Thank you for being part of the ASHA International family.
Because of your support, we could empower Brian to share his story.
Brian says “Growing up with depression was hard, but hiding it from everyone was harder.”
Brian grew up in a culture that emphasized achievement and endurance above all else. In high school, after being the model-minority for his whole life, his depression got to an all-time high and he started getting panic attacks. These events led him to be honest about his struggles with depression for the first time in his life to his family, and to himself. He hopes that by sharing his story he can change the stigmas within his own community regarding mental health and encourage other Asian-Americans to speak up about their own battles with mental health by showing them they are not alone.
At ASHA International, we are acutely aware of the significant barriers to mental health faced by underserved and underrepresented communities – immigrants, refugees, black, indigenous, people of color and LGBTQ+. And, we are dedicated to empowering them to share their stories to inspire hope & ignite change.
In 2020, your support empowered ASHA Storytellers like Brian to reach 5,113 people with an inspiring message of hope & well-being. Together, we are shining a light on mental health and ending stigma, one story at a time.
This Thanksgiving, all of us at ASHA International want to let you know how grateful we are to have you as part of our family. Your love and support have helped us bring hope and healing to healing to thousands of people, especially during these unprecedented and difficult times.
Wish you and your family a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!
With love & gratitude,
Gayathri Ramprasad, Founder, ASHA International
Every year, we look forward to celebrating the impact our donors, sponsors and storytellers have helped us have in our community and share our plans for the year ahead. We were so grateful to everyone who joined us at the virtual Celebration of Hope on October 6th – a night filled with inspiring stories of courage, hope and resilience.
We are most grateful to our sponsors and donors who helped us raise funds to support our youth mental health programs to promote mental well-being and prevent suicides.
There’s still time to support ASHA International’s work in the coming year. Your gift allows us to reach more students in more classrooms virtually in 2021! Make a gift today to support the life-changing work.
Together, we are creating communities of hope, empathy and inclusion where all children can learn and thrive.
Thanks to our sponsors for their generous support!
Enjoy the videos from the 2020 Celebration of Hope!
On September 18th, women from across cultures came together to share their mental health stories to give hope and empower each other to heal and thrive. And, women from across the Unites States and around the world joined in virtually.
Thank you to all who attended and to all who bravely shared their stories. We once again thank our generous sponsors for making this event possible. And thanks to all our hardworking volunteers who gave their precious time to come together to create a community of connection, hope and well-being.
Together, we are normalizing conversations about mental health and inspiring hope and well-being, one story at a time.
We can’t wait to see you all at the 2021 Grit & Grace Conference!
Thank you for your valuable testimonials! Here are a few we would like to share:
“WOW! Completely blown away. It was one of the best conferences I’ve been to in ages. So inspiring, motivating, and uplifting. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed at this moment in my life. So thank you for that. I appreciated the multiple voices and perspectives and really, really found the youth so inspiring. Can’t thank you enough.”
“The Grit and Grace Conference was beautifully put together. The passion and genuineness of each presenter was felt and seen. It was great to hear people tell their own stories and offer support and a togetherness through this avenue. This was important for the mental health field as well as for all humans as we navigate these troubling, tumultuous waters.”
“The Grit and Grace Conference was very uplifting and different. This was my first time attending the conference. I received the announcement through a coworker. It was an all inclusive uplift for women of every color. It was exciting to see and hear so many women from all nationalities and ethnicities. All empowering one another.”
“The Grit & Grace Conference was inspiring and impactful to me as an educator. It helped me not only personally reflect but was helpful in understanding and developing more empathy for the students I work with. It provided a nice variety of topics and point of views. I really enjoyed the Talking Circles with Q & A – it was very authentic and real..”
“I found the conference to be very informative, educational, and inspiring. It helped me to identify areas in my life that I need to make an effort to improve. It brought to light coping tools that I know work for me, but have stopped using. It also gave me new tools to try out.”
“Everything that has been going on in 2020 has really taken a toll on my mental health lately. This past month I have felt extremely overwhelmed, and hopeless. This conference was just what I needed to feel both personally and professionally uplifted.”
