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Interview

Aayat Aziz.

I see that you’re part of Paper Planes Kashmir. Could you tell us a little about the initiative and what you hope your audience gets from it?

Paper Planes Kashmir is a mental health advocacy platform where we aim to create awareness about mental health and destigmatize it. We create original content about types of mental issues, social issues which in turn lead to mental issues and motivational content to spread positivity. We also have weekly instagram live sessions with experts to address questions that the audience have around mental health.

What motivated you to become the head of Paper Planes Kashmir? Furthermore, what advice would you give someone who is wanting to launch their own start-up but are held back due to the fear of commitment and responsibilities?

Serving my community has always been my passion and during the pandemic, a lot of people were dealing with mental issues and I wanted to do something to give people hope in trying times. Also, Seeing myself struggling and not knowing where to go prompted me to start this initiative as an offshoot of Paper Planes Bangalore. If I have to give advice, I would say put your heart and soul in whatever you do, and have a balance between your study, work and personal life.

I saw your feature on The Purple Diary Project, in which you stated that you enjoy art/creative advocacy. Could you tell us a little about that?

I am a person who loves art and takes Theatre as one of my subjects in high school. I always wanted to create change through the medium of art as it is universal. I have been involved with a lot of advocacy platforms online to create awareness about various issues like girl education,gender equality, mental wellbeing, bullying etc.

How has the pandemic affected you mentally? What things did you learn about yourself during this pandemic that you didn’t know before?

After schools were shut, I was forced to move back to kashmir. Studying online and submitting all assignments on time due to government restrictions on the internet was hard and took a toll on my mental health.  I started involving myself in the arts, volunteering and cooking helped in my daily routine.Coping up with everything was hard but involving a hopeful element to it made things better. I learnt that having an optimistic approach and creating opportunities out of challenges is all one needs to fight.

What self-care practices do you recommend? Furthermore, why is it important to scope out time for yourself each day?

Eat healthy food, drink lots of water, and do whatever you feel like. Take breaks in between work because you are not a robot. The amount of money you earn doesn’t matter if you are not happy or you don’t take care of yourself. Enjoy every moment you have and treat yourself whenever you can coz why not? Loving yourself is the first step for a sound mind.

Why do you think prioritising mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Mental health should be considered as important as physical health.Prioritising mental health is important as youth is more vulnerable to mental issues due to their competitive nature and pride. They don’t want to lose and get labelled as a failure. We need to understand failure is part of life and accept it. We need to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again and come back bolder and stronger.

Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?

We are open to any kind of collaborations. If you have any collaboration ideas for Paper Planes or with me, you can message us instagram or email us at @paperplaneskmr@gmail.com


Check Out Aayat and Paper Planes Kashmir!

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Interview

Bryll Bautista.

Interviewed by Joyce from Revive’s Interview Team.


Why are you interested in modeling? 

I am interested in modeling because I love creating art with amazing creatives. It’s inspiring to hear their stories and work with them to create great photos together. But most importantly, I love that through modeling, I can show representation for the Filipino community. I have always had an interest in fashion and taking photos since I was a little girl but I didn’t think I was able to pursue modeling until I got scouted.

There are many stereotypes about modeling. What is your opinion on these stereotypes?

I believe that all sizes should be represented in the media. Models show products that are for the consumers and there should be representation for different sizes rather than the standard sample size. Many models are pressured to go down to a certain size even when they are already healthy. The stereotype of sample size has led to many mental and eating disorders.I think that the industry is becoming more inclusive now but there is still a lot more room for change.

What are some mental health tips that you would give someone?

Some mental health tips that I would give are to unfollow any accounts that are toxic to you and learn to love yourself. It is okay to feel down at times and although it may be hard to let out your feelings and just suppress them, it is completely valid to let out your feelings, and speak with a professional for treatment if you need to. It is important to understand the way that we feel and learn how we can heal from it.

What does body positivity mean to you? How should one embrace their body rather than comparing it to others?

Body positivity to me means loving your body for the way that it is and appreciating all the great things it does for you rather than how it looks. At times it can be hard to not compare yourselves to others, especially through social media, but one very important thing that we should all remember is that we are all beautiful in our own unique ways and our bodies deserve to be accepted and loved. You can embrace your body by your sense of style and practicing gratitude each day, write or say positive affirmations.

Is there a quote that motivates you?

