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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

Annie James.

Interviewed by Shivani Dave from Revive’s interview team


As one of the founders of Calm Harbor Counseling, why did you decide to create the organization? 

Calm Harbor Counseling is a private practice venture that differs slightly from most pages. A primary motive was to involve evidence-based practice: my “guide to” and “social science of” posts accrue information from relevant papers and translate it from higher-order form for a niche audience. 

It allows those searching for data regarding mental health access to contemporary higher-order information vis-a-vis mental health otherwise generally available behind a paywall. Higher-order posts are balanced by straightforward ones for readability and accessibility. A future venture involves including several Indian vernaculars for further accessibility. It is one of my deep regrets that CHC’s online presence is English-oriented in a geographical space abundant with sonically remarkable and impactful vernaculars. Vernaculars are the norm, not an anomaly, in my multicultural professional approach.

What were your favorite topics to research in your Instagram Page? (Please explain your topics in more detail)

Existential-depth psychology being my area of specialization, I gravitate towards related subject matter: existential anxiety, existential freedom, etc. However, I primarily focus on providing evidence-based, organized information regarding mental health conditions/issues and other related factors.

Related factor posts include: (1) colorism: a review of 3-5 papers on colorism and related mental health issues, (2) commercialized self-care. However, these are slightly more theoretical and hard to grasp. Admittedly, this limits the traction such posts gain. I spend time making posts directly involving mental health conditions (depression, disordered eating, loneliness) more accessible in terms of readability and content organization. I do not tend to have favorites, most of my posts arise from personal experience as a therapist in private practice, peer counseling, supervision, or recent reads. I tend to viscerally engage with particular subject matter and then translate it into higher-order, list, or organized posts according to the complexity I wish to address it with. 

What were some challenges you faced while being an online therapist?

An evident and recurring challenge is that I am in-adept in dealing with social media. I do not use social media, I am off-grid entirely on social media: I do not even have a LinkedIn profile or a private account. It is rather difficult to maintain an intrinsic motivation to post given my aversion to social media (I was quite the opposite about 4-5 years ago) and even determine what works/does not work.

What encouraged you to keep continuing on posting in your Instagram Page? 

I intend to provide a page that is well-curated and acts as a visible social footprint of research and mental health related matters that all individuals can access and browse through. The freedom and confidence that comes with self-assurance (non-comparison, not defining myself by numbers or engagement) encourages/facilitates my engagement with CHC’s Instagram page.

What inspired you to start writing your own newsletters?

A rather short answer: I used to run a message based newsletter to friends, peers, university groups during my MSc. I then transitioned to substack when it was recommended by a peer. It is mostly a selfish motive: I would like others to read what I believe are interesting and seminal papers whilst randomly including reflections/notes. I maintain an excel sheet of all the papers I have read since October 2020 (I am a tad lazy to go backwards and recollect all others across undergraduate and graduate years). 

It is often said that the level of competence one graduates with sustains for a few years into industry/9-5 work/outside-academia work and that is not something I wish to inculcate/propagate: I write for myself and for others who wish to engage with academic materials despite varying circumstances. However, my newsletter is excessively research and analysis oriented, so it is not great in terms of accessibility, unlike my Instagram page.

What are some tips you would give to those who are also starting their own newsletters?  

The explore-exploit rule: set a limit for how much exploration you might/ought to do before beginning production. Over-consumption/too much choice might strip one of self-confidence and lead to information/choice flooding.

I noticed that you included anime as a part of your selection in your round-ups. How and why did you decide to include this as a recommendation? 

My undergraduate degree was an Honors program in English literature. To retain the hermeneutic skills I treasure and excel at from that program, I frequently analyze texts of all natures. However, I do not listen to music (I do listen to pieces of art, occasionally), watch TV, or read fiction (I read fiction a few times a year now, including manga). 

Anime has been an interest since I was in my single digit age years and I maintain an excel sheet and MAL account with 350 anime, 530 manga, and variables such as studios, year, mangakas, seiyuus, etc. Since dropping other texts, anime has become my primary focus for hermeneutics outside of psychology. It allows me to simultaneously immerse myself in my primary hobby and advance my literary analysis, hermeneutics skills-set. My MAL has more blog posts and analyses of anime than my newsletter, sadly.

What does Psychology mean to you? 

