*Trigger Warning: This story contains a discussion of suicidal ideation. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
I saw my first TED Talk on YouTube when I was 13. I remember thinking how cool it would be to give my own TED Talk one day. Back then, I didn’t know what I would speak about – the only thing I knew was that standing on the big, red circle was something that I wanted to do at some point in my life. Fast forward exactly 10 years later – I gave my first ever TED Talk at UCLA. With this TED Talk, I hoped to cultivate a conversation around suicide and empower the audience to make mental health a priority in their life.
Sitting down and writing my TED Talk was an eye-opening process. Experiencing mental health challenges is one thing; writing about said challenges from a healed perspective felt like I was looking at my life from a bird’s eye view. I was able to see how much I overcame and felt my resiliency through the page.
The main goal of a TED Talk is not about the speaker on stage, but rather the idea that they are spreading. The most important takeaway was not my personal mental health story, but instilling hope in the audience exactly how to have a safe conversation around mental health. I wanted to find the perfect balance of my experiences and lessons that the audience could take home with them.
This year marks my 9th year in the mental health space, as I’ve been publicly speaking since I was 14 years old. I started out as an advocate – sharing my personal story to spread awareness around mental health – and now I am an activist that focuses on mental health policy, suicide awareness and prevention, and working with policy makers to spur political and social change.
My struggles with mental health cast a dark shadow over many of my experiences as a teenager and were compounded by the cultural shame I faced when seeking treatment as an Asian-Indian woman.
From the ages of 13 to 23, the greatest challenges I endured were my struggles with my mental health. Most of my youth and teenage years were plagued with debilitating amounts of depression and anxiety that almost cost me my life.
The root of my passion for mental health lies in my priorities of vulnerability and empathy.
I never thought I would reach a point in my life where I would be able to talk about my mental health challenges; I always believed that my struggles would be something I would keep with me and the closest people in my life who were witnesses to my battles. I didn’t know that public speaking would be something I would be interested in, yet alone, capable of doing.
What once was my biggest struggle turned into a passion of mine – being an activist and cultivating safe and open conversations around mental health, suicide, and well-being. This goes to show that you never know where life can take you, and you must never dim your voice.