Dohyun Kim

Have you ever wondered why most people avoid talking about their mental health problems? The answer is much more complex than it seems. One factor driving this phenomenon is the perceived social stigma surrounding mental health. In today’s day and age, it is difficult to share anything, let alone something so personal, like one’s mental wellbeing. This is why I propose Mentally Sound, an interactive online resource where students can openly discuss their mental struggles and utilize relevant resources to seek help. The fear to speak out stems from mental health not being held in the same regard as physical health. Contrary to physical injuries like cuts and bruises, signs of mental struggles are not visible, making the problem easily glossed over as something temporary and trivial. To worsen the problem, those struggling are self-conscious about societal expectations of “normal” behavior. This synergy of misunderstanding and self-doubt on both ends of the spectrum is behind the surge in mental health issues worldwide. With the increased time teenagers spend on their devices, I wondered how I can best tackle this issue in today’s digital world? Although the internet contains a plethora of information on teenage mental health, students’ behavior is greatly influenced by other students. I believe Mentally Sound meets these needs as it leverages the amount of time teenagers spend online and aims to have readers listen to peers discuss their struggles, ultimately erasing the aforementioned stigmas to create an environment of social acceptance and openness.

With this idea in mind, I interviewed eight high school students through a set of questions regarding their ongoing troubles, either academic or personal. The interviews highlighted a common set of concerns students expressed: to begin, even though our school provides adequate mental health resources, many students believe that counselors can do a better job in providing emotional support and individualized care. Another more pertinent obstacle was the social stigma surrounding mental health. Students explained that asking for help or engaging in alternative activities, such as journaling or meditation, can lead to misinterpretations and unwanted labels by peers. These conclusions are supported by a study from King’s College London, which extrapolated data from 144 studies and 90,000 participants to show that mental health stigma was a key deterrent for forgoing care (Clement et al., 2014). I speculate that society’s continued disregard for troubled individuals and the association of their challenges with feelings of shame, embarrassment, and incompetence, will only exacerbate the problem. In our present time, we must do away with this notion and create a more accepting community through all levels of society. For instance, athletes from Michael Phelps to Naomi Osaka show that one’s success casts a shadow over personal battles like depression or ADHD. Activism and public exposure to these sensitive topics pave the way for more athletes to open up and seek the help they need. Similarly, students need the stories of fellow peers, their day-to-day struggles, and their coping mechanisms. This is what Mentally Sound hopes to bring with its ‘Student Stories’ section. I hope these ‘Stories’, through these interviews, can offer a sense of solidarity amongst stressed students worldwide and serve as a gateway towards a community of greater transparency. By being open to personal issues through these ‘Stories’, students can seek the assistance they need and recognize that they are not the only ones facing these challenges.

Another issue revolving around this societal problem is the general lack of knowledge. The complexity of mental wellbeing requires an adequate understanding of psychology and the science behind cognitive processes. As you can imagine, educating adolescents on topics even professionals don’t have the complete answers to presents a formidable challenge. To tackle this problem, in addition to the ‘Student Stories’, the website will contain resources reviewed by healthcare professionals to aid students in finding accurate and reliable information on the “How to Cope” section. Readers will be directed to numerous resources such as the American Psychiatry Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Mental Health Resources (MHR). While Mentally Sound may not diagnose or treat specific mental health-related issues, it serves as a valuable reference point. Through these resources, Mentally Sound seeks to encourage early detection, which is critical in avoiding the development of more severe and debilitating symptoms. Furthermore, the site will offer bi-weekly blog uploads on the home page regarding how students can manage their mental health issues and their levels of stress. For one blog post, I plan on sharing the daily impact journaling had on me and the changes I was able to experience so that my readers can possibly be influenced to take greater control of their mental wellbeing and self-improvement. Readers can also leave comments, ask questions, or discuss the techniques I employ daily below the blog post. Lastly, an extra layer of assistance that Mentally Sound envisions to implement is a live chat option where students can directly message me on any concerns they have and receive a response in under 48 hours.

Amid these uncertain times, it is now more important than ever to lend a hand to students who are simply overwhelmed by the unprecedented adjustments to learning and social interactions. I genuinely believe Mentally Sound can achieve this by allowing students to voice their struggles. In the near future, I hope to establish a mental health club that works in conjunction with counselors within the context of our school. Through this initiative, the maintenance of Mentally Sound can be ensured, as well as its expansion to a larger audience. One day, I aspire to offer our site’s resources through partnerships with our middle school and possibly expanding our outreach to other schools within South Korea. Having students realize that they are not alone may create a greater urge to speak up for themselves and obtain the support they deserve. One voice at a time, the seemingly large obstacle of stigma can be erased, and those suffering may be freed to live a happy and fulfilling life.

An Update 

Over the Winter break, I have been working tirelessly on bringing Mentally Sound into fruition through discussions with my friends/family and learning about the logistics of operating my own website. It is through this work that I present to you a significant addition to my essay submitted nearly a month ago: The journey of creating my own website has been a truly rewarding process as I have been receiving numerous visits to my website. Although not complete, I plan on finalizing the website’s content by next week and focusing on the marketing aspect of Mentally Sound to my school through google search engines, social media platforms (, and presenting my website to classmates through our school’s morning announcements. I am truly excited to grow Mentally Sound into a global initiative and help high school students be a part of an accepting community through the stories of current students and other insightful information regarding teenage mental health. As you review my submission, I hope you have gained greater belief in my potential to not only contribute to future advocacy through IBPF but also make a meaningful change in the world that we live in.


Works Cited

Clement, S., et al. “What Is the Impact of Mental Health-Related Stigma on Help-Seeking? A Systematic Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies: Psychological Medicine.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 21 Feb. 2014,



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