2024 Essay Contest Awardees

Speaking Up About Mental Health

2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest Awardees: Photos of the gold level winners

Gold Winners

Tenacity Through Tumultuousness

Max, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Max, California

In this essay I recount my past: from hospitalizations to advocacy, mental health is not something we just have to "survive" with but rather a tool we leverage to help others thrive, an unabashed reminder against preconceived stigma. As Kelly Clarkson once sang, "'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,'" and mental health has not only made me more resilient but my community as well.

Exposing the Impact of Social Media on Teenage Mental Health: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Michaela, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Michaela, Maryland

This essay explores the detrimental effects of social media on teenage mental health, tracing a personal journey from immersion in virtual reality to self-discovery. The author, grappling with the toxic influences of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, ultimately breaks free from the cycle of comparison and seeks to raise awareness and implement measures to combat social media addiction among youth, advocating for education, support, and regulation.

Let's CHAT: Mental Health Impact on Teens Living With Speech Challenges

Raphael, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Raphael, Hawaii

Navigating through a fluid world as a young stutterer tests one's mental stability on a regular basis. This essay highlights the link between teens with speech challenges and mental health while fostering a communal environment of normalcy for those with speech differences.

Silver Winners

Embracing Authenticity

Aditi, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Aditi, California

Self respect is often overshadowed by societal expectations, but in this essay, I aim to promote inclusivity and emphasize the significance of individuality. Through personal reflections and insights, I underscore the importance of awareness, destigmatizing mental health issues, and increasing access to mental health resources to foster a supportive and meaningful environment.

Change Our Approach: How Sports Can Play a Role in Mental Health

Anna, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Anna, New York

Physical activity is an important health behavior that can affect many different aspects of physical health, but also mental health. In my essay, I describe how sports have impacted me and how having more open, informal team sports can benefit others.

The Roots Affect the Fruit: A Personal Journey of Trauma to Triumph

Ciniyah, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Ciniyah, Illinois

This essay addresses how generational trauma has negatively impacted the foundation of the Black family. By doing so, I examine the brokenness within my own family, the trauma my father has given me, and how poor experiences can make an individual even more powerful.

Behind a Perfect Life

Kathleen, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Kathleen, Maryland

It is important to remember that mental health disorders affect many people, but not everyone is open about their struggles. In my essay, I describe what schools can do to destigmatize mental health conditions and teach students how to reach out for help.

Learn to Live and Accept Your Journey

Paige, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Paige, Texas

I have been battling my anxiety for as long as I can remember whether it was stress over a test, a nervous tick, or worry about my athletic performance. Getting help for my anxiety was the best decision my parents and I ever made because it helped take a massive burden off of me, so that I could go back to enjoying my everyday life.

Drowning in Plain Sight

Rylie, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Rylie, Maryland

By sharing my journey, I hope to bring awareness to youth mental health and what it’s like to feel trapped in your thoughts. My hope by speaking up about mental health is to provide more mental health resources and reduce the stigma around mental health.

Bronze Winners

Normalize the Care to Destigmatize the Conditions

Dresden, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Dresden, Maryland

Destigmatizing mental health issues will only occur if the dialogue surrounding them departs from the current dramatization and glamourization that plagues online media. The first step in building a healthier societal relationship with mental health issues—especially among teens—is to normalize seeking treatment for them.

Keeping My Head Up: My Experience with Dad's Brain Cancer

Gabriel, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Gabriel, New Jersey

Last year, my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and I had sunken into a crippling, hopeless depression. This is my story on how changing my mindset led to a happier life for us all.

Access for Adolescent Athletes

Hailey, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Hailey, Arkansas

I want to spread awareness about the importance of mental health awareness, especially regarding athletes. Mental health in athletes is typically unmentioned and disregarded, so I wrote this essay to highlight the significance on taking care of yourself.

Out in the Open: A Conversation About Mental Health

Iro, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Iro, Pennsylvania

Blindness and negligence are the main reasons mental health is stigmatized, thus they should be eliminated with the aim of creating a safer environment for all students to express themselves freely. By addressing it openly and changing school policies, such as implementing anonymous support groups, mandatory mental health classes, and clubs that provide healthy coping mechanisms, we can reduce the negative perception and educate students and teachers alike on the subject.

