2024 DMV Youth Assembly on Mental Health

By several measures, the United States is undergoing a mental health crisis.  This is especially true for young Americans, who are experiencing higher rates of anxiety, depression, emergency room visits, and self-harm, including suicide.  Youth in America face an array of dangers, like bullying, sexual predators, gun violence, domestic violence, drugs, and else, yet collective youth deliberations are not commonly part of mental health or wider safety and security policy-making.  For these reasons, Learning Life, a Washington DC-based educational nonprofit, is organizing a Youth Citizen Assembly on Mental Health (hereafter, “the Assembly”) for motivated DC area high school students to be able to come together, learn, deliberate and propose policy solutions that could help improve mental health for youth in the DC/DMV metro region.

Citizen assemblies bring people together to learn, deliberate and propose policy solutions to challenges they face.  Such assemblies are held online and/or in-person, and have been used in a variety of countries, including the USA, to widen participation in policy-making at local to international levels in order to make government policies more representative of the informed views of their citizens.

The Assembly will occur over two Saturdays in October 2024.  The first session will be online, for about two hours, and focus on learning about mental health issues, trends and policies in preparation for the culminating four-hour Assembly in-person at the DMV Democracy Festival (DemFest) planned for Saturday, October 19.  Those youth selected for the Assembly will be expected to attend all meetings, and will be guided in their learning and deliberation by adult professional volunteers in the mental health and dialogue fields.  Learning Life will invite local, state and federal government officials to attend the Assembly to listen to the students’ deliberations.  The students’ policy conclusions will be written up and shared with all those participating, as well as government officials.

If the 2024 Assembly is successful, pending funding, Learning Life aims to make youth assemblies an annual event coinciding with DemFest, that works to give regular, public voice to DC area youth on security issues and policies that affect them.  This DMV youth assembly project is part of Learning Life’s wider DMV Democracy Learning Community, an association of DC area individuals and organizations working to make democracy more fun and inclusive by developing social events, products, services and spaces that entertain and nurture learning, networking, collaboration and wider, deeper citizen participation.

To take part in the Assembly, you must be a high school student in the DC area, which we delineate as the light green “core” and “suburban” areas on this map.  If you are a high school student in the DC area and would like to take part in the Assembly, please fill out this form.  We will notify you by mid-September as to whether you’ve been selected.  All students who fill out this form will be kept updated via email about the Assembly and the wider DMV Democracy Festival. More details will come to those students who are selected to participate in the Assembly.  In selecting students we will aim for a diversity of schools, types of schools (public, private and charter), cities/towns, and for student diversity by gender, race, ethnicity, and parents’ education level.  We will also take into account your answer to the form question “why do you want to take part in the Youth Assembly on Mental Health?” so please be thoughtful and honest.  Contact us at email@learninglife.info with any questions.