A quote that motivates me is “visualize your highest self then show up as her” This quote motivates me because you can truly achieve anything that you want but the most important thing is that you must believe in yourself and work hard.

Does social media affect your mental health? If so, how? 

Yes, social media has affected my mental health. I do struggle with body image and am guilty of comparing myself to others. I have my days when I find it difficult to go on those platforms and take a break from it at times. I feel like I get caught up in other people’s achievements and have a sense of imposter syndrome and compare oneself to other models or influencers. Social media is a highlight reel and comparison really is the thief of joy. We all are on our own paths and don’t know what a person that you see on social media can be truly going through so you shouldn’t compare and just focus on yourself. It is easier said than done but it is something that I still work on each day. 

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Prioritizing mental health is so important especially for the youth because it builds a foundation for their well-being. The youth is a critical age for development and learning how to take care of yourself and knowing your limits will help the overall self-esteem and greater ability to control emotions in the long run. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me mental health means taking time to take care of yourself. It is knowing your limits and setting boundaries for yourself.


Check out Bryll!

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Interview

Mathushaa Sagthidas.

Interviewed by Kimberly from Revive’s Interview Team.


What is your favorite thing about photography?

Photography allows me to reflect on various aspects of my identity as well as creative ideas freely. However my favourite thing about photography would have to be the collaboration process – through photography I’ve able to meet so many talented and incredible creatives. 

Can you share a favorite story about your experience with photography?

For me, my favourite story would have to be probably how I became interested in photography, which through a one off one week work shop/ work experience opportunity that I completed/ was interested in purely because it was the most creative one available – I didn’t think it would go this far at the time.

Can you go into detail about what is fashion promotion and what you did?

The fashion promotion course that I was on allowed to explore fashion and styling creatively, but it also included the more business/ marketing side of it too – it was through this course where I started exploring, learning and understanding slowly parts of the fashion industry. It really involved short projects that were about 2 weeks where we were given a brand brief to explore before creating a final major project that explore our own personal interests.

What do you hope to achieve being a photographer and stylist?

Through being a photographer and stylist, I hope to continue meeting more and more amazing creatives (something that I have been doing in the last two years), but also bring more representation to the south Asian community.

How do you embrace your culture and identity?

I started embracing my Tamil heritage and culture more and more through photography and since then this interest has just kept on growing because theirs is so much that I am curious about and want to learn.

Does being a photographer and stylist help you with your mental health?

This is actually something that I’ve never thought about before but when I think about planning a shoot, especially planning around everyone’s availability, it’s stressful, draining and probably the least enjoyable part. However when I’m on a shoot it’s an amazing vibe and honestly the perfect break from various distractions and even my phone.

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Mental health is very important, but I think acknowledging and bring awareness to it is definitely more important – growing up I think a lot of people I was around, including myself didn’t realise the importance of it but I think that’s because no one was really bring attention to it, especially when you’re younger – I feel like some people think ‘you’re a child, you have no stresses what could you be going through?’, which can be ignorant.  


Check out Mathushaa & Her Work!

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Interview

F LION.

Interviewed by Kimberly from Revive’s Interview Team.


What inspired you to become an artist?

As a young girl I really wanted to be an artist/ singer. I listened to the radio on road trips with my parents and imagined I was singing on a big stage. I started to take singing and piano lessons. When I was older, I took part in talent competitions. Then I knew this is what I really want to do!

What type of music do you sing?

My taste of music is very variable. From Edvard Grieg ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’, Nina Simone, Art Garfunkel and many more genres and artists. I enjoy singing many kinds of songs from different artists. So I cannot really choose what I really like. Though the music I write and produce are experimental/ avant pop.

Has music ever helped you with your mental health? If so, please explain.

Yes, a lot! It is basically the reason why I choose to work as an artist. When I was sad, I listened to many songs that would cheer me up or made me feel comfortable and less alone. The beautiful thing of music is that it helps people to let their feelings go if things are not going well. Or it can bring them to an higher state of happiness. I have developed my depression while I was studying at the University. I was fired from my internship, which really made me doubt about myself, who I was and where I belonged in this world and society. What did I really want? Eventually I came in contact with a producer. We started to write and produce songs. I decided to write about my sadness and depression. It helped me to deal with my pain.

Has being an artist affected your mental health in a good or bad way?

