asha international mental health

We Give Hope

Youth share their mental health stories to shatter stigma

 
Thanks to our youth storytellers BekahYaminiMolly and Hanna for sharing their mental health stories in six high schools this year, and giving hope to 1,200 students. Together, they are shining a light on mental health and ending stigma, one story at a time. Read more…
 
Thanks to Genevieve Reaume and her team at KATU for featuring our Let’s Talk About Mental Health Program as part of their Kind is Better Campaign.
 
And, our deepest gratitude to the 94 students who sent us hand-written thank you notes like the one above. You inspire us in our mission!
Youth share their mental health stories in an attempt to shatter the stigma
Saving Lives Through Stories: ASHA founder & President Gayathri Ramprasad's story
 
If you are interested in scheduling our Let’s Talk About Mental Health Program in your high school, college or university, to start a conversation about mental health and wellbeing, please email gayathri@myasha.org

Stories Change Lives

 
Most American teenagers — across demographic groups — see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers, a new survey by the Pew Research Center found. The survey found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a big issue. 
 
At ASHA International, our youth Storytellers are dedicated to sharing their stories to give hope and let their peers know they are not alone, and encourage them to get the help they need to recover and thrive. Together, we are creating a safe space where students can talk about their struggles and support each other with empathy and compassion.
 
Here is feedback from students about our Let‘s Talk About Mental Health Program at local high schools in February:
 
“Right now, I’m going through something really hard. But the presentations have convinced me that recovery is possible and I can get over it.”
 
“Very inspiring! As a person struggling with anxiety, this program was very uplifting & safe.”
 
“I’ve been struggling with my mental health for years and never asked for help and like the storyteller said – she tried to commit suicide and nobody knew – that’s what happened to me. The storytellers made me realize in order to feel better, I must seek help.”
 
“Some of my friends are dealing with mental illnesses and the presentation gave me a different view on it, and how to help them.”
 
“I went to the same middle school as the Storyteller, and it is comforting to know that there are people at my school who can help me with my problems.”
 
“The personal stories were very inspiring and impactful than everything else.”
 
“The storytellers reminded me that I am not alone, and provided me with new resources.”
 
“The stories closely related to events in my life, and helped encourage me to continue to try to put effort into improving my mental health.”
 
“I go through a lot of anxiety and depression. And, this presentation really helped me open up to the people I trust.”
 
“I appreciated the presentation because I have always wondered why we don’t discuss the most “teenage” things – relationships, drugs, emotions, and how it is hard to deal with sometimes. Thanks for giving it a voice.”
 
“It was very beneficial to hear the stories of the struggles the storytellers went through. Each story had an element that resonated with me. I could see people breathing a sigh of relief that they were not alone. I think the program should be presented in all schools, especially middle schools.”

By talking about our mental health openly, we can make a huge impact. Join us in shattering the stigma! 

We are giving hope & changing lives

 
We are delighted to share that the New Year was off to a great start!
 
In January, our Storytellers reached nearly 500 students at local high schools through our Let’s Talk About Mental Program. Here is some of the heartwarming feedback:
 
“This presentation showed me that everything gets better and to never lose hope. Also, it helped me realize my resources and showed me that I’m never alone.”
 
“I used to feel suicidal, and have autism, and anxiety. This presentation taught me ways to positively cope with them and not be afraid to speak up and talk to others about my mental health.”
 
“I found that hearing other people’s stories helped me feel normal and know that there is hope.”
 
“Because I have dealt with mental health issues a lot in the past, it was nice to hear other people’s stories and how they got better.”
 
“You provided a safe place where people could ask questions if they didn’t understand. Also, in each story, I connected to at least one thing. This program needs to be presented at every school!”
 
We are most grateful for the ninety-four hand-written thank you letters from the students at Century High School.

Celebration of Hope

Thanks to each and every one of our supporters for joining us at our annual fundraising event to celebrate our impact over the last eleven years, and partner with us as we embark on another exciting year dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and wellness in schools, at work, and in the community. Together, we are giving hope and changing lives.

Photos from the Event 

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Grit & Grace Conference – A Huge Success!

