Matthew Argame – California State University, Long Beach

Matthew Argame is a graduating senior at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) studying religion and pre-medicine, aspiring to one day become a psychiatrist and neuroscientist. While attending CSULB, Matthew has become a dedicated advocate for mental health thanks to the many supportive staff, faculty, and students at his university. Although Matthew’s advocacy for mental wellness and suicide prevention developed during his undergraduate years, it was largely influenced from his childhood experiences. The combination of losing a loved one to suicide and having personally struggled with poor mental health due to his disabilities as a child motivates Matthew to be a mental health advocate.

In 6th grade, Matthew discovered poetry, which ultimately helped Matthew to understand, accept, and move pass the once paralyzing feelings of anxiety and depression. As a freshman at CSULB, Matthew was selected to be on the Associated Students, Incorporated’s (ASI’s) Slam Poetry team, where he performed many original poems related to his experiences. Matthew saw poetry as an avenue for deep listening, a skill he believed could help people through difficult times. With a growing love for the personal narratives of individuals and the desire to hear the stories of others, Matthew founded and curated a new program on campus, TEDxCSULB, which provided the Long Beach and campus community with a globally recognized platform to share their stories and ideas. Now, TEDxCSULB is an ongoing annual conference at the university, with the speaker’s stories collectively reaching tens of thousands of views.

In recognizing the importance of deep listening and intentional dialogue in the healing process and in suicide prevention, Matthew began working with the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) department through a program called Project OCEAN (On Campus Emergency Assistance Network), where he served as a licensed suicide prevention trainer and the public relations officer. Working with Project OCEAN, Matthew has trained hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and administrators in becoming gatekeepers for suicide prevention. Matthew and his team also put on events like Live Your Life Day and Candlelight of Hope. Live Your Life Day is an annual event that reaches thousands of students every year. Candlelight of Hope is an annual night of solidarity meant to remember those who lost their lives to, or have been affected by, suicide.

Matthew’s personal experiences with disabilities allowed him to understand both the beauty and challenges of diversity and identity. It’s ultimately what motivated Matthew to serve as the Chief of Staff, an executive officer, of ASI. In this role, Matthew manages and supervises fifteen secretaries in the ASI President’s Cabinet, an important role to him because each secretary serves and represents a perhaps vulnerable and marginalized community. The secretary positions which he oversees range from LGBTQIA+ affairs, disability affairs, veteran affairs, AB540 and undocumented student affairs, international student affairs, cultural affairs, to women’s and gender equity. In this role, Matthew has also served as the Chair of the Student Health Advisory committee relaying pertinent information from the Student Health Services (SHS) department to students. To ensure that mental health and wellness remains a priority to the university, Matthew has also created a Commissioner of Wellness Affairs position in ASI, which is designed to bring cohesion to the variety of wellness programs CSULB has on campus.

Through Matthew’s leadership and advocacy experience, he discovered the value of scientific research and its ability to impact individuals and communities. This is the reason why he is participating in a two-year intensive research program funded by the National Institutes of Health called BUILD (BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity). Through this program, Matthew is conducting research on neurological disabilities and mental health through the university’s Clinical Neuroscience and Public, Population, and Global Health labs. In sharing the research narratives, Matthew has presented at thirteen reginal and national conferences and symposia, some of which have earned honors. This includes research at the Stanford Medicine X Conference, where he presented his research on hearing loss, as well as the national Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, where he presented his research on brain injuries. In addition to this, Matthew developed and executed his own research project for his honors thesis which he hopes can combat physician suicides by providing pre-medical students with the knowledge, skills, and resources to encourage help-seeking behavior and to prevent suicides among their patients and among themselves.

Matthew’s experiences have helped him to realize the true vulnerability of the human condition, the need for constant love and compassion, and the impact that deep listening and intentional narratives can have on the lives of many. While Matthew wants to become a physician-scientist, the larger vision for his life is to simply decrease the stigma about mental health and to increase opportunity for healing to those in need.

We would also like to recognize this year’s very impressive finalists:

  • David Lim, Stanford University
  • Melina Acosta, University of Texas, San Antonio

Thank you to our distinguished panel of judges:

  • Dr. Joseph Behen – Executive Director of Counseling, Health, & Disability Services School at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Sheri Klein – Vice President, Campaign Development at Ad Council
  • Kerri Smith Nickerson – Grantee and State Initiatives Manager at The Suicide Prevention Resource Center/Education Development Center, Inc.
  • Maggie Skoch – 2016 Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award Honoree
  • Carol Ullman – Founder, Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award

Learn more about the award and view previous honorees.