Reflections From the Aspen Institute’s Health Strategy Group and Aspen Ideas Health Festival: A Deep Dive Into Youth Mental Health


Dr. Zainab Okolo sitting in a chair next to other attendees from the Aspen Institute Health Summit    By Dr. Zainab Okolo standing outside next to IDEAS sign

By Dr. Zainab Okolo, SVP, Policy, Advocacy & Government Relations

Last week, I had the immense privilege of attending the Aspen Institute’s Health Strategy Group annual meeting, followed by the Aspen Ideas Health Festival in the breathtaking setting of Aspen, Colorado. Engaging with the Aspen community was, in one word, inspiring.

This year’s strategy group zeroed in on a crucial topic: youth mental health. I was honored to moderate a conversation that delved into the multifaceted implications of youth mental health in digital spaces. Our discussion spanned personal experiences, practical applications, and policy considerations, providing a comprehensive look at this pressing issue.

A special thank you goes to Ruth Katz for the invitation and to the brilliant youth participants: Morgann Noble, Rohan Satija, and Audrey Wang. These young experts shared invaluable insights drawn from their lived experiences and transformative advocacy work. Their contributions were nothing short of enlightening, offering us all a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in supporting youth mental health in digital environments.

The larger conference was equally impactful, featuring robust panels that examined our current health-care system, the effects of climate change on health, health equity, and the overarching importance of mental health for all. The event culminated in a powerful closing address by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. His emphasis on the need for safe digital spaces for our nation’s youth resonated deeply, echoing the key issues raised by our youth panel during the strategy group meeting.

At The Jed Foundation (JED), we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting and prioritizing youth mental health, especially in the context of state and national policy. It is incredibly encouraging to hear our nation’s leaders strategize toward creating a psychologically safe world for future generations. These discussions and the shared vision for a healthier, more supportive environment for our youth are vital as we move forward.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to the fantastic team at Aspen for having me and to all the amazing leaders I had the joy of meeting. The conversations and connections made during the event have left me energized and more determined than ever to continue this important and timely work. Onward.

As we reflect on the insights gained and the inspiring dialogue shared, let us keep the momentum going. Together we can build a future in which youth mental health is prioritized, and every young person has the support they need to thrive.

Stay tuned for more updates and ways to get involved in this critical mission.

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