According to the report Count Her In published by the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, nearly half of Oregon’s women and girls have experienced childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect. And, Oregon women have the highest incidence of reported depression in the country. On September 28th, we hosted our first annual Grit & Grace: Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference a 1-day innovative program to inspire, educate and empower women to take charge of their mental health and cultivate resilience and well-being.

Featured speakers included U.S. Olympians Suzy Hamilton and Chamique Holdsclaw, performance artist Kristina Wong, visual artist & peer wellness leader Meghan Caughey, award-winning advocates and authors Dior Vargas and Gayathri Ramprasad, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leader Sandra Wilborn, and healthcare professionals Dr. Nicole Cirino, Mari Alexander and Pari Mazhar, and yoga teacher Diana Hulet. To learn more about the conference and speakers, please click here… 

275 women and a few brave men, including family members and healthcare professionals joined us in a day filled with love, hope and inspiration.

Here’s feedback from our participants:

“Life changing conference both personally and professionally!”

“It was deeply nourishing to be enriched by this diverse, inspiring circle of women sharing their truth. The Grit & Grace Conference was the best conference I have ever attended.”

“I just wanted to tell you what an amazing experience the conference was. Last week was a really hard week for me and countless other women emotionally due to what’s going on in our nation right now. The Grit & Grace conference was just what I needed to feel empowered and hopeful again. Thank you so much for the amazing work you do with ASHA international! You’re changing the world!”

 

Event Presentations

 

Photos from the Event 

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Grit & Grace Storytelling Show

On May 17th, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, ASHA International was delighted to present Grit & Grace, a storytelling show to shine a light on mental health and end stigma, one story at a time. Ten fearless storytellers shared their journey of courage, hope, and resilience with a packed house of 200 people and were honored with a standing ovation. We salute the Grit & Grace of our storytellers, celebrate their resilience and honor their humanity.

To learn more about ASHA Storytellers, please click here

WOW! Thank you Nike!!!

On March 1st, the Women of Nike invited me to present an overview of ASHA International and our work at an event scheduled to celebrate Women’s History Month. And, I was absolutely surprised when they presented a check donating $10,000 to support our efforts to destigmatize mental illness and promote mental health and wellness in schools, at workplaces and in the community!
All of us at ASHA international are deeply grateful to Nike’s Global Commu
nity Impact team for their valuable support!!!
WOW! Thank you Nike!!! Together, we can end the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, and create communities of empathy, support and inclusion where all of us can realize our fullest potential.

She did it to herself…

As former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi said, “Life is a continuous process of adjustment. “When my father suddenly passed away nearly twenty years ago, I never thought my privileged happy go lucky life would crash. Gradually, within two years, my mother’s mental state started to decline with clouded decision making, irritability, and her million-dollar-watt smile faded and eventually became non-existent. Hindu Priests manipulated the fact we are Brahmins, and created a paranoia in her delicate mind because they reassured her we did not perform my father’s rituals properly. Their solution was to instill fear at an emotional and financial price. My mom, my best friend, my sister suddenly felt like my enemy because we could not see eye to eye on anything, creating major meltdowns.

It was impossible for me to comprehend what was happening. Was she severely depressed, brainwashed or just losing the plot. It was very challenging for me to confide in people because I was ashamed to air our “dirty laundry” in public or even admit my mom possibly had a mental illness. I wanted to cry for help, but people would say my mom is naïve and delicate like a flower. Fast forward nearly two decades, at the age of 69, my mom has been officially diagnosed with dementia, a disease of the mind.  Earlier this year, when I interacted with some Aunties and they inquired about my mom, and I told them about her diagnosis they said… she did it to herself.

The fact is she did not do it to herself, nor does she deserve to go through this journey alone. Dementia particularly vascular dementia does require a medical diagnosis and sadly cannot be cured.  For those who are not aware dementia symptoms include:  cognitive decline, disorientation, mental confusion, irritability, personality changes, wandering off, hallucinations, etc. There are days when her personality is non-existent, yet there are days when she behaves like a child at Disney World. Believe it or not, there are even days when she can’t even register my brother’s name and calls him by another name, or does not realize that she has three beautiful grandkids. The reality is, we cannot even talk about our papa because she thinks he is not dead, but rather ran off to be with another woman. No, she is not crazy, she has an illness that is slowly eating her brain away.