A difficult question that deserves several points as an answer. However, it is, as I like to state, a “well of abstraction” within which I am a frog making meaning whilst trying to hop out to the sea.

Meanwhile, it is a source of knowledge for my own experiences of anxiety disorder not-otherwise specified, epilepsy, and BPPV.

What made you interested in Psychology?

Most of my work in my undergraduate degree was psychology oriented, including my first research paper: attachment in Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Raw Youth’, my dissertation: the Phylogenetics of Totalitarian Systems (which included supervision from the late philosopher, composer, pianist Ladislaus Horatius, my academic father, and father-figure), amongst others. I transitioned to counseling psychology in hopes of creating concrete change rather than focusing on armchair analysis/theorization as I did during my undergraduate years. 

What are some topics you wish people knew more about in Psychology? 

The biomedical aspects of certain conditions: the neuroanatomy, the biochemistry, and the like. It is not always easy to navigate mental health or therapy or change. Certain mechanisms are out of the control of human beings and the gravity of those mechanisms is visible in the biomedical aspects that are not often spoken of. 

Why do you think it’s important for someone to talk to a therapist if they’re feeling stressed or burnout? 

Therapy is a rare experience of being, being-in-relation, with a trained professional that respects, understands, and accepts your expertise, autonomy, and identity. It is important to reach out when in need, as is the case sometimes during burnout, stress, or even otherwise, to explore an avenue of growth, insight, and change that is evidence-based, freeing, and accepting.

What are some tips you encourage people to do when they are upset or angry?

It is hard to give generalizing responses as a therapist who has not yet had a decade of work under her belt, but a tip might be: develop awareness of what triggers feelings of upset/anger. What might underlie it? In practice, I work with proximal (immediate) and distal (over longer periods of time) interventions. List out things that can be done immediately and over time, do a trial-and-error experiment to see which one works for you and doesn’t, then repeat the effective ones (appropriate to the situation). 

Each individual’s phenomenological experience of a universal emotion (anger, upset) differs, therefore, the answer/effective tips will too. 


Check out Calm Harbor Counseling!

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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!

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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!

Categories
Interview

Ryan.

Can you tell us about your most stressful experience and how you overcame it? 

Experiencing homelessness and having nowhere to call home. I overcame this by sticking to my sobriety, accessing numerous supports and successfully completing my Mental Health Court program.

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

Our environment plays a huge part in our overall wellness. The people, places & things that we surround ourselves with can impact our motivation & interest to get well. 

How do you deal with your own mental health?

I see my concurrent disorders clinician &  psychiatrist on a regular basis. I use coping strategies, access family & friends, take medication & CBD and continue to be drug & alcohol free.  

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community?

 In the Halton & Hamilton community and Ontario I believe great work has been done, but I still believe there is tremendous work that still needs to occur.   What may be the reason for this? Community groups, businesses & individuals are speaking out and offering programs to help people feel less alone.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

Mental health is unique to each individual. To me it means having an appropriate amount of sleep, eating healthy, exercising, taking my meds, accessing support, being vulnerable, doing things I enjoy along with my communication skills and setting healthy boundaries. 

What are you most proud of in your life currently?

Proud of the man I have become, openly & honestly sharing my story to help others feel less alone.

Why do you think that there is shame surrounding mental health topics?

Because it is most often seen as a sign of weakness.

Why do people refuse to talk about it?

Embarrassment, shame, guilt….to name a few. 

How do you express yourself to the world?

I share my story via social media, appear on podcasts & news interviews.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Continue to enjoy life, set long & short term goals, manage challenges & changes in a healthy manner.

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

 I love animals, photography & Sports – Raptors, Jays, TFC & Buffalo Bills fan. I have a certificate in Disability Management & Attendance Support from the University of Guelph, along with my Human Resources Management Diploma from McMaster University. I am certified in Mental Health First Aid, ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) & safeTalk (Suicide Alertness for everyone). I currently work as a HR Consultant & Account Executive for Calyx Wellness. 


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Interview

Caroline Wolff.

I see that you’re a chronic illness advocate. Could you tell us what got you interested in the subject?

