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BlogMarx Wang's Vision for Mental Health Advocacy via ForYouPage.Org

Marx Wang’s Vision for Mental Health Advocacy via ForYouPage.Org

Marx Wang, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington who established the non-profit global platform for mental health and well-being, made a significant contribution to the Science Summit at the 78th United Nations General Assembly. The platform he founded is called ForYouPage.org. At its core, ForYouPage.org is a youth-led NGO, serving as a global coalition of young leaders on a mission to unite youth, strengthen each other’s work, and mobilize their peers in grassroots advocacy for flourishing. Today, we had the opportunity to interview Marx and delve into the motivations that inspired him to establish this organization.

Marx, why did you decide to create ForYouPage.Org? 

Answer: I created ForYouPage.Org with my friends, and the reason was that I had seen almost every single one of my friends struggling with mental health issues, depression, and anxiety. In the very first conversation that we had about creating this organization, I asked my friends who are mostly recent graduates or seniors in college if we just getting the weeks now and they answered, “I’m just trying to get through the day.” Despite struggling with personal mental health issues and total dissatisfaction with the mental health support systems at school, all my friends said they would want to advocate and work to change the mental health systems if given the chance.

That made me realize two issues that became the core motivation of why I decided to create ForYouPage.Org. One is that I realize the immense gaps that exist: there are many mental health programs or service created by schools, colleges, and nonprofits at local and national levels; however, they are not reaching the young people who actually need them. The reason is very simple: if young people are already experiencing depression and struggling with schools, they won’t have the mental energy to take even the first step to participate in any mental health programs. This issue is worse when the programs are often designed very out of touch with young people. But as I mentioned above, young people want to advocate and improve or change these programs if given the chance. They just need a medium, a youth-led environment to provide that opportunity.

Another reason, or perhaps the deeper motivation, is that I see a solution to the mental health crisis is not more a support system but, at its core, resilience and self-efficacy. I witnessed several of my closest friends overcoming severe anxiety issues by stepping out of their comfort zones in classes or club projects. I think what happened is through these risk-taking experiences young people developed resilience and slowly recognized the power they have over their lives. I think advocacy–the very venture to make changes and improve other people’s lives–are valuable opportunity for young people to explore risks while developing resilience and agency. 

How did you discover that mental health issues are widespread among young people? 

Answer: I didn’t really discover the issue as much as I simply witnessed the mental health state of my friends and pretty much everyone around me is struggling with some level of anxiety and depression. What I didn’t realize is perhaps a great portion of them are struggling with a severe level of depression or relies on antidepressants. In addition, I conduct research in psychology and digital wellbeing so through my research it became more clear to me how widespread the mental health issues are. 

In what ways do you believe ForYouPage.Org will positively impact University of Washington students? 

Answer:  The most direct work we will do, as we are experimenting in other schools, is to work with faculties to create incentive structures such as extra credits to motivate students to engage with the schools’ wellness and counseling center. Meanwhile, we also work with schools’ wellness and counseling centers to open more opportunities. These opportunities range anywhere from participating in a peer support group or mental health workshops to helping schools adapt their mental health educational content in a youth language or on youth media. Essentially at the local school level, we aim to create a youth/student-led ecosystem that can allow greater participation between students and school and we hope this system can, in a youth-led fashion, not only bring schools’ mental health resources closer to students and give students ways to shape these programs but also empower youth and give them the opportunities to recognize that they can change the system and therefore in charge.

Could you provide more details about the mission of ForYouPage.Org? 

Answer: of course. ForYouPage.Org has broadly three missions: 1. We want build a grassroots advocacy ecosystem where any young people can and have ways to participate in advocacy and shape and do good to the communities around them. 2. we bring together youth advocates, create a community of support for youth advocates, and claim the power of youth at the collective level on important issues on national and international stages. 3. Through these opportunities and through mobilizing grassroots youth ForYouPage.Org aims to foster resilience, self-efficacy, and agency for grassroots youth and bring flourishing for them.

How does your area of focus or major influence your decision to be an activist? 

Answer: I have decided to be an activist long before I chose my major. As a kid, I grew up in poverty but then I got the chance to go to elite schools, and from there I witnessed that people regardless of socioeconomic class struggles and people from all walks of life want happiness. In high school, I raised close to a hundred thousand in US dollars for college tuition. It was those experiences and the people who helped me that made me decide to become an activist and to seek ways to bring human flourishing/happiness to everyone. In undergrad, I conducted research in human-computer interaction in the computer science field for a long time and some of the projects made me realize how digital devices can be detrimental to our mental health and self-efficacy by taking away our agency through dark patterns. During grad school as I studied more and more into digital well-being and positive psychology I started to recognize the critical role of agency and social relationships in our mental resilience, mental health and broader happiness. These insights grounded my approaches as an activist and build the foundations upon which I started foryoupage.

For more information about Marx Wang and ForYouPage.Org, please visit https://www.foryoupage.org/mission

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