Just recently, I asked her if she would like to go to Patel Brothers to shop for groceries.  The child in her immediately lit up and agreed to join my friend and I. Then suddenly in the parking lot, she became hesitant and withdrawn. She told me to buy the groceries and she will sit in the car because she does not want anyone to see her using a walker.  She was terrified someone we know would recognize her, ridicule her for her appearance and dependence using a walker. I reassured her, and told her who cares what the world will say, I am your daughter and no one will say anything to you.  She smiled got out of the car and walked the entire store aisle by aisle by herself with her walker.

Our Indian culture is beautiful, and I am proud to be Indian, yet I believe our culture is intolerant especially in regards to mental health issues. As a first generation Indian-American who works full-time, and is a caretaker for my mother, I want to be the guiding light for those reluctant voices who want to seek help, but afraid to. Yes, my life is in a continuous process of adjustment but when I go to bed I can confidently say I am trying my best and I do not care what the world has to say about my mother’s illness.

The author, Usha Tewari, is a first generation Indian-American who works and lives in Orlando, Florida.

My Story, My Journey – By Subrina Singh

Subrina Singh is a passionate young writer and recently published her love story entitled, “Soniye” in the anthology of Sikh Love Stories, Her Name is Kaur. After completing her degree in Asian and Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University, she is now pursuing her Master’s Degree at Columbia University in South Asian Studies. More recently, she has become committed to using her experience with mental illness to help better the mental-health awareness within the South Asian community. She currently writes for BrownGirlMagazine.com & ZeeTV’s India.com.

ASHA International salutes Subrina’s courage in sharing her story!

An Interview with Vijay Shankar, MBA, Psy.D.

GAYATHRI: Vijay, what inspired you to switch careers from the corporate world to mental health?

VIJAY: I had already spent 15 years in the corporate world. I had reached middle management level in a Fortune 500 company. My specialty was in strategic planning. While I found that to be challenging and interesting, I was looking for a change that would allow me to work at a one on one level helping individuals. At the same time my wife was going through her Masters in social work. Our discussions about the human experience resonated with me enough to motivate me to make the change.

GAYATHRI: What forms of therapy do you provide and what are their unique benefits?

VIJAY: My training has been in psychodynamic psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy, solution focused therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. The last three approaches fall under the overall umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy.  In addition, I have been trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction which is meditation based.

I have come to focus my practice in cognitive behavioral therapy. It is the gold standard and frontline treatment for most psychological conditions. I typically explain the three cognitive behavioral therapy approaches that I use to the patient and in most cases help the patient to decide which one resonates for her/him.  Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy tends appeal to those who lean towards pragmatism, logic and problem solving. Acceptance and commitment therapy, which has a strong mindfulness-based component, tends to appeal to those who are more interested in going beyond the immediate symptoms and working on bringing meaning and purpose to their lives.

GAYATHRI: How are you uniquely qualified to provide care for the South-Asian community served by SAATHI?

VIJAY: My hope is that I can bring the expertise and training that I have gained from over four decades in business and psychology to the South-Asian community. I believe it is important for our community to know that it is possible to access current practices in psychology without sacrificing the culture and traditions that we care so much about.

Having been born and raised in India with MBAs from IIM Ahmedabad and INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and my doctorate in psychology from the United States, I feel that I am well-positioned to straddle both cultures in an effective and compassionate manner. I believe a huge ingredient in bringing hope amidst suffering is knowing that the resources needed to recover and thrive are available. I hope those in need will be able to use the resources that SAATHI is compiling to know that they are not alone, and to encourage them to get help. There is no need to suffer anymore.

Vijay Shankar is a licensed psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety, mood disorders, and depression. He is co-founder of the LifeQual Center for Health & Healing. To learn more about Vijay and LifeQual Center, please visit http://www.lifequalcenter.com/vijay-shankar

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