By Adrienne Moore

WOODLAND (CBS13) — A new movement was empowering conversations on youth mental health at the White House on Wednesday as part of the first-ever mental health youth action forum.

The goal is to help young people embrace conversations about mental health and not shy away from getting help. Among those speaking at the event was a young Woodland man and mental health activist.

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Juan Acosta, who walked between First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and superstar Selena Gomez, was one of 30 activists at the White House trying to change the way we talk about youth mental health.

“My biggest belief in the mental health field is that young people should be receiving support now without them having to reach a crisis point,” Acosta said.

The Woodland native was among a group of youth leaders selected to take part in a special conversation about youth mental health where the First Lady said the pandemic added fuel to the crisis.

“We’re recovering every day but recovery isn’t always the same as healing,” Biden said.

Gomez shared her battle with bipolar disorder.

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“It’s a topic that can and should be discussed freely and without shame,” she said.

(credit: Juan Acosta)

U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention research gives a glimpse of the suffering among many young people. The latest data show more than a third of high school students said they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic — 44% said they felt regularly sad or hopeless.

“I have learned strategies and found people who can help me sustain my center even in those moments when I feel wobbly again,” said Diana Chao, the founder of Letters To Strangers.

It’s a sentiment shared by the other young leaders who say opening up can be an important first step.

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Mental Health Action Day is Thursday. CBS13 will have a series of stories touching on the subject throughout all of our newscasts, including hearing more from Acosta whose mental health journey is not only compelling but inspiring.

Adrienne Moore