“As a therapist and also as someone that struggles with my own anxiety at times, this was a breath of fresh air for me. I thought it was a great mix of educational as well as connective with stories of people’s personal lives. Keep it up!”
Access speaker presentations and resources:
Enjoy the videos from the Grit & Grace Conference!
“That resilience is everyone’s birthright, and we’re going to see it sometimes and we’re not going to see it other times.”
There’s no doubt this pandemic and the fight for racial justice have challenged us. Many of us have encountered very dark moments, but the words above are as true for 2020 as they were during the 2019 Grit and Grace Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference.
This year we have another incredible line up of women to help us all through these challenging times and find our strength. We are better together.
Please, join us this year.. We know the need is great so our conference is FREE and virtual. Learn more and register at www.myasha.org/Grit&Grace
Our mental health matters. Women’s mental health matters. At AHSA our focus has always been on diverse storytelling. We know we find strength in one another. Our Grit and Grace Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference is free this year because we know how crucial it is everyone has access to this resource. Please, head to www.myasha.org/Grit&Grace to learn more about our powerful speakers this year and to sign up! We can’t wait to have you join us virtually.
The Grit and Grace conference is for mental health providers, too. Together we can learn how to best help those looking to find hope through us.
As Ebony Clarke, the director of the Multnomah County Mental Health and Addictions Services Division, said at our conference last year, we have “to create a level platform where everyone’s voice can be heard.”
Because of what’s been happening, and the direct impact it has on all our mental health, we’ve made this year’s Grit and Grace conference FREE.
Learn more and register at www.myasha.org/Grit&Grace
Healthcare providers are an at-risk population for stress, vicarious traumatization, burnout, as well as mental illness including depression and suicide. When the healthcare system, and we as healthcare students and providers, can understand and accept the fact that we are all “human” without shame, it is more likely that those in mental health need will be empowered to seek out and receive help. Experience how sharing mental health stories inspires hope and can help save lives.
Please join ASHA Storyteller Diane Leslie Kaufman, MD at the Grand Rounds:
Meeting password: Kv6MAp82P3e
Phone (audio only): 1-206-207-1700 US & 1-503-907-9144 Portland, OR
All of us at ASHA International are most grateful for the generous support of our sponsors for making it possible for us to present the 3rd annual Grit & Grace Conference free of charge.
Join us for a day of inspiration and empowerment on September 18th! Click here to learn more and register.
We are excited to announce the 2020 Grit & Grace Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference is going virtual! And it’s free of charge thanks to our amazing sponsors! We hope you will join us for an inspiring and empowering day. We have an amazing line up of speakers you will not want to miss!
Since it is a FREE virtual event, everyone across the world interested in women’s mental health and well-being are welcome to join us. So please share this invite with your family, friends and colleagues and invite them to join us.
The conference will feature leading mental health advocates from across cultures who will share their stories to give hope and empower us to cultivate resilience and well-being during these difficult times. Click here to check out the amazing line up of speakers and register.
As an eight-year-old Latina girl growing up in New York, Dior wrote in her dairy – “My life is over. My mother says no my life is not over. Well, I think so. The end.” Her parent’s divorce, domestic violence, threat of eviction and bullying at school filled her with despair. But her grandmother’s love sustained and inspired her to excel at school and become an activist. Today, Dior is a Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist advocating for equitable mental health care for all. She is the creator of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project, a response to the invisibility of Black Indigenous People of Color in the media representation of mental illness. She is also the editor of The Color of My Mind, a photo essay book based on the photo project. She tours the country giving keynotes, hosting workshops, and speaking on panels. Her work and insight have been covered in media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Newsweek, and NBC News Latino. Dior is the recipient of numerous awards including, The White House Champion of Change for Disability Advocacy Across Generations under the Obama administration. Watch Dior’s inspiring story.
Systemic oppression has significant impact on the mental health and well-being of Black, Indigenous, People Of Color (BIPOC). Historical and contemporary injustices continue to perpetuate trauma through generations and into today. BIPOC communities are resilient and have worked hard to uplift their communities despite systemic barriers and the impact of trauma. All of us at ASHA International celebrate their resilience. And, during the month of July, we will be sharing stories to honor their journey.
