A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

#BeyondSelfCare: Meet the young creators who are changing the way we think about mental health

4 min
Illustration of a black girl standing among three other faded out faces
Illustration by Nimah Gobir and Marjerrie Masicat | YR Media
When Katie Mitchell saw a therapist for the first time, all she could think about during the entire length of the session was how to get out of there.

“I was young, black and didn’t want a stranger poking around in my brain,” Katie wrote in her essay for “#BeyondSelfCare: Me, Myself and My Mental Health.” It’s a storytelling project created by 25 media makers, including Katie and me, who are a part of a network of young journalists and artists called YR Media.
Illustration of a young person sitting in a therapy session with a dark cloud above their head.
Illustration by Desmond Meagley
Our mission with #BeyondSelfCare is to change the way we think about mental health through a mix of reporting, personal essays, Q+As, resources, and illustrations—even a playlist called “Songs to be Sad to.” By sharing our stories, we’re fighting the sense of isolation that too often comes with navigating mental health options.

Katie reported on the ways mental health services can fail black communities and how those systems need to change. My essay explored social media’s feedback loops, which trap so many in our generation in an internal battle between “Who am I?” and “Who do you want me to be?” Sami Cohen offered advice on handling depression with “5 Ways I Get Myself Out of Bed on Dark Days”—including tip no. 5: Remind yourself everyone has those days.
An illustration of a group of people sharing types of support networks such as, "Family, friends, faith leaders,"
From the article: Feeling some type of way? Find resources here | Illustration by Nimah Gobir / YR Media

We’re no longer struggling in silence. We’re fending off stigma, stereotypes, and misinformation. The collective power of our stories shows us—and our wider communities—that we’re far from alone. And the volume of our voices is a call to action to improve our care systems.
Within our words, you may see yourself.

In Desmond Meagley’s firsthand account of being placed under a psychiatric hold, you’ll find yourself among teens in a psych ward as they realized they were “finally surrounded by people who knew.”

You’ll mourn alongside Anna Grace Snipe in “The Long Reach of Grief After Gun Violence”—not just for the death of her classmates at the hands of a school shooter, but also for a world where these horrific tragedies don’t happen.
Our experiences aren’t always pretty or polished. That isn’t our reality, and what we need is an honest conversation.
You’ll hear LaToya Tooles explain why she opts not to watch “sad black things” and why other people of color should feel empowered to do the same.

Our experiences aren’t always pretty or polished. They can’t necessarily be boiled down as inspiring quotes. That isn’t our reality, and what we need is an honest conversation.

As one commenter said on Facebook in response to Katie’s piece, “So many need mental health care and move through life suffering when they don't have to.”

Sharing our stories is a first step towards improving the systems we depend on for support, shedding shame, and sparking connection. #BeyondSelfCare is about communicating that just because something is “all in your head” doesn’t mean it’s not real or worth talking about. With YR Media, we’re showing it’s just the opposite.