I think many artist put their emotions in their music. Even if it is about happiness or sadness. It also helps process negative emotions. Being an artist is a bit of a proces to process my pain. It gives the effect on my mental health in a good way so to speak. 

Based on your Instagram bio, you are a survivor of depression. How did you combat your depression/ how are you combating it?

I talked with a psychiatrist. Not my favorite thing to do. Antidepressants helps me too. Through my past I had developed PTSD. I therefore followed intense therapy. I also had the strong motivation to heal. With a bit of willpower I was able to overcome my depression. However, it was not an easy way. Today I am happy and grateful, but my past made me the person who I am today. Sometimes I feel sad and lonely. I recently had a relapse with my depression accompanied by severe panic attacks and lost a lot of weight. Despite I stay positive and get the best out of life.

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

It seems that our society has very high standards. We have to get high grades, have a good job and so much more. The image social media and some influencers have does not help either. It makes the youth insecure about their abilities and appearance. I think that this is dangerous. It is a part that can be very unhealthy. It is good that there is someone you can look up to. Think critically and do not imitate everything indiscriminately.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

In the past, the focus was always exclusively on physical health. But mental health also plays a role and that is just as important. I often find this being forgotten. Fortunately, people are waking up and they see that this is no longer acceptable. There is a need to talk about this subject and the taboo that still prevails must be broken.

Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?

I am working hard to be an artist/ singer in the Netherlands and abroad. I hope to release my first single at the end of this year and even make more music. As an artist I also want to do more for mental health awareness.


Check out F LION!

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Interview

Fatimata Cham.

Interviewed by Shivani Dave from Revive’s Interview Team.


 I see that you are the founder of Muslims Matter… What motivated you to start this organization?

 I think it was like a year and a half ago, I was kind of just thinking to myself, there isn’t really like a space that I’ve seen at least that highlights authentic stories without building in like stereotypes, biases and prejudices about Muslims. So, I was thinking, why don’t I just create a page or like a platform that shares these people’s stories? And I thought a lot about it. Prior to college, I went to international boarding school. So, I was already surrounded by people of different cultures and backgrounds and ethnicities and I wanted to highlight that a lot with Muslims Matter, because I know that a lot of people may view Muslims as a monolith, even though we are diverse. There’s Muslims in America and Afghanistan and Europe, basically all over the world. So I wanted to share their stories and their experiences either, you know, even if it’s like a negative experience, like negative and positive experiences, either practicing like the Muslim faith or just experiences with Islamophobia or stereotypes and stuff that’s already.

How are you able to deal with all the hate in your organization?

I quite frankly didn’t take a while to be able to deal with a lot of negative comments and stuff. Even when I post, such as videos on my personal Instagram of me talking about issues or reciting poetry like not controversial, but like issues. I every now and then I’ll get comments from people who are I don’t even know, to describe them. But like you have opposing views, polarizing views than I do. And sometimes it is hurtful and I just kind of delete them or block them or just allow other people to engage in conversation with them. But I think for now, like as far as I’ve gotten older, I really quickly realize that sometimes you can pick and choose, like if you want to engage in that hate. And I’ve kind of just chosen to take a step back from it, because it’s always good every once in a while, to have conversations with people who are like you and have different opposing views. But then also you must be mindful about your own like mental well-being. So just trying to find a balance between engaging in conversation with those types of people and not.

What do you hope people come to understand when you look at your organization?

Yeah, I think what I hope people get away with is people’s individual stories and their backgrounds and the diversity that they bring to the table. But also, how I never like to judge a religious group by actions of other individuals. And I know that with any faith really in the world, that can have negative connotations based on individual actions. I think especially with Islam recently has really been huge with the media’s tropes and stereotypes that are perpetuated. Even with movies sometimes painting a negative light. But I just want people to see the human aspects and know that these are actual people, and these are the experiences. Basically, we are all different.

What advice would you give to someone who’s starting their own organization?

 I think the biggest advice is don’t limit yourself. I have had to kind of step back. This is all this work that I’m going through right now. But I think recently I have just been learning the importance of partnerships. And really, I feel like one way to really expand an organization is really looking for other organizations that are doing similar work as you and like seeing like, oh, how are they using their social media platforms? How are they using resources around them to kind of expand their network in their organization? Like valuable partnerships, you want long term partnerships. I know for a lot of times I’ve done collaborations in the past and it’s as if we do a collaboration and then we never talk again. So trying to find partnerships with other people and start building long term, because in the end, you never know where the other person’s organization is going to take them and if they know you along the way can definitely help.