Click here to learn more about the impact of trauma and access lists of resources specifically for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities provided by our friends at Mental Health America.
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame hooper and Olympic gold medal winner Chamique Holdsclaw has dedicated her life to end the stigma of mental illness and be a voice for those who feel marginalized and voiceless. Watch Chamique’s inspiring story.
Over the last few years, we have had the privilege of mentoring youth storytellers Hanna Kane, Jaxon Buell, Hoda AbouEich & Eric Martz. Their stories have inspired and empowered thousands of youth and adults to take charge of their mental health and well-being. Their courage, resilience and activism will lead us into a better world of equity & inclusion.
Please join us in congratulating the class of 2020, and wishing them the very best.
In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Ryan Ho, Project Executive at Silver Ribbon Singapore had an in-depth conversation with Gayathri Ramprasad, Founder & President of ASHA International about her journey from adversity to advocacy.
The Silver Ribbon Singapore’s mission is to combat mental health stigma, encourage early help, and facilitate integration of people with mental illness within the society through innovative means of promoting mental health literacy.
One in five youth in the United States struggles with a mental health condition that interferes with daily life. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a psychiatric disorder — more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Half of all psychiatric illness occurs before the age of 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24.
Children and adolescents with mental health conditions are at risk for academic failure, substance abuse, clashes with the juvenile justice system and suicide — all of which come at a tremendous cost to them, their families, and the community. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds. In spite of the magnitude of the problem, lack of awareness and entrenched stigma keep the majority of these young people from getting help.
At ASHA International, we are determined to educate and empower youth to take charge of their mental health & well-being. The Let’s Talk About Mental Health program is a peer-to-peer mental health education program to engage students in a conversation about mental health to promote well-being and prevent suicides.
ASHA Storyteller Diane Kaufman, MD is a poet, artist, and Child Psychiatrist. She is also a suicide survivor, and has Bipolar II Disorder. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Diane shared her story with KATU to end the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. And remind us all that mental illness and wellness is part of being human. Treatment works. People can recover and thrive.
“It’s only natural to go to the doctor if you cut yourself. It’s only natural to put your arm in a cast if you broke your arm. Or take antibiotics if you get bronchitis. But I wasn’t raised in a family where you’d get help if you were struggling mentally.” Says Nike executive and parent Dave Schechter, “it’s time to share our struggles and seek help.”
#MyStoryMySuperpower #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
We are excited to announce the launch of the My Story MY SUPERPOWER Movement in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month!
With over 150 stories of courage, hope & resilience to date, we’re normalizing conversations about mental health and inspiring hope & healing, one story at a time.
Together, we are ending stigma and building communities of empathy, support and inclusion where all of us can thrive.
Please click here to learn more about the My Story MY SUPERPOWER Movement and become a Champion of Change.
Even as the COVID19 global pandemic has changed our lives and filled us with dread, I am deeply inspired by the resilience of human beings to rise together in solidarity to support each other. And, this gives me hope to wake up each day and do my best.
A week ago, I received an email from a local nonprofit organization I serve on the Board at, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, inviting our community to sew masks for healthcare workers. Given the shortage and critical need for masks, I asked my girlfriend Kathy if she would join me in sewing masks. Kathy invited a few of her friends to join us and together, we made 54 masks which she dropped off. This week, the group has grown even larger and we hope to make and drop off 100 masks.
Each of us have gifts that are much needed by our community in this hour of need. Perhaps it is mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn or offering to pick up groceries or medications for them. Perhaps it is surprising a neighbor’s child with a caravan of cars honking to celebrate her birthday. Perhaps it is dropping off dinner at your friend’s door. The power of us is stronger than any virus.
