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Exclusive – How Jorge Alvarez is cultivating space for collective mental health reflection

We spoke with the Gen Z content creator and social impact strategist about how he’s channelling his passion for storytelling into action that empowers others, builds community, and guarantees no one has to suffer in silence again.

‘I want to create content that first and foremost personalises the conversation,’ says Jorge Alvarez.

The Gen Zer, who’s committed to authentically tackling mental health stigma, is best known on TikTok, where he educates his 130K+ followers on the importance of collective reflection, unlearning limiting beliefs, and generational healing.

His efforts, however, stretch much further than the app.

Armed with a steadfast passion for improving the wellbeing of young people across the globe, Jorge has spoken at the White House and teamed up with MTV Entertainment, Active Minds, and various non-profit organisations to expand his message of why we should be reframing the narrative in order to generate tangible change in this sphere.

‘There have been a few defining moments in my life that made me take my mental health more seriously,’ says Jorge as we begin our interview.

@ijorgealvarez #greenscreen lmk if you resonate with any part of my healing #originstory 🌱 #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner #healingjourney #unlearningtrauma ♬ Calm LoFi song(882353) – S_R

With regard to how his personal experiences have inspired his interest in guaranteeing no one has to suffer in silence again, he tells me that his inability to understand his own emotions in his points of crisis was what motivated him to start pushing for more transparency in this field of advocacy.

‘The reasons I had to blame for spiralling didn’t initially click, I would repeatedly ask myself why I felt that way, none of the terms we use today were in my vocabulary,’ he says.

‘I always described it as being stressed, sad, or overworked. It was a long time before I recognised that all of it could have been prevented or mediated had I had the appropriate language to articulate it growing up.’

This, he explains, acted as the catalyst for his desire to carry these lessons forward and foster inclusive spaces to facilitate a wider, more accessible, discourse.

Yet in 2021, when Jorge was failing to resonate with a lot of the content creators out there, he realised that he had his work cut out for him.

The Media Kit a TikToker With 135K Followers Pitches Brands With

‘There weren’t many BIPOC individuals holding these discussions,’ he says.

‘I felt as though I needed someone like me to raise awareness about these issues and that’s when I took my voice to a digital platform to reach a bigger audience and be the face I wasn’t seeing.’

What Jorge refers to here is the structural racism and systems of economic inequality in America that continue to exacerbate these problems within BIPOC communities and disseminate harmful ideologies like that of toxic masculinity (or ‘machismo’ in the context of Hispanic and/or Latinx individuals).

Due to the dominant nature of these attitudes, Jorge has not only been tasked with guiding others through how to deal with such challenges, but dismantling them as well.

‘Toxic masculinity shows up in every culture in a different way, but generally it means that men are expected to keep quiet,’ he says concerning the role it plays in contributing to the staggeringly high number of men struggling with mental illness and in hindering their willingness to open up about it.

@ijorgealvarez we’re breaking that cycle RIGHT NOW 🙅🏽❌ thinking of making a series on this 🤔 #machismo #toxic #latinosbelike #latinostiktok #latinxtiktok ♬ original sound – ollie

‘While this is shifting quite rapidly among young people, there’s much to be done to address the obstacles men face when seeking to talk about their mental health in public settings.’

In Jorge’s opinion, confronting this demands a careful approach that both honours vulnerability and steers clear of language which may have a counterproductive effect.

‘Statistically, if you mention ‘toxic masculinity to a man, he’ll hold back,’ he says. ‘But if we focus on solutions and avoid honing in on the negative connotations, it’s a lot easier to digest.’

Jorge’s comprehension of how to correctly navigate this is attributable to his trauma-informed training, academic research assessing programmes supporting those with chronic mental illness, and on-the-ground work with crisis patients.

This exposure, he says, has helped him grasp exactly how those pursuing advice wish to be spoken to online.

‘They want to be able to relate, to know how you’re feeling, and to see that you’re staying true to yourself. It’s about being wary of spewing clinical or triggering jargon and showing up as someone you’re not.’

Acutely conscious that not one person’s journey is the same, Jorge’s ethos centres on ‘sharing what’s uncomfortable, but not what’s unsafe.’

His objective is to encourage meaningful conversations about mental health within his community (and beyond) that are as respectful as they are thought-provoking.

This, he emphasises, is not possible if he ignores his own limits.

‘Identify your capacity and set boundaries so that you have enough energy to show up in the way you would want to be shown up to’ says Jorge, whose unfettered sincerity that he’s ‘still learning too’ is a prime example of how social media personalities should express to their audiences that they legitimately care.

