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Thrive: A Youth Mental-Health Summit

Join Truth Initiative for “Exposing Vaping as a Mental Health Issue,” a rebroadcast of our panel at The Atlantic Festival that draws awareness to the connection between nicotine use and the worsening youth mental health crisis. In this latest Impact Series event, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and former vaper turned activist Daniel Ament join Truth Initiative® CEO and President Robin Koval to highlight well-established research that shows nicotine both harms developing brains and can negatively affect mental health by worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The panel follows the launch of “It’s Messing with Our Heads,” the latest youth vaping education and prevention effort from truth®. As part of this effort, Truth Initiative released a report, Colliding Crises: Youth Mental Health and Nicotine Use, which examines years of data on nicotine’s impact on mental health. A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that youth depression and anxiety doubled during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic estimates. Meanwhile, youth vaping remains at epidemic levels with 20% of high schoolers vaping, and nearly 40% of those doing so on a regular basis.

This panel, which was part of The Atlantic Festival’s “Thrive: A Youth Mental-Health Summit” underwritten by Truth Initiative, also featured Zak Williams, son of Robin Williams and a mental health advocate who recently told his compelling story in “The Me You Can’t See,” along with other advocates and experts.


Robin Headshot
Robin Koval
Robin Koval Robin Koval is CEO and President of Truth Initiative®, the national public health organization dedicated to achieving a culture where all young people reject smoking, vaping, and nicotine. An acclaimed leader in the advertising and marketing world, and New York Times best-selling author, Koval joined Truth Initiative in 2013. She’s led the successful re-launch of the award-winning and lifesaving truth® youth tobacco prevention campaign and expanded the organization’s world-class research, public education, youth activism, and digital cessation programs to also combat the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
Murthy Headshot
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. As the Nation’s Doctor, the Surgeon General’s mission is to restore trust by relying on the best scientific information available, providing clear, consistent guidance and resources for the public, and ensuring that we reach our most vulnerable communities As the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Murthy commands a uniformed service of 6,000 dedicated public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.
Daniel Headshot
Daniel Ament
Daniel Jeffery Ament is a college freshman from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. In September 2019, Daniel became very ill due to vaping at the age of 16 years old. After spending 29 days on life support, Daniel faced imminent death prior to receiving one of the first double lung transplants in the world from a vaping related illness on October 15, 2019. Today, Daniel is committed to sharing his story publicly and launching his non-profit organization, Fight4Wellness, that seeks to encourage young people to live a healthier and happier lifestyle and improve overall mental wellness with training for counselors, coaches and parents to provide alternatives for coping with the pressures of being a teenager void of substances.

Other notable speakers

  • Zac Williams, Mental-Health Advocate and Son of Robin Williams
  • Miana Bryant, Founder of The Mental Elephant
  • Kate Julian, Senior Editor at The Atlantic
  • Amanda Mull, Staff Writer at The Atlantic
  • Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project
  • Holly Wilcox, Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Truth Initiative Impact Series

The Truth Initiative Impact Series is a robust, recurring event that brings together key stakeholders and experts to engage in thought-provoking conversations about ways we can innovate and inspire action to achieve a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping, and nicotine. The goal of this thought leadership series is to convene diverse partners in tobacco control and other public health organizations, parents, teachers, and policy makers, who can benefit from Truth Initiative’s work.

In case you missed it, watch our previous Impact Series events "Unvaping America's Youth" and “Not Buying It: The Tobacco Industry's Rebrand.”