For his senior project, Joshua Hoong wanted to make a difference at his school and in his Natomas community.
So the 17-year-old Inderkum High School International Baccalaureate candidate launched a campaign urging understanding and compassion for people suffering from mental illness. Joshua’s message is simple but powerful: “Each Mind Matters.”
“They’re people, too, and they shouldn’t be looked down upon or separated from society,” Joshua said, adding that he cares deeply about the issue because a relative has been impacted by mental illness.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, Joshua and about a half-dozen friends painted the words “Each Mind Matters” and related messages, including “Be Part of the Change,” on the public artwork commonly known as “the book” beside Del Paso Road near the North Natomas library.
Wednesday, Oct. 7, Joshua and his friends hung green ribbons in the Inderkum High School atrium to promote the same theme of inclusiveness, empathy and concern for the mentally ill.
“Each mind does matter – and each person matters,” said Joshua, who works part-time as an intern for Sacramento’s state senator, Dr. Richard Pan. At school Wednesday, Joshua wore a green headband promoting mental health awareness.
Joshua developed his mental health campaign with assistance from a wide-ranging nonprofit coalition, “Each Mind Matters,” that describes itself as “California’s mental health movement,” representing “thousands of organizations working to advance mental health.”
Later this school year, Joshua said, he hopes to organize a public event at which doctors can discuss the effects of mental illness and those suffering from it can share their stories.
One of every four adults — approximately 61.5 million Americans — experiences mental illness in a given year. About one of every five teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Though motorists spotting his artwork on Del Paso Road might not immediately grasp that “Each Mind Matters” refers to mental illness, Joshua said he hopes that people reflect on that simple message, check out the nonprofit group’s website — eachmindmatters.org — and act with compassion, not discrimination, toward those who suffer from mental challenges.
“I think it will make a difference,” Joshua said of his project.
Andrew Amador, who helped Joshua paint the “Each Mind Matters” artwork, said he pitched in because “I wanted to support the cause of mental health awareness” and because he’s committed to community voluntarism.
Cody Reyes, another member of Joshua’s team, said he personally has learned from the project. He never really gave much thought to mental illness, he said. “I feel a lot more serious about it now.”
Cody said he was happy to help. “Anything that benefits the community, I support,” he said. “I felt good doing it.”
Joshua’s civic-mindedness comes naturally, perhaps. He is the son of Anna Vue, who was instrumental in creating Inderkum’s IB program and has been active in numerous other school and community activities, including the Natomas Schools Foundation.
“I’m really proud that it’s a student-led effort and they’re going out and making a difference on their campus,” Vue said of the mental health campaign. “That’s really neat.”