Interview: Speaker, writer, youth activist, Macy Lee, talks to us about mental health awareness
Youth for Positive Change interviewed Macy Lee, the founder of Talang Dalisay, on how role young people can get involved in mental health awareness.
YPC: Hi Macy.
ML: Hi! First off, thanks so much for reaching out to us and organizing an interview!
YPC: It’s our pleasure. Let’s get straight into it: Do you think that mental health as a topic is fairly represented in the media?
ML: I think mental health awareness is getting more prominent in social media right now. I love seeing different kinds of posts online that showcase inspirational quotes and self help guides. Mental health’s representation in media definitely improved compared to before. In the past, there was less content on the whole spectrum. I feel like there was less acceptance with topics like mental health with regards to the LGBTQ++ community, gender equality, and in school/work environments. Now, it’s the complete opposite. I’m glad more people are getting educated. There are also more resources for people to seek the help they need.
However, I think that many aspects of mental health is still stigmatized in media. It’s seen in the overwhelming pressure for people’s need to succeed in whatever field they’re in, to constantly give in to your peers, and to showcase a certain depiction of your life online. There are too many examples to list.
One important thing to help break this stigma is to just be your authentic self online and to use social media as a tool to emulate positivity. Media is such a strong facet and platform that should be used wisely. We have a lot of responsibility, so when we exercise it well we are already making a change in our own sphere of influence. When we stay genuine and constantly respect others in whatever we do, it will be reciprocated. The key is just to keep this simple rule in mind. While this does not make a drastic change (as media is a very broad spectrum), it will change the way communities treat each other. As a collective, it can change the way society works.
YPC: How can young people – particularly those who struggle to balance school and social life – improve their wellbeing?
ML: They should recognize their want for change and do something about it. Oftentimes, I encounter parents who seek help for their child. They ask what can be done and what next steps should be taken. Parents’ concern is heartwarming, but it’s more important for the child himself to be able to consciously seek out help. It shows that they really care about their well-being and that they’re aware that they do need help one way or another. When you are able to realize the fact that your wellness matters, you can really do something about it. I strongly feel like it’s important to take this first step since it’s a good foundation for a person to stay determined and gritty to fully help themselves improve.
Once you’ve really analyzed your struggle and learned more about it, you can then seek the specific help you need. Help comes in many forms, so just know which one works best for you. If it means talking to an academic counselor for school or peer mentor for social advice, go do it and reach out. One thing I learned is that there is always someone who can help you with things like these. You can also use resources online like YouTube videos, podcasts, and articles. You can check out our organization’s blog as well (www.talangdalisay.org)! Our writers do a lot of advice columns.
My general advice on the other hand would be taking time with yourself to think. Just think about everything that’s bothering you and do what you feel like needs to be done. Do things that make you and your mind peaceful and at ease. Eliminate things that make you feel otherwise.
YPC: Mental wellbeing can be so heavily stigmatized that many young folx don’t reach out to access the resources that may be available to them. What role do you think that adults – namely those in education and government – could do to help combat this stigma?
ML: I think adults should be able to understand the many intricacies teenagers currently face. This current generation is so so different from the past ones. We are extremely disruptive, creative, and unconventional. We speak our mind. We embrace what we love. We shamelessly express ourselves in a variety of ways. Sometimes that’s hard to understand as an adult. Our language is disparate from theirs. I think when adults are able to somewhat decode this language, they can empathize more with us and understand our points of view.
When this is achieved, adults can help us combat this stigma by creating free and accessible programs for the youth especially those in the grassroots. For educators in particular, they should integrate mental health in their curriculum by adding a wellness class or something of that nature. It’s important that students really learn more about it, preferably at a young age. For those in the government, they can create free online workshops or public events that the youth can participate in. They should also integrate mental health laws or acts that protect people’s rights and give them access to free health care if possible. While some of these ideas are idealistic and may not be feasible in different places, it’s still a way for adults to get involved and help us combat the mental health stigma.
YPC: What can young people do if they want to get active in the area of mental health awareness?
ML: They just have to put themselves out there and do something about their passion! They can join different mental health organizations near their area and help out. There are so many available to join in real life and even online. If they’re into writing, they can write and raise awareness through that. It’s also possible they do that through art or even through volunteering in rehabilitation centers or orphanages. Aside from this, practicing your own mental health/reset/self-care routine is the best way to live this out. Take care of yourself! Taking care of yourself first means you can then take care of others, like your friends and family. Love yourself and spread that to the people around you. Mental health starts with you.
YPC: Finally, do you have any activism projects you’re currently working on?
ML: Yes! I’m working on My State of Mind, Talang Dalisay’s international branch. No matter where you are in the world, you can join My State of Mind and become a writer or artist through this link: tinyurl.com/msom-application. You can also follow us on Instagram through this link: instagram.com/themhinitiative.
Other than that, I’m working on an upcoming event with an organization here at UC Davis. I’m going to announce more information on that soon, so feel free to follow My State of Mind on Instagram and Facebook for more info!
Lastly, the core team back home in the Philippines is cooking up so many cool things for Talang Dalisay. If you’re in the area, you should check it out! I believe we have a few partnerships with local universities and schools before the year ends, as well as our own event coming up soon. You can follow us at instagram.com/talangdalisay and on Facebook to stay in the loop.
For any questions you can DM us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
BIOGRAPHY: I’m Macy Lee, a 18 year old freshman at UC Davis. I’m a speaker, writer, and activist. I founded Talang Dalisay, a registered non-profit based in the Philippines. The organization is now expanding to other countries to start international branches to continue the advocacy outside the Philippines; currently we have 3 branches in the US and in 6 other countries.