@ijorgealvarez Part 1! Looking forward to sharing the other 4 😊 #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner #therapytiktok #mindset #healingtiktok ♬ My Potna Dem – $ilkMoney

‘I couldn’t talk about the things I do had I not embodied my truth and practiced that in my own reality. It’s about recognising that everyone has a spectrum of mental health that they’re constantly navigating and, ultimately, owning your story.’

Coming from someone who weaves storytelling into every facet of their activism, this is certainly very apt.

For Jorge, whose numerous ventures include a TikTok Latinx Creatives Grant-funded project alongside Jazmine Alcon to improve mental health discourse between BIPOC parents and their children as well as a partnership with Active Minds on an educational curriculum in the same vein, it’s the glue that binds together his passions.

‘I love telling stories. I’ve always been drawn to it,’ he says.

‘To change behaviour, you need to connect on an emotional level before you can plant the lesson in people’s heads. Storytelling achieves this. Continuing to integrate it in all the things I do and build that craft is my priority because, moving forward, I want everything I do to make people feel something – to provoke reflection at large.’

Of course, the art of digital storytelling is no mean feat. Especially nowadays, with Gen Z spending half its waking hours watching videos, most of which they’ll have forgotten about just minutes later.

In response, Jorge tells me that he strives to produce genuinely valuable content that isn’t designed for the algorithm alone, doesn’t put engagement before the individual, and consequently won’t be ‘lost to the void.’

‘If you’re going to create, create intentionally, otherwise you’re complicit in promoting the endless scrolling we’ve all fallen victim to in the 21st century. Create with purpose and know why you’re doing it. Who you’re doing it for,’ he says.

‘I want to bring people together to participate in the dialogue and not fear sharing their own opinion about what I’m suggesting. My favourite thing is when I put something out there and they start doing the work themselves. This is where the unlearning takes place. It trickles down. It inspires.’

Spreading the word can only go so far, however.

@ijorgealvarez Lmk if I should share more about whether or not you should cut said person off, communicate your needs + work on the relationship, OR accept the relationship has changed + move on with life? 👀 I’ve thought about and worked on this for months so I have a ton to say #frienship #selfawareness #peoplepleaser #empath #lowenergy ♬ Paris – 斌杨Remix

Besides directing people to the resources and support they can access away from their screens; Jorge highlights that, as a whole, we should be viewing mental illness through an intersectional lens.

‘People are gradually recognising that their one size fits all approach isn’t effective and that cross-sector collaboration is key,’ he says.

‘They need to be honing in on specific categories and making people feel like they’re truly being seen rather than just lumped into a single cohort. If you speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.’

With this in mind, Jorge’s mission today is defined by his determination to be more holistic and offer aid in a multidimensional manner because ‘gun violence, poverty, the climate crisis, etc. – it’s all critical to and intertwined with wellbeing.’

From there, he says, we can begin pivoting towards action, which Jorge already has his fair share of involvement with.

Chosen to join a select panel of advocates for the White House’s first-ever Mental Health Youth Action Forum last year, Jorge had the opportunity to sit down with senior officials from the Biden-Harris administration and present his ideas for a more mentally-equitable future.

Ruminating on this, it’s his perspective that for those in power to get to the root cause of the problem he’s trying to take part in solving, they must hand over their power to young people.

‘Fortunately, this is happening thanks to the accelerators of my demographic [albeit at a snail’s pace],’ he says.

‘Looking ahead, instead of condensed short-term opportunities, we deserve pipeline programmes and permanent positions. Share that power, give us more seats at the table, let us participate in the decision-making so we too can instigate progress.’

And, without question, consistency is vital.

@ijorgealvarez #greenscreenvideo from going through it in my dorm room and feeling like there was no way out, to sitting on stage at the WHITE HOUSE OF ALL PLACES AND WITH @selenagomez 😭 this was possible bc of all of YOU. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️ #firstgen #firstgenerationstudent #firstgengrad #latinostiktok #hispanictiktok #latinograd #hispanicgrad ♬ original sound – betches

Accustomed to being bombarded with press requests during Hispanic Heritage Month and little else for the remaining eleven months, Jorge firmly believes that marginalised groups should be front-row in these discussions year-round.

It’s a sentiment echoed by all Gen Zers, whose overarching objective is to fight this fight as a unit, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, or background.

‘We often put pressure on ourselves to do everything we can to change the world. I love that we bring that energy to the table. But we can only have so much impact. It’s a collective effort,’ he finishes.

‘We’re all striving to make a difference. We may not see it or feel it constantly, but we can find power in it. We’re not alone, we’re a force to be reckoned with. One that’s operating separately but all at once at the same time.’

‘The mental health conversation starts within us. It doesn’t matter who you are, ask those questions of how we can be collaborating on addressing this issue as a collective.’