As someone who was born with a very rare chronic illness (Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction, or CIP), I’ve personally faced a lot of stigma throughout my life. CIP is an intestinal motility disorder, meaning my intestines are extremely uncoordinated due to a disconnect between my nervous system and my digestive tract. I’ve been on an all-liquid diet for my whole life and I receive all of my nutrition through two feeding tubes. After I was born, my doctors told my parents that I would likely die before turning 1 year old, but now I’m about to turn 20! They said I would never walk, and now I’m a dancer! I go to college, I have amazing friends, and I live a fulfilling and independent life despite my complications. Therefore, I want nothing more than to spread the message that chronically-ill people are entirely competent individuals who deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else.

What facts or misconceptions do you believe are important about chronic illnesses? 

There are way too many misconceptions and stigmas for me to even discuss here, but I can go over some of the ones that i found most important to address and oppose:

  • I’ve faced a lot of accusations about “faking being sick” from people who don’t know me. The reason for this is because CIP is what is called an “invisible illness”. There are no major physical signs of CIP, except for my feeding tubes which are both hidden under my clothes. There are many, many people in the world who have invisible illnesses and probably face the exact same accusations. It’s wrong to boil down chronic illness to something that can be detected by looking at someone. It’s wrong for there to even be a standard of what disabilities or chronic illnesses are “supposed to look like”. Just because someone isn’t in a wheelchair or exhibiting some other visible indicator, that doesn’t mean they aren’t chronically ill. In fact, I can guarantee you that most of us are faking being well so that we can keep up with the rapid pace of life!
  • Just because chronically-ill people do things differently or maybe might not be able to do everything you can do, that doesn’t mean we need or deserve pity! Whenever I tell people about my chronic illness, the most common reaction is deep sadness. I want people to know that just because our lives are different from yours, that doesn’t mean our lives are sad! Sure, we may have parts of life that are less than ideal, but we have plenty of good things in our lives as well.
  • Some people ask extremely invasive questions that are, quite frankly, none of their business. I want to first make it clear: I have absolutely no issue with educating people. I’m actually happy to do so! The problem when it gets taken a step too far. Some of my own personal examples are things like, “Can I see your tubes?” or “Is your CIP the reason why you’re so short?”. Instead, ask politely-framed questions that will help you become more aware of the condition, and don’t pry if the person you’re asking appears uncomfortable or asks you to stop.
  • Chronically-ill people are not fragile! We are very strong and competent people who just want to be treated like everyone else. I appreciate polite concern, of course, but people should not feel the need to hover over someone just because they are chronically-ill. Chronically-ill people do not want to be defined by their illness, but rather, they want to be given room to make their own decisions and show off their own potential.
  • It is wrong to call a chronically-ill person lazy just because they express that they are tired or struggling. In reality, chronically-ill and disabled people are the farthest thing from lazy, having to navigate a world that was not built for them. We power through major pain, fatigue, and other symptoms every day so that we can live life alongside everyone else!
  • Finally, I think it’s important to notice and call out insane double standards for chronically-ill and disabled people. For example, when we choose to express our sexuality, we are reduced to a fetish. When we are successful, it’s because we “got it handed to us”. It’s absolutely ridiculous! People with chronic illnesses and disabilities are no less of a person because of it; we work hard, we have fun, we achieve greatness, we have sex lives and friendships. We are human!!

I also learned that you are an aspiring author and poet. What are some practices you recommend doing when faced with writer’s block?

Yes! I love to write more than anything else in the world. Poetry is a huge coping mechanism for me, a way for me to take heartbreak and struggle and make it into art. Fiction writing is a way for me to create and tell stories that are not only important to me, but that I hope will resonate with others in a big way.

One of the things I love to do to get my creative juices flowing is to go out in public and just experience things. Go to a park and sit on a bench. Take note of the scenery. Look around and absorb the atmosphere. Be observant everywhere you go: school, work, the grocery store. Everywhere. I think writing what you know and writing with the senses are two really great practices, and this method combines both. I love to pull from personal experiences, whether that’s in the past or present (or hopes for the future), big or small. I also recommend bringing a notebook, tablet, computer, or something else you can use to jot down ideas with you everywhere. This way, when you get inspiration, you can just run with it without running the risk of forgetting anything!! Remember to trust the process and don’t force creativity; the best ideas come naturally.

Do you believe in reading therapy? Furthermore, has reading and/or writing helped you with your own mental health in the past? If so, why do you believe that it helped?

