Mental Health Advocate Hayley Winterberg, 16

Phoenix, Arizona's Hayley Winterberg, 16, is a mental health rock star. She created a program for youth ages 13-23 who have dealt with mental health disorders, substance use and/or foster care-related issues. It's called Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment (MY LIFE), and its goal is to improve mental health care in Arizona and across the country. This year, she won the mpower award from Mental Health America for her work encouraging youth to get help for and promote understanding of mental health conditions. Very cool. We asked Hayley to sit and chat:

I Heart Daily: What inspired you to start MY LIFE? Hayley Winterberg: I was diagnosed as bipolar at 12, and I found that there was no group that focused on youth who struggle with mental disorders. I wanted kids to know that they can be heard and they can have a voice. That they don’t have to just be stuck thinking, “Oh I’m crazy,” and having that self-stigma.

IHD: What do you hope MY LIFE does for the people in the group? HW: We work on social skills, hope, inspiration, leadership skills, and much more. Many people start off their first meeting not knowing anyone or talking, couple meetings later they have friends and are speaking up and getting involved, and for most they eventually begin telling their stories and helping in our community presentations.

IHD: What changes do you hope to see come out of MY LIFE's efforts? HW: We are the future. It's important to involve us in the decisions that are made about health policy, because they affect us. Eventually I would like to see groups like MY LIFE around the nation, so youth everywhere can get involved, make changes, and have their voices heard.

IHD: What does winning the mpower award mean for you/to you? HW: I was shocked. I really didn't realize all the work I had done, and the changes that have been made because of MY LIFE. I am honored, but I know there is still more to do.

Love this girl. Find out how to get involved in MY LIFE.