How do you balance your personal life and your work life?

 If I was in a perfect world, I’ll be like, yes, I use my planner all the time. But the truth is, I think what’s really helped me stay sane and balanced all the stuff that I’m involved in outside, even my own individual work, has really been like prioritizing myself. And I know it sounds crazy. It’s like, oh, my God, you’re trying to have an impact on the world but you think of yourself? Like, what do you mean prioritization? I mean, I really noticed like how I never realized, how hard I was on myself and how much pressure I put on myself to make sure that I was always like showing up everywhere, showing up to every single meeting that I had planned and making sure that every single case that I did was like done perfectly or at least align with my schedule and stuff. And I think prioritizing myself has helped. I think also finding an organizational method that works for you. For me in the past, I always relied on the old school planner type stuff. But then I quickly realized that it does not really work for me. I like Google Calendar better. So really, just finding an organizational method that works best for you.

What inspired the idea of Topic Tuesday?

I was thinking, how can I not kind of just push people with large quantities of information all at once because I know that people can get overwhelmed with all the information. I was like, you know what? Maybe I should just dedicate days where we talk about different issues or topics that relate to my organization and the work that we do. So that’s kind of how I went about on Topic Tuesday. Just happened to be the day that I picked because I thought it sounded nice.

If you feel comfortable, do you mind talking about the issue in France of the ban of Hijabs?

So I’ve talked about this a lot before, but I think what’s going on in France is disheartening in a sense, because I feel like regardless of people’s fear, they should be able to practice it the way they want to. And I think for a lot of people, I feel like people think it’s just about the hijab. But what I want people to understand is that this is really about the weaponization of women’s bodies and people and governing bodies feeling like they meet the needs to control women’s bodies, really, because it’s no longer about  let’s take away the option, it is now you’re taking away the choice to wear the hijab. And if it’s really about liberating Muslim women, then you’d give them the choice. Right. So now you’re contradicting yourself. It’s no longer about, oh, Muslim women being oppressed because of their job. Now you’re completely taking away the choice. And now women who may have felt liberated wearing the hijab no longer have that liberty. I just found it really interesting lately just seeing the discourse surrounding the issue. And I completely am with my sisters and my Muslim friends in France who are like fighting against this issue.

What does freedom of speech mean to you?

Well, I think for me, like growing up here in America, I think I value that a lot because I think it’s allowed me to express myself and like to share my voice. I think oftentimes, yes, there are women of color who are subject to having their voice more surprised. But I feel like given the space and time and the time that we are living in, I do value it a lot because I think it gives me the space to talk about issues that I deeply care about and had not been in place. I feel like I would not be happy because I would have to suppress my thoughts and feelings. So, I do value freedom of speech.

What does Mental Health mean to you?

I value mental health and I think I’ve done well in the past. It hasn’t been something that I’ve talked about openly as much because I didn’t have the option to. I feel like I have been given the space to do so as much recently, which is great because I’ve just been really thinking about my mental health, especially during this pandemic for the past year and a half, being cooped up at home. It’s really been hard for me at first and I didn’t have the vocabulary to put into words like what it meant to me. But I think it’s something I deeply value is that I’m glad I was put in a situation where we are able to think about these things more. It’s something I just put on the backburner because I wanted to be a successful student and I wanted to be great at what I was doing, but at the expense of my mental health. I wasn’t really thinking about my wellness. And then it gets to a point where you hit a wall and you get burnt-out from everything, and that’s because you weren’t prioritizing your mental health. It’s definitely something I value. And I think people should really value it more and be openly talking about, because I think it’s something a lot of people don’t really recognize.


Check out Fatimata!

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Interview

Juliana Dawdy.

Interviewed by Shivani Dave from Revive’s Interview Team.


I see that you are the founder of Brains in Beauty… What inspired you to start this organization?

I’m one of those people who will wait for the “perfect” time to start. However, after seeing amazing female student-leaders doing great things through their organizations, I decided to stop overthinking and just start! Along the way I’ve learned a lot and grown, but that never would’ve happened if I didn’t just say “yolo”!

How did you come up with the name, Brains in Beauty?

I get this question a lot actually, but to be transparent, it just came to me! I like alliteration, and the name refers to the brains (or the scientists) in beauty (the cosmetics industry).

