As a young Native woman, Anya Carrillo spent years struggling to find a diagnosis for her mental health struggles. She eventually was diagnosed as having bi-polar at the age of 16. After experiencing judgmental labels from peers and struggling with stigmas, Anya participated in the Arizona Youth Leadership Form (AZYLF) in 2014, where she learned to embrace who she was and turn her disability into a way to help others. After working with AZYLF, she realized the lack of resources available for youth with mental disabilities. Anya then made it her mission to educate youth about disabilities, particularly in rural areas on Native American Reservations.
Anya said, “As a young person who has been mistreated by systems, I have learned to speak out, to advocate for myself, and to encourage and support others to do the same. People who have disabilities are of value. All people who have disabilities have something to share. Being Native and having a disability is my gift, and I intend to share it.”
As the 2017 recipient of the Advocates in Disability Award, Anya will go to the Hopi Reservation and speak to youth and young adults about disabilities. She’s working to connect Native youth with services and provide resources to make more support available on reservations. By holding trainings on self-identity, self-advocacy and self-determination, Anya hopes to raise awareness about negative stigmas within the disability community.
Anya plans to one day work with youth in her own four tribes – Hopi, Laguna, Lakota and Seneca. She said, “because of my personal disability experience, and Native identity, I am in a unique position to let them know that there is a way, and that disability is not as scary as many people think.”