Yes, I do! One of my primary forms of self-care is reading for fun. Reading helps me to distance myself from my stresses and problems for a little while by joining a fictional world. Sometimes, learning can even help you learn something new about life/yourself or make you feel less alone by introducing you to a character or plot line that you relate to. Writing, as I mentioned earlier, has been crucial in maintaining my mental health. Creative writing has helped me by giving me an outlet to channel my thoughts and feelings into something beautiful, creative and long-lasting; something that I am proud of and that can be shared with the world and potentially help others.

What would you say to your younger self?

In the shortest terms, I would tell her that it gets better. I know that sounds vague, but I think that I needed to hear that more than anything. My CIP had such detrimental effects on my mental health as I grew up. I was isolated from peer groups a lot, which caused me to develop bad social anxiety. My tubes and scars altered my body shape and resulted in body dysmorphia. I also struggled with depression in middle school and early high school due to social isolation, bullying, and a belief that my life would never be “normal” or “like everyone else’s”. I felt like I would never find friends or happiness, but now, I have. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

During the summer months of 2020, practically all of my mental health problems came back in full swing. I started feeling more anxious in social situations because I fell out of practice with socializing, not being able to see and talk to people at school every day. I felt extremely depressed and unmotivated most days since all I was doing was sitting at home. I also experienced a lack of physical activity because I wasn’t able to walk around and work out as much, which led to a relapse in my fixation on my body. Most of these things, thankfully, have gone by the wayside since I’ve been in school again. Bottom line: this pandemic has been so rough on everyone, and we need to remember to be kind to one another.

What are the most beautiful things about life to you?

Another difficult question, because I think there’s so many things about life that are beautiful and worthwhile. Some things that make my life worthwhile and beautiful are: poetry, books, random acts of kindness, music, art, meeting someone and having an immediate connection, deep and passionate conversations with someone you love, rainy mornings (light rain, not scary rain!), pets/animals, hugs, the feel of a warm blanket, long car rides at night, spontaneous side trips, trying new things. The short answer: all the little things and little moments… Those are always the most significant.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me, mental health is not about having the most perfect life. It’s about knowing how to cope and continue living life to the fullest even in the darkest of times. It’s about always knowing your worth, your beauty, and all of your good qualities even when other people (or just life in general) tries to tear you down.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Revive’s audience?

First of all, THANK YOU for taking the time to read my story and for listening to what I have to say! It’s been a true pleasure. I also just want to remind you that you are worthy, you are loved, and you are beautiful even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. Remember to be kind and patient with others. And finally, remember that I am proud of you for being you and for getting up and living life despite all of your circumstances. I promise your struggle will be worth it in the end. Life is worth it.


Check out Caroline!

Categories
Interview

Brianne.

How do you deal with your own mental health?

I find taking breaks to be extremely helpful especially when I’m stressed or tired after school. I try my best to make time to relax and focus on my mental health. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes or something, everyday I try to take a break.  Usually, I just play guitar or work on music but sometimes a break could mean watching Netflix. 

What self-care practices would you recommend? Why do you think it is important to make time for yourself during the day?

I recommend journaling! At first, I was skeptical about it because I didn’t think it would benefit me the way it did. During quarantine, I started taking a moment out of my day to just write down my thoughts and reflect on the day. It helped me unpack my thoughts and emotions in a healthy way instead of bottling them up. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I would say that we’ve come a long way in terms of destigmatizing mental health and recognizing the mental health crisis within the Black community. Not only does society strip Black kids of their youth but also their ability to be vulnerable. Black children are taught at a young age that they have to be strong all the time because vulnerability is a weakness which isn’t true at all. Because of this, a lot of black youth suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses and have to battle that alone. More people are speaking out and advocating for destigmatization which has allowed people to access the resources they need to take care of their mental health. 

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important? 

The state of your mental health can affect so many things especially our behavior and our physical well-being. It’s so easy for us to not pay attention to how we’re feeling throughout the day because we might be occupied with other things. It’s crucial that we take time during the day to de-stress and take care of ourselves. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

Spending time inside during quarantine actually helped me in a way. It was hard to adjust to everything, especially because so many changes were happening at once. But I had a lot of time to think and reflect and I began to learn a lot more about myself and how I react in certain situations. It was nice to finally pause and be able to really feel my emotions.  

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

I would say that I’m obviously not perfect and sometimes I forget to prioritize my own mental health. But taking care of yourself is a journey that requires you to be patient. Trying to take breaks every day has helped me so much and hopefully, it will help someone else. 


Check out Brianne