What are a couple of things you want consumers to keep in mind while purchasing cosmetic makeup?

Having chemicals in your products is OKAY! Some people have a stigma that cosmetics that are natural or organic are better, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a certain ingredient that makes a product safe or effective—it’s how its formulated. The whole purpose of cosmetic chemists is to make sure products execute certain functions AND are safe with the known standards! However, if you’re going to research a product or ingredients, get your information from reliable sources like scientists’ research papers.

What was your favorite post on Instagram to research about?

Probably my “Your Moisturizer is a H.O.E.” series! Usually, I don’t get to write too often because I’m directing other initiatives, but I was able to go back and learn into one of the first things I learned when I got interested in cosmetic chemistry.

What do you want people to know about Brains in Beauty?

You don’t need to be an aspiring cosmetic chemist to follow us! We strive to provide a variety of information that everyone—whether you’re into STEM or want to see how your favorite cleanser works—can learn something from.

What inspired you to create an organization of both Cosmetic and Chemistry? (It is not a very common field, so it’s very inspiring to see someone take the initiative to research something this unique!)

For the longest time, I felt like I had to choose between my passions of beauty, science, and design. Starting Brains in Beauty allowed me to demonstrate my preexisting knowledge and learn new things about all three simultaneously! 

What skincare products do you recommend the most? As well, what products do you recommend if someone is under a lot of stress?

I don’t have a specific brand of products I recommend; instead, I have recommendations for the types  of products everyone should use: a cleaner, moisturizer, and sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum). If you want to spice it up, add a product that treats a concern you have like discoloration, acne, or aging.

Stress has real effects on the skin! It releases a catalytic enzyme commonly known as cortisone reductase that turns inactive cortisone into active cortisol, which impairs the barrier function of the stratum corneum (uppermost) layer of skin. To preserve the barrier, it’s important to wear sunscreen and give your skin extra hydration through serums, slugging, or masks. (I like using sheet masks when my skin is struggling extra hard!)

How are you able to balance your work in the organization with your personal/social life?  

To be honest, this is still something I’m working on! Based on what’s happening in my life, sometimes I have to put some ideas or tasks for BIB on the backburner and vice versa. I find I balance better when I don’t overthink how big a task will take and when I prepare in advance.

What is one mistake you made while in the organization and how did you overcome it?

One mistake is not having an onboarding process! Clarifying roles, tasks, and team communications is super important for how smooth the organization runs, and I used to just wing it, which isn’t fair to others. I also like to establish a connection with the people I’m working with. Now, I have a one-on-one meeting where I clarify expectations soon after they join.

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Habits are really set in stone when you’re young, and your mental health affects the habits you adopt. Encouraging people to talk freely and nonjudgmentally about mental health, especially youth, helps them learn how to achieve and maintain a beneficial mental health. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me, mental health means taking a break. It’s hanging out with my friends. It’s being gentle and patient with myself. Naturally, I’m a pretty anxious person, but since then, I’ve improved how I respond to stressful situations. Although it’s not a linear process, seeing how long I can go without a panic attack or without succumbing to my dermatillomania (stress-induced and unconscious skin-picking) is a goal I’m constantly reaching for!

Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?

I do a lot because I enjoy staying busy! However, I’m not perfect, and sometimes, my mental health is impacted because of all of my activities. But as someone who struggles with anxiety, I want to encourage you to learn more about how to manage your mental health! Organizations like Revive provide amazing and interesting resources that will push you to reach out and prioritize keeping your mentality healthy.

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Interview

Sneha Pasupula.

Interviewed by Ashna from Revive’s Interview Team.


Do you believe the government does enough for those with mental health conditions? Why or why not?

I do not believe the government does enough to help those with mental health conditions. Many acts of terror, such as mass shootings, happen as a result of both white supremacy and easy access to guns. These atrocities have been deteriorating the mental health of Americans nationwide. Regardless, the government has not taken enough action to break down the institutions that uplift white supremacy. Furthermore, the government continually fails to enact common-sense gun control, which leads to the worsening of gun violence in America, which contributes to America’s mental health crisis. On top of this, mental health care is inaccessible for Americans due to its high cost for those with or without insurance. To say to someone to “go to therapy” if they are struggling with mental health is insensitive, as it is difficult for many to afford it.  Without establishing universal healthcare, the government will only worsen this lack of access. 

