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Life as an LGBTQ Teen in Rural America and Mental Health Advocate: Meet Trace

Trace Terrell’s journey demonstrates the power of turning struggles into strengths to drive change. His story offers hope and insights for creating a future where all youth feel supported.

Growing up a gay youth in rural America, Trace felt isolated and alone. He experienced severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and a profound sense that he didn’t belong. The stigma surrounding his identity and the lack of mental health resources in his community left him feeling hopeless.

Today, Trace is a mental health advocate and researcher working to ensure other young people never feel the same hopelessness. His journey represents the difference one youth voice can make in driving reform.

At just 14 years old, Trace found light in a dark time when he began volunteering at a youth crisis line. For the first time, he connected with peers facing similar struggles. He realized he was not alone. Talking youth through crises and connecting them with resources ignited Trace’s passion for advocacy.

Since then, he has shared his story with legislative committees and national coalitions to make the case for change. He studies innovations at Johns Hopkins that can increase access to care. He trains youth advocates to provide peer counseling, so no struggling teen feels alone. Further, Trace has previously volunteered with Active Minds, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting teens and young adults who struggle with mental health.

Trace stresses the need for providers to understand youth culture. He advocates for peer support networks to surround youth with care and community, especially in rural areas where mental health resources are scarce, but stigma persists.

Through his advocacy, research and training programs, Trace is working to reshape systems designed without youth input. He is excited to bring his perspective to initiatives like NAMI’s new youth advisory council.

Trace’s journey proves young people should have a seat at the table where decisions about their mental healthcare are made. After all, youth are the experts on their own needs. Trace demonstrates the power of youth voices in reducing stigma, increasing access, and designing care that works. His story offers inspiration and insights to all who seek to improve youth mental health.

Tune into Trace’s full-length episode with Nobody’s Perfect Podcast host, Jason Hopcus, here, and be sure to follow Nobody’s Perfect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok.

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