A Weighted Wait

Jordan, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Jordan, New Jersey

When most people think of hospice, they only imagine patients who are physically ill, such as those with end-stage cancer, kidney failure, or a traumatic brain injury. However, loneliness within the hospice setting is a serious mental health concern as well, and it is imperative that we compassionately care for these patients in their final months so they may leave this earth in peace and with a sense of comfort and fulfillment.

Embracing Openness: Unveiling Silent Struggles Surrounding Mental Health

Kathryne, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Kathryne, North Carolina

Individuals should never compromise their mental health for cultural expectations; my essay explores the intersection of mental health barriers and cultural norms, specifically highlighting the silent struggles faced by Asian American students. By advocating for accountability among educators and fostering diverse school environments, my solutions aim to empower students to seek support without feeling burdened by shame or cultural expectations.

Speaking Up for Change

Maya, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Maya, Maryland

Personal experience with the American mental health system has given me first hand evidence that something within needs to change. The magnitude of the issue including stigma and long wait times to see certified professionals is a system wide issue, leaving caring providers and patients alike struggling.

Embracing the Journey Towards Mental Health Acceptance

Rachel, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Rachel, California

When I watched my brother be silenced by the world around him, I felt the need to speak up against the stigmas that suppress the realities of mental health. Writing this essay allowed me to navigate through the often-neglected topic of youth mental illness and discover possible solutions with modern-day technological advancements.

Taking a Step Today, for a Better Tomorrow

Savannah, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Savannah, New Jersey

My essay consists of informing people what can cause mental health problems and what contributing factors involve the rise of mental health. Also, contains information about how we can fix or lower mental health issues for teens and adults.

Honorable Mentions

Accountability for Authority: The Responsibilities of Schools

Agaana, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Agaana, Maryland

In discussing why schools need to address students' mental health issues, my essay considers how schools can influence students through academic pressures, social struggles, and management of time within and out of school. While alluding to a personal anecdote of generalized anxiety disorder, I also suggest courses of action that schools can take to mitigate the mental health issues that they contribute to.

Breaking the Silence

Gisele, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Gisele, Pennsylvania

A writing that delves into the crucial topic of dismantling mental health sigmas, ultimately providing valuable insights on how to overcome them. Additionally, this piece sheds light on the collective responsibility of society to foster inclusivity and a supportive environment for individuals facing these challenges.

Navigating Mental Illness in Teens

Icon representing a person's portrait

Jillian, Illinois

Mental health can be a difficult topic. This essay argues that normalizing these conversations can create a safer environment for children to express their feelings and gain mental health support.

How the Neglect of Mental Health Within Black Communities Causes Underlying Issues

Kyle, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Kyle, North Carolina

My essay, (How the neglect of mental health within black communities causes underlying issues) details the relationship between African Americans and the U.S.A. health system, specifically its mental health system, and how stereotype as well as racial discrimination, caused black people to often turn to unlikely sources to release mental frustrations.

Social Media as a Possible Method to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

Mason, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Mason, Maryland

This essay discusses sponsoring social media influencers to encourage them to open up about their mental health struggles because influencers have a huge effect on their audiences. It furthermore analyzes the possible risks, benefits, and specifics of implementing and utilizing this strategy.

Hope to Bridge the Gap

Minsung, 2024 NIH Mental Health Essay Contest awardee

Minsung, Georgia

Mental health influences everyone in society in every unique context, no matter what your background or the hurdles you face. In my essay, I discuss my personal mental health experience as an Asian American and reveal the power of advocacy in breaking stigmas and fostering community support, inspiring change by highlighting the universal importance of mental well-being.

NIH recognizes these talented essay winners for their thoughtfulness and creativity in addressing youth mental health. These essays are written in the students' own words, are unedited, and do not necessarily represent the views of NIH, HHS, or the federal government.

Page published May 31, 2024