How is school during COVID contributing to your overall health?

School during COVID has taken an enormous toll on my overall health, both physical and mental. Before COVID, I used to dance and sing 5+ times a week in school. Both of these activities helped me relieve stress and practice self-care even while dealing with anxiety. Since these activities are largely unavailable due to COVID, I found my anxiety to be heightened. Starting college didn’t help with that either, as getting thrown back into a learning environment after not having school for six months (my high school let seniors stop schoolwork in March due to COVID) made me question my own intelligence. Professors at my university were not as lenient as they should have been during a pandemic, resulting in a university-wide worsening of mental health. All students I know have been struggling with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression due to COVID, and the pressure of deadlines and other aspects of college only make it worse.

Why do you believe it is important for youth to get involved in politics?

The best way to get lawmakers to enact change is by pressuring them through direct action, such as protests and marches. Generation Z is a powerful age group, as they’ve had to grow up amidst numerous catastrophes yet have the drive to call for change. Furthermore, this generation is more socially and economically progressive than any other previous generation. The current youth don’t want minor, incremental reforms – they want transformative change that can tackle the institutions in the US that uplift white supremacy. Because the youth is such a large and growing voting block, they have the power to influence who gets into office and what policies are enacted. If this generation bands together and gets involved in politics, we can help shape the country we want to see – one that puts people over profits.

What steps do you take to get your voice heard?

Especially during this pandemic, social media has been a great way to have my voice heard. I frequently express my thoughts on US politics and social issues on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok. Back when I had school in person, I would regularly have conversations with my friends on social issues to both educate them and hear their opinions on the ongoings of US politics. Through these conversations, I help those around me understand the importance of civic engagement. The most important part of making your voice heard is to not silence yourself when those who disagree with you want to bring you down. Especially as a woman of color in the south, I’ve dealt with numerous right-wing people, especially men, who’d invalidate my opinion, call me uneducated, and do anything in their power to silence my leftist or progressive views. They’d yell random Trump quotes when they saw me in the hallway, and they’d cyberbully me on social media, posting negative comments on anything political that I’d post, they’d do anything to get under my skin. However, I didn’t let them stop me from voicing my concerns that I knew deserved to be heard.

How can one control their anxiety during COVID? 

As terrifying as it sounds, reaching out to others and creating support systems have helped me open up about my anxiety. By sharing my concerns and struggles with my friends, we have given each other coping strategies that have helped me control my anxiety during COVID. Also, UNC students are fortunate enough to have access to free short-term counseling and psychological services through our school, so taking advantage of those resources helps. While I get anxious looking at the increasing number of cases around the country, I help balance my anxiety by reminding myself that I am taking the measures I need to be COVID safe, such as staying home and getting vaccinated. Lastly, I find journaling to help me collect my thoughts when going through an anxiety attack. While I don’t journal as much as I should, I’ve found it to help calm my anxiety when I need to most. 

What activities do you do to release stress?

Sitting or standing outside in nature does wonders for stress-relieving. Just being able to take walks around the neighborhood and feel the fresh air helps me stay in the present. I also love to dance or sing when I get the chance, as expressing myself through art is one of the most natural things that comes to me. Lastly, I always love listening to nostalgic music: Taylor Swift, One Direction, you name it! As mentioned earlier, writing down my thoughts also helps me collect myself when I am really stressed.

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

For many, including myself, poor mental health is the barrier between ourselves and who we want to be. The youth have so much potential to become impactful artists, engineers, doctors, policymakers, and more. However, a poor mental health can make one lose sight of their goals and dreams. For me especially, this pandemic has made it difficult for me to find the motivation I once had. By prioritizing mental health, we can help ourselves start the healing process from the collective trauma that COVID has brought us.

Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?

For those struggling with mental health issues, especially during this pandemic, I stand in solidarity with you and wish you the best. My mental health is far from perfect, and I still have a long way to go to reach recovery. I’d be lying if I said I wake up most days feeling super energetic, but I am healing through getting professional treatment and working on myself. Please remember that healing is not linear, and any relapses in mental health you have are valid.


Check out Sneha!

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Interview

Ramaya Thomas.

Interviewed by Kimberly from Revive’s journalism team.


