Picking myself apart because I didn’t look or feel the same way as others; constantly overthinking, stuck in cycles that would never benefit me. I remember thinking there wasn’t hope for me, but there was.

I care about mental health because the little girl I was in sixth grade never saw an end to the darkness that she faced. I struggled with anxiety and depression, and I still do in my life today. It is a never-ending process. Some days are messy, and some are beautiful. Our perspective and support systems are everything in these moments.

I care about mental health because we all are deserving of having access to people who will love and support us. We deserve to share our feelings and perspectives to benefit from growth in our mental health.

I care about mental health and advocate for mental health because I aspire to be who I needed when I was younger. I make a difference every day by sharing mental health awareness and my story with the world. We never know what someone is truly going through, only what they choose to mention.

Be kind to yourself and others. Educate yourself. Be part of a brighter future — for yourself and the people you love.”

Taliya, Kansas