Lanias named State Youth Advocate


Photo by Faith Owan

Senior Sanoelani Lanias is the 2016 Outstanding Youth Consumer Advocate for Mental Health America of Hawai’i. Lanias won this title for her advocacy in the mental health field.

Senior Sanoelani Lanias has won the Outstanding Youth Consumer Advocate award from Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi for her advocacy in the mental health field. This title is awarded to youth in the community who make exceptional contributions to raising awareness of mental health issues.

Aunty Venus Rosete-Medeiros nominated Lanias for her senior project, a self-published book called Behind Blue Eyes. This book is a collection of Lanias’ experiences with certain mental health issues, some of which include Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Sanoe’s senior project also included a presentation called “Creating Supportive Environments for Students with Mental Health Disorders,” and she spoke about the importance of making the school community more aware of mental health issues and how to deal with them, along with breaking down stigma related to mental illness. Lanias also founded the KS Maui club “Stomp Out Stigma,” which is dedicated to students who need a supportive environment for mental health or personal issues.

“I felt really honored [to be chosen], especially because I didn’t know I was nominated in the first place,” Lanias said. “So it was like a surprise to me, and it made me feel really good and like my work was being recognized.”

Lanias said that she thinks this award will allow her to gain better opportunities in the mental health field.

“It can help me get into more internships, and I think it has helped me with my college scholarships so I can keep furthering my education and helping other people,” she said.

The main contributor to Lanias winning the Youth Advocate Award was her book, and Lanias said that its main purpose was to allow other students going through similar issues to be able to connect with her experiences. Lanias received online messages that asked for advice or gave contact information for other students who were struggling with mental health concerns after her book was released.

“[I] try to talk to them and just be a friend to people…so that they can relate, and it makes them want to keep going because I keep going,” Lanias said.

Aunty Venus said that Lanias’ book is a great tool for educators to be more understanding and aware of the issues some students may be dealing with in terms of mental health.

“Just the awareness alone can help educators understand that mental health disorders are not always so visible like a cast on someone’s arm when their bone is broken,” Aunty Venus said.

Lanias will be attending the 11th Annual Mental Health Mahalo Awards Luncheon next Tuesday, May 17, on Oʻahu in order to celebrate her award and meet with other honorees from Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi.

Her book Behind Blue Eyes is free on iBooks for any students or members of the community to read. Click here to go to the iBooks homepage.