How did Ramaya start WESPARKCHANGE

She and her cofounder started WESPARKCHANGE the summer of 2020 out of anger, frustration, and continued sorrow for the Black community in regards to police brutality and racial injustices. They started it by reaching out to peers and their communities to uplift their thoughts and opinions about what was going on and swiftly moved it onto a social media platform for people around the world. 

What does the organization stand for?

The mission of this organization is to invite the bright young minds of our future to progressive issues in order to cultivate an environment where youth are enlightened, educated, and most importantly empowered. This organization stands in sparking change and serving our communities. 

What are some things Ramaya did to become a Social Impact Honoree for The Conversationalist?

  • Co-founder of WESPARKCHANGE
  • Involved Atlanta community member/volunteer
  • Political and social justice journalist
  •  Representative in the media/radio stations 

What made you decide to start an organization?

One of the reasons I started an organization was because I knew that not only was my voice valuable but so many of my peers and many of us, especially my self were tired of feeling unheard and unnoticed. 

How has your mental health affected you during the BLM protests?

It honestly has been exhausting, mentally and emotionally I am tired of consistently seeing people who look like me die in their sleep, while running, at school, at stores, and more. It has made me fearful of having a Black father and baby brother not knowing if when they go to the grocery store will they be victims next. 

Have you ever experienced an attack of fear, anxiety, or panic?

Yes, I have experienced a plethora of attacks of fear, anxiety, and panic. It’s hard being Black in America not knowing any corner you take how my life will be in jeopardy. 

Can you tell me about any times over the past few months that you’ve been bothered by low feelings or stress?

I have felt a lot of stress from school and trying to be a social justice activist. I have honestly found it hard going on social media and then the only things I see are Black men and women dying at a heartbeat. 

I have also felt a lot of stress from reaching perfectionism in this awe of being successful throughout all the boundaries in America. 

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Because it’s important for us to understand that it’s okay not to be okay, it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that is okay for us to be sensible and not desensitized to the norms of our society at large. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

Mental health because prioritizing self needs, thoughts, and emotions first for a person well being. It means feeling comfortable saying no, privatize self-care, and balancing a life that throws so much at us. It means staying in tune with myself.


Check out Ramaya and WESPARKCHANGE!

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Interview

Allene Yue.

Interviewed by Joyce from Revive’s interview team.


In your opinion, why do you think mental health is an aspect that’s neglected in society? How can we change the perception of mental health problems? 

I think mental health is rarely talked about because it can be a scary topic for many people. A lot of the time, people want to present the best side of themselves, especially because society pressures them to, but when everyone shows only what they want others to see, it leaves no room to show any imperfections. This unfortunately leads an even larger problem, because when practically no one talks about their mental health or their struggles, we often forget that they exist or are simply too afraid or too embarrassed to speak up about our own experiences or reach out for help, as it makes it seem like we’re alone in our struggles.

How can high school students help to destigmatize mental health? 

 I believe that by having more students share their stories and experiences with mental health and being fully honest about all of it, more and more people will be open to reaching out for the help they need and be more encouraged in knowing that they aren’t alone. This is why I think building communities, especially of youth, where people are honest, understanding, and not afraid to talk about their mental health or experiences is essential toward destigmatizing mental health.

What tips do you have on self-care, self-love, or mental health?

As a high school student, I know school, extracurriculars, and any other type of work or peer pressure can bring about a lot of stress. While setting high goals for yourself is a good thing, it’s still important to remember to take breaks and understand your limits. Even if it’s just 5, 10 or 30 minutes, taking time out of your day, away from all forms of stress, is essential toward caring for your mental health. 

How did you find the importance of mental health?

For a lot of my life, I was entirely clueless about what mental health was or how and why it was important. It wasn’t until high school when I felt a lot more pressure, especially while attending a competitive school and beginning to set higher goals for myself. However, I found myself coming across content on various platforms of more and more people speaking up about mental health with experiences similar to mine, while also finding content about mental health disorders and issues I had never heard of before. Finding this type of content was like a reminder for me to take a step back and prioritize my own mental health, while also showing me just how important it is to spread mental health awareness so that it doesn’t have to be such a hidden and misunderstood topic. By simply seeing that I wasn’t alone, it gave me the confidence to feel more comfortable about my own struggles.

Please tell us more about Self Care Support! What sparks the idea of a mental health organization? How does it help people? 