by ASHA Storyteller Yamini Rajan
On February 22nd, George Washington University’s Indian Student’s Association teamed up with the George Washington University’s South Asian community to raise money for mental health awareness. As an organization, we brainstormed long and hard over what charity we would like to choose for our biannual Charity Date Auction. When learning about ASHA International, everyone agreed that it was the perfect choice. Mental health issues are prevalent in the South Asian community but are often unspoken, leading to many youth growing up struggling and unaware of how to cope. We, as a group, had felt this very struggle and knew that we had to be a part of the solution. Date Auction comprised of members of our community signing up to walk the runway, bringing friends to bid on them. It was a night of laughter, fun, food, and photos. We are so proud of the event we put on and can’t wait to relive it soon. Together, we raised $ 700 to support ASHA International’s efforts to normalize conversations about mental health and inspire hope & healing, one story at a time.
health to promote well-being and prevent suicides. The mental health and well-being of our youth is the heart of our programs, and now, more than ever, we are dedicated to connecting with them and supporting them as they find themselves isolated and anxious.
Westview senior and ASHA Storyteller, Hoda Aboueich, spearheaded the idea about a year ago. She is putting on the wellness week as a part of her senior project. It’s all inspired by her own struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations.
“I kind of just had this idea and ran with it, and here we are today,” Aboueich said. “If I can turn my struggles into something positive for someone else, then I’ll do it.”
Hope you are doing well and coping with these uncertain times with love and compassion. Now more than ever, we need to have hope in the resilience within each of us to rise above these troubling times with courage and creativity. Together, we will overcome the coronavirus pandemic and the disruption it has caused in our lives and around the world. All of us at ASHA International are here for you and we hope you will stay connected and regularly check in to our social sites for helpful articles on self-care and social support. Together, we will rise through these trying times, stronger, kinder and more resilient.
My name’s Hanna, mine’s Jaxon, and we’re seniors at Glencoe High School.
Jaxon: those of you who know us know that we’ve been friends for a long time but we got truly close in sophomore year when we were both going through a lot. In the ensuing time, our experiences with mental health have been closely linked and we’re here today to discuss the importance of friendship and support networks in promoting mental health.
Hanna: from initially supporting one another to now working together with an international nonprofit in promoting mental health awareness, Jaxon’s and my stories are closely linked.
Jaxon: back in sophomore year, i was dealing with the end an unhealthy relationship and my relationship with my father was hostile and contentious. I was stressed and isolating myself from my friends.
Hanna: at the same time, I was dealing with aftershocks of a death in my family and my existing mental health conditions were especially bad. I was having very severe panic attacks and struggling to stay afloat in areas that used to be easy for me, like school & my other volunteer work.
Jaxon and I had 5 classes together, so we were spending a lot of time with one another. Over a couple of months, we ended up opening up to each other about what we were coping with and I think it surprised us both how much it helped to have someone to talk to.
Jaxon: for the first time in a long time I opened up to someone new about what I was struggling with, and it helped me gain clarity and a new perspective
Hanna: having someone who listened to me and who I could be there for was good for my mental health.
Jaxon: throughout second semester, I was able to start standing up for myself and addressing unhealthy situations, turning the corner from a really dark time to productively handling my mental health.
Hanna: the second half of that year was a hard time for me. In the wake of the shooting at parkland, I was extremely anxious being in the building, fighting with some of the people closest to me, and overtaxing myself trying to stay caught up in school while also preparing for my TED talk and other activism work. I was fortunate enough to have a support system in place, but talking to Jaxon always especially helped
Jaxon: over the next two years as Hanna and I got closer I reconciled with my dad and started supporting some of my friends who were coping with their own mental health issues. Having Hanna to support me allowed me to help my friends more effectively.
Hanna: Junior and Senior year have had their fair share of ups and downs, but throughout it all I was learning to cope and handle my mental illnesses. I can’t overstate the importance of my support network in coping with what will likely be a lifetime’s journey.
Jaxon: we’ve both learned firsthand the importance of having a support network in place when your mental health is both good and bad. If Hanna hadn’t checked in on me and learned I was struggling, i would have had a much, much harder time coping with the struggles I was having.
Hanna: the story is the same for me. I struggle with isolating myself and feeling alone, but no matter what’s going on I know I always have someone looking out for me. The support of Jaxon and other people in my life has given me the courage to share my own story, and in working with ASHA International, the nonprofit we both are a part of, we’ve been able to reach thousands of people across the region.
