May is Mental Health Awareness Month and 24-year-old Filipino American Justine Bautista has been on a mission to address it.
As a grad student at UC Irvine, she spends her time researching mental health and how to use digital media to improve it while working with several companies.
"I kind of went into this deep dive of research and trying to figure out that I was really interested in technology and how people interact with technology. I also think coming from my Filipino background, I’m also interested in different cultural components, and how we access technology, how we use technology, and how that affects our mental health," Bautista said.
This week, she went to the White House as part of the first-ever MTV Mental Health Youth Action Forum. She was chosen to be among 30 diverse young people recognized for their mental health activism, digital and creative skills, and commitment to improving the mental health of their communities.
Bautista and other invitees presented their ideas, solutions, and programs to a variety of stakeholders including the Biden-Harris administration, major companies, and mental health advocate and actress Selena Gomez.
"It’s basically going to be an event where we present the ideas we have, live conversations about how these ideas can be refined, how they can be applied, and how we actually have the opportunity to talk with partners that can pick up those ideas and have campaigns in the future and one of the big ones there is the Biden-Harris administration and thinking how these ideas can be implemented into policymaking," Bautista noted.
The summit came as US President Joe Biden announced an increase in funding for mental health programs. From 2016 to 2020, mental illness among adults aged 18 and over increased from 18.3% to 21% in 2020.
Among the highlights of her visit is when Bautista got to play the role of an MTV news correspondent and had a chat with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. With MTV's reach and the White House hosting, Bautista believes that this platform could help push the conversations on mental health, especially since the nonprofits and speakers include a diverse group of people.
"It's really about listening to the people that will actually benefit from these projects. I think it’s so powerful for both people of color to see people that look like them in the White House and it’s also powerful to sense it in policy making and creating actual campaigns. I’m definitely happy to be there to be able to represent my community."
Other Filipinos including Carla Ibarra also took part in the event. Some of their adventures are also highlighted on MTV's social media feeds. For these advocates, they hope the event could lead to long-term success when it comes to tackling mental health issues.