On Wednesday, Selena Gomez went to the White House to host the first-ever Mental Health Youth Action Forum. The event, led by MTV Entertainment, urged stakeholders to address the growing mental health crisis among young people. The First Lady, Ambassador Susan Rice, and young activists also destigmatized aid.

WASHINGTON — As a proud mental health advocate, Selena Gomez is trying to shift the cultural narrative from awareness to action by taking the issue to the White House.

Days after her “Saturday Night Live” performance, Gomez stopped in the nation’s capital this week to host the first-ever Mental Health Youth Action Forum led by MTV Entertainment. This event encourages businesses and colleagues to address the growing mental health crisis among young people. TThe forum kicked off a day before Mental Health Action Day, founded last year by MTVE, to inspire people to take meaningful action for well-being. Thatt affects more than a third of high school students.

The ‘Only Murders in the Building’ star, dressed in a navy blue sleeveless dress with a floral accent, was joined by First Lady Jill Biden, Ambassador Susan Rice, and 30 activists and creators – all of whom had different personal stories, yet the same struggle to survive. Find out what it’s like not to be okay.

“The darkness within us can feel heavy at times, but we can share the weight of it,” Biden said on Wednesday before introducing Gomez onstage. “It takes courage to be honest about the struggles you have faced and to tell your stories. And it takes courage to understand that your voice can make a difference and to use your creativity and talents. Around the world. I’m so proud of everyone here today.”

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This isn’t the first time Gomez has teamed up with the Biden administration to destigmatize mental health, having appeared in a virtual interview with Kamala Harris on the issue in 2020. But on Wednesday, an emotional Gomez showed the power of leadership through, for example, service and vulnerability by sharing more about her bipolar diagnosis and why the cause is “very personal” to her.

“I felt like when I found out what was going on mentally, I found there was more freedom for me to be okay with what I had,” said Gomez. “Attention to mental health through the media or talking about your travels can help. It exemplifies that it is a topic that can and should be discussed freely and without shame.”

In addition to inspiring openness, she hopes the event will bring tangible changes to key stakeholders to develop accessible, culturally competent services and resources for young people in need.

“I want to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation, has access to services that support their mental health,” Gomez said.

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The importance of highlighting ‘incredible young people who make a difference’.

In addition to strong statements from Gomez, Rice, and Biden, the discussion panel also featured input from young content creators describing their struggles with issues ranging from depression to suicidality. Plus, they shared how they could use these painful experiences to become change makers, as a tearful Gomez applauded them for their courage and honesty.

President and CEO of Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios Chris McCarthy, who hosted the event, said it was “critical” to the event, engaging professionals and empowering young leaders.

“, We can work with experts. We can work with our adult peers. But how do we empower the generation that is most affected by this (mental health crisis)?” McCarthy told this exclusively to USA TODAY in an interview. “That was the event’s purpose…to uplift and hihighlightedhese incredible young people who are making a difference.”

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Following the forum, Ambassador Rice also spoke to USA TODAY about the urgency to address youth mental health.

“We all face this challenge to a greater or lesser extent, whether it be personal lives or those of our families and loved ones and the community, we all face this challenge,” Rice told USA TODAY. “What I found so extraordinary today was that one of the young people said, ‘What’s recordable is manageable.’ And I think that’s exactly the message we have in recognizing the challenge; we need to recognize that it permeates all ages and all aspects of our society; we will be as strong as possible as a nation and take care of the people who make it most need.”

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Bringing the mental health crisis to the White House is just the beginning of what McCarthy calls a “long-term solution” to destigmatization.

Since 2006, MTV Entertainment has devoted its programming to eliminating the stereotypical and irresponsible representation of mental illness on TV with initiatives such as the Mental Health Storytelling Coalition, which was responsible for creating the first of-its-kind Mental Health Media Guide used by NBC Universal, Disney, and more.

“(We) have made commitments about positive depictions of mental health, really destigmatizing and normalizing…and we’ve committed to doubling the number of positive depictions of mental health in our programming,” McCarthy says.

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While much progress has been made — as evidenced by complex portrayals of mental health on shows like HBO Max’s “Euphoria” and Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman,” McCarthy says we must continue to turn awareness into action to address mental health issues better. Understand, make accessible, and treat for young Americans.

“I think it takes a civil society movement. It takes businesses, non-profits, governments, friends, and family to join forces and make a lasting difference,” McCarthy said. “And we’re right at the beginning of that journey. Just because the conversation is being held at this level in many different places is incredibly important.”

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