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  • Stephanie Duguid

Youth mental health initiative

By Guest Columnist Stephanie Duguid


In Mississippi, a revolutionary initiative is taking shape aimed at transforming the way mental health is approached among youth and young adults.


            Open Up Mississippi program, a statewide leadership council composed of persons aged 14 to 26, is leading this charge to engage youth and young adults in breaking down barriers to mental wellness, utilizing their strengths and voices to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.


            The pioneering group is focused on three primary goals: eradicating the stigma and stereotypes that deter individuals from seeking mental health services, raising awareness about the prevalence of mental illness among young Mississippians and advocating for enhanced mental wellness services tailored to the needs of individuals aged 18 to 26.


            A critical aspect of its initiative is the introduction of a new, easy-to-remember three-digit dial and texting/chat code: 988. This number connects callers directly to the suicide prevention hotline and is a lifeline for those experiencing a mental health crisis, emotional distress, or substance abuse issues. Moreover, 988 offers support to people seeking help for loved ones facing similar challenges.


The statistics underscoring the need for such an initiative are stark.  One in six U.S. youths aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder. Among young adults aged 18-25, the prevalence of mental health conditions soars to 30.6%. Alarmingly, half of all lifetime mental illnesses commence by age 13, with 75% manifesting by age 24.  Additionally, high school students showing significant symptoms of depression are over twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers.


            Open Up Mississippi is basing its communication activities service delivery on the unique ways youth communicate and seek solace.  For many, texting is a preferred mode of communication over talking.  Music, too, plays a vital role in their lives, serving as a medium for healing, mood regulation, and expressing feelings.


            The group’s program is also building a peer-to-peer support system, leveraging relationships to extend the reach among students and adults through community

presentations and awareness campaigns to insure the message of mental wellness and the availability of support systems permeates throughout schools and social groups.


            Visit or contact to support or learn more about this transformative initiative can.  The website and email provides links to resources, guidance, and avenues for involvement in Open Up Mississippi’s crucial mission.


Open Up Mississippi stands as a beacon of hope and action in the face of mental health challenges confronting youth and young adults.  By empowering the

very individuals affected by these issues to lead the charge, Mississippi is setting a precedent for how communities can come together to foster understanding, support

and lasting change in the realm of mental health.



EDITOR'S NOTE:  Stephanie Duguid is owner of Do Good ProHealth (CPR Classes) and Do Good Leadership (motivational speaking, and leadership and success coaching).


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