I actually started Self-care Support as a small project last year because of the pandemic, in 2020. I entered my idea for this organization into a competition and managed to win a $1,000 grant to put my plan into motion. I specifically wanted to create a mental health organization because I knew that the pandemic has had such a huge impact of people’s mental health this past year, especially for students while transitioning from in-person to online learning and while having to stay away from friends and support groups. I wanted to create Self-care Support to not only spread mental health awareness, but to also inspire youth to make the most out of their time, despite the pandemic, by making a difference in their communities. We strive to create a community of youth, entrepreneurs, and changemakers, where we not only share content recognizing and explaining mental health, but we also share the stories and advice of the people within our community. We have various initiatives to move toward this mission, including Supporting Students, where we feature organizations that provide helpful content or opportunities for high-school students, along with daily mental health challenges, a podcast interviewing female leaders, a small business spotlight, and mental health curricula and activity lesson plans for teachers to use in their classes.

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?

Today, there is so much pressure on students to juggle numerous things at once–school, extracurriculars, work, sports–and that pressure is fueled not only by expectations from teachers and parents, but also the desire to “fit in” and rise to the top when comparing yourself to others. But when the ultimate goal becomes doing whatever it takes to be the best, you easily forget that you’re still so young and shouldn’t have to overwork yourself at such a young age. It’s great to tackle new challenges while still young, but these things can often get in the way of being truly happy or having a healthy mind. By prioritizing your own mental health, you can take away some of that stress and pressure that might be overtaking your life and outlook. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

In simple terms, mental health is the state of my wellbeing. For me, it’s all about finding what makes me happy, knowing my limits, and being able to honestly say that I am good enough without having to compare myself to others or meet someone else’s expectations.


Check out Allene & Self Care Support!

Categories
Interview

Krisha Khandelwal.

Interviewed by Adelaide Ng.


What advice would you give someone who is currently experiencing mental health struggles?

Get Help. The best advice that I can give to anyone who is currently experiencing mental health issues is to let people who are close to you know what you are feeling, and to ask them for help. Break the stigma surrounding mental health conversations, and openly tell people who are close to you what you are going through. Asking for help is not something to be ashamed of, but instead you should be proud of yourself for having the courage to do so.

Why do you think the stigma surrounding mental health is so heightened?

People are embarrassed to talk about their mental health issues mainly because they are afraid of what other people will think about them. When it comes to mental health, there is a
lack of education and awareness, and many a times, there is a fear of people with mental illnesses. All of these things only add to the stigma surrounding mental health.

How do stigmas affect mental health victims?

The stigma surrounding Mental Health can lead to people feeling shameful, hopeless, and isolated when they are facing mental health problems. It also makes people afraid to ask for help or to get treatment.

How do you personally cope with school-related stress?

Being a full time student as well as an international chess player, Indian classical singer, and an executive director of a successful international non-profit organization, I certainly have a lot on my plate. The best way for me to cope with stress is by prioritizing. Prioritizing is an important skill and I strongly believe that if you make time for what you believe is important,
there will be time for everything. I also make sure that I give myself a break every now and then in order to avoid burning myself out.

How do you think schools should improve their mental health programs? How can they support students who are combating mental health conditions?

All schools should educate staff, parents, and students on symptoms of mental health problems, and train them on how to provide basic help for anyone facing mental health issues. They should also promote social and emotional wellness, and have a wellness center on-campus, designed by and easily accessible to all students.

What self-care practices would you recommend?

Some self care practices that I would highly recommend are: having a sleep routine, exercising regularly, and taking breaks as and when needed.

Do you believe that support systems are important?

I certainly believe that having a support system is really important. Having a good support system of people that you like, respect and trust plays a really important role in recovering
from a mental illness.You should always have people in your life whom you feel comfortable talking to about what you’re experiencing and whom you can ask for any help or support you
may need.

Other than mental health, are there any global issues that you are especially concerned about?

Apart from Mental Health, a global issue that really concerns me is bullying. Having been a victim of bullying myself, I know how hard it is for victims to deal with bullying, and how you dread going to school, how you feel helpless when you are being verbally abused and when you are being pulled down or cornered, and how your anxiety builds up. I’ve been through it. In order to help defeat bullying, I founded my own non-profit organization, Let’s Defeat Bullying. You can learn more about this org bu checking out our website-
https://www.letsdefeatbullying.com/


Check out Krisha and Let’s Defeat Bullying!