Jaxon: Hanna also got me involved with ASHA, and with her encouragement, I’ve told my story in several schools, reaching over 1,000 students. We’ve seen firsthand the impact talking about mental health can have on our community, and hope to continue that work here at our school.
Hanna: not only has supporting each other helped us cope, it has also given us the courage to speak up and spark change across the community. Recovery is a process, and much of what I struggle with, I’ll struggle with forever. Mental health is a journey, and the support I’ve had from Jaxon and others has made the journey so much easier.
We encourage you to check in on all your friends, have meaningful conversations relating to mental health, and consciously build your own support network.
Jaxon: if we as a community support each other, we can beat stigma and grow to be mentally healthy, together. Thank you.
We are still on cloud 9 after the incredible Grit & Grace Conference!
Thank you to all who attended and to all who bravely shared their stories. We once again thank our generous sponsors for making this event possible. And thanks to all our hardworking volunteers who gave their precious time to come together to create a community of connection, hope and healing.
Together, we are normalizing conversations about mental health and inspiring hope and healing, one story at a time. We can’t wait to see you all at the 2020 Grit & Grace Conference!
Thank you for your feedback! Here are a few we would like to share:
“Thank you so much. Being at Grit & Grace on Friday was powerful – I laughed so hard and felt such compassion and such connection with the women in the room. I’m at a loss for words to truly describe what I experienced and how important your message is for staff and for those in our service.”
“This conference was incredible! I can’t believe how at home I felt here! Thank you for creating such a special environment!”
“This conference was very much needed in my life especially at a time like this to help me move forward with my family and self-awareness.”
“This conference is amazing! This is my second and I hope to attend others. The speakers were amazing!”
“The presentations by Gayathri Ramprasad, Ebony Clarker and Melody Moezzi were particularly outstanding! I also appreciate the theme of health in the face of mental illness.”
Enjoy the videos & pictures from the Grit & Grace Conference!
According to a recent story by KATU reporter and ASHA Board member Genevieve Reaume, data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows white people have the highest rate of suicide in America, but many minorities are expressing grave concern over rising rates. If you take a broader look at suicide rates across cultures, it’s clear many communities are struggling to stop suicides.Younger Americans who’ve got roots across the globe say culture can impact the mental health discussion. Read more…
We are deeply grateful to our Youth Storyteller Yamini Rajan and her parents for sharing their perspectives.
At ASHA International, we are dedicated to empowering people living with mental health conditions and their families to share their stories to normalize the conversation about mental health, and give hope.
Thanks to KBOO Community Radio for recording and sharing the event. Please click here to listen to the stories.
And, thanks to each and every one of our sponsors for their generous support!
Photos from the event
Videos from the event
Stories connect and comfort us in our shared struggles, help us know that we are not alone, and give us HOPE to cope, survive and thrive. Personal stories have the power to save lives and create social change. On May 29, 2019, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, ASHA International is delighted to present the My Story My SUPERPOWER storytelling show to shine a light on mental health & end stigma one story at a time. A diverse group of storytellers will share their journey of courage, hope and resilience to increase public awareness of mental health as an integral part of overall health and well-being. The event will be held at the Intel Hawthorne Farms Auditorium (HF3), 5200 NE Elam Young Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR 97124, from 7 – 9 PM. Admission is FREE. To RSVP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Kaufman, M.D.
Diane is a child psychiatrist, poet, lyricist, and artist passionate about helping people transform trauma into creative resilience. She is an Arnold P. Gold Foundation “humanism in medicine” awardee. Amongst Diane’s many creative works, her story, “Bird That Wants to Fly,” inspired a children’s opera by Michael Raphael, performed by Trilogy: An Opera Company, and narrated by the actor, Danny Glover.
Diane suffered trauma starting at a very young age, and experienced episodes of anxiety, depression, hypomania, mania, and suicidal ideation. She graduated magna cum laude and phi beta kappa from Mount Holyoke College. While attending Downstate Medical Center, Diane attempted suicide and required hospitalization. She went on to complete internship, residencies and fellowship (pediatrics, psychiatry and child psychiatry) at New York University/Bellevue Hospital.
