Grad student to present mental health kit at White House

Justine Bautista

Justine Bautista, Ph.D. student in social ecology, is heading to the White House to talk about mental health. Photo by Christine Parales Porciuncula

Justine Bautista selected to take part in MTV Mental Health Youth Action Forum

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Justine Bautista, Ph.D. student in social ecology, will be presenting her idea to create a mental health self care kit at the MTV Mental Health Youth Action Forum at the White House this month.

MTV Entertainment Group, in coordination with the Biden-Harris Administration and 18 leading mental health nonprofit organizations, will convene the forum to drive culture from awareness to action on mental health through storytelling and media. The two-day forum, May 17-18, in Washington, D.C. will include creative and skill-building workshops, brainstorming sessions with nonprofit mentors and industry professionals. 

From the hundreds of applications received, Bautista was selected as one of 30 young people to take part in the forum. Singer Selena Gomez will join the mental health youth activists on May 18.

Bautista’s profile on the website reads:

Justine was born and raised in Orange County, CA with roots in the Philippines. She is currently attending the University of California, Irvine for her Ph.D. and Master’s. She graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and in Integrated Educational Studies, and currently serves as a Research Fellow for the Connecting the EdTech Research Ecosystem Center (CERES). Justine has leveraged her skills in research to be able to understand how digital tools impact mental health outcomes in young people and how we can use media as a tool for creating lasting change.

Bautista is excited about the opportunity “to see my advocacy in action.”

“One thing I appreciate about UCI is an emphasis on translating research into action and actually getting work done in the community,” she says. “This is such a great way for me to connect with the stakeholders that actually have the power to bring my ideas to fruition. It’s also such a unique opportunity to talk to policymakers about what young people need from them and why increasing access to mental health care is so important. I’m definitely also looking forward to meeting Selena Gomez as both a fan and fellow advocate! I’m super excited to just be able to have a conversation with her as two human beings that are excited about mental health.”

Bautista’s presentation centers on an idea to create a digital medium for people to assemble their own mental health care kit where they can reference tools and resources in one place to meet their personal needs.

“This could be especially helpful in a mental health crisis where folks may need one specific place to organize specific resources based on their needs,” she says.

She heard about the opportunity to be part of the forum through the Asian Mental Health Collective. “I applied on a whim, not really believing that it was going to happen since I was aware of the volume of applicants,” Bautista recalls. “I discussed my passion in mental health and, soon after, I was notified that I had been selected.”

Organizers note that mental health struggles have increased dramatically, especially among young adults over the past couple decades. Accelerated by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial injustices and trauma of the couple years, the mental health crisis has been called a “second pandemic” by some experts. 

Although mental health awareness has increased, young people still need help taking actions to support their own or their loved ones’ emotional wellbeing. That’s why MTV Entertainment Group created the forum, to engage young people from across the United States to employ their creative expertise and direct knowledge of their peers to help drive their communities to take mental health actions.