Prior to her moving to Portland, Oregon in 2014, Diane was an outpatient child psychiatrist for twenty-eight years at UMDNJ, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in Newark (now Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences). She was Assistant Professor at New Jersey Medical School and was Medical Director of both Preschool Services and the Crisis Intervention Mobile Outreach Program. Diane secured many grants on behalf of children’s well-being, such as Parents are People Too!, a parenting and child abuse prevention program rated “exemplary” by the Children’s Trust Fund. Diane also initiated UMDNJ’s Poetry in Medicine Day, inspired Creative Arts Healthcare, and developed the Cry of the Heart poetry contest.
Upon her move to Oregon, Diane initially worked as a child psychiatrist at Morrison Child and Family Services in Portland. Since November 2016, she provides child psychiatry care and treatment at Mind Matters, PC in Hillsboro. Diane is the Founder of Arts Medicine for Hope and Healing. For more information, please see www.artsmedicineforhopeandhealing.com Diane serves on the Board of ASHA International, and is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to changing the culture around mental health in the medical community.
John Boylston, J.D.
John Boylston is an attorney, not in spite of his mental health condition, but potentially because of it. John was not diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Dysthymia until he had already been practicing law for a few years. Upon seeking treatment and learning of his diagnosis, however, John realized that he had been suffering most of his life.
Lawyers are hired to examine every detail, think ten steps ahead, and see potential risks that others might miss. But John realized that he couldn’t “turn it off” when he went home for the day. He was being suffocated by the anxiety. It got so debilitating that he was ready to quit his job and leave everything behind, but he agreed to see a counselor first. After two years of regular therapy and medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Dysthymia, John manages his anxiety, but it is something he will always live with and it still affects his daily life.
Attorneys suffer from mental health conditions at twice the rate of the general public, and as a result experience substance abuse at significantly higher rates as well. It is often hard and complicated for attorneys to address mental health conditions, because there are elements of anxiety that are seen as a good trait in a lawyer. John wants to raise awareness about mental health conditions for attorneys, and other professionals, so that they can learn how to separate themselves from their work while learning healthy habits to combat the excess stress and anxiety that comes with the profession. He is also passionate about encouraging young people who have mental health conditions to still strive for challenging professional careers.
John serves on the Board of ASHA International, and is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to changing the culture around mental health in the legal community.
Molly Van Der Werf
Molly was born and raised in Portland, OR. After starting high school at a public school there was a huge shift in her life. She didn’t know many people there, and started using drugs and alcohol as a social crutch to make friends. This quickly turned in to substance abuse, and she struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. High school was a hard time for her; she was using every day, skipping class and almost didn’t graduate. At the end of high school, the sudden passing of her father sent her in to a deep depression for years. She went to therapists and psychiatrists in order to get help and be properly medicated, however nothing seemed to work. She continuously struggled to keep a job and spent most of her time sleeping. Things spiraled out of control when she was 22 and had a manic episode. She was delusional with grandiose thoughts and impossible realities. None of the people in her life knew what was going on. She was finally hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. After she was stabilized, she went in to outpatient treatment for mental health recovery and was given proper medication. She has been stable for 5 years now and is proud to say she has not had another manic episode.
Her goal is to educate teens and young adults about mental health and teach them about self-care and the importance of speaking up and seeking help. Many teens and young adults suffer from a mental illness and use drugs and alcohol to cope. This can be so detrimental and even lethal. She wants to break the stigma and bring hope to those who are suffering. There are others ways of coping and healing besides drugs and alcohol. Creating a safe and open dialogue with people is so important. By telling her story she hopes that it will encourage and empower others to feel comfortable to tell their story. There is peace of mind and success out there for those who are suffering. She wants to be the living proof that recovery is possible.
Molly is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to empowering youth take charge of their mental health and well-being.
Austin joined the United States Marine Corps right after graduating high school. Joining the military was something he wanted to do, but the further into his service he got, the more he struggled. His struggles with depression first began when two of his military friends died.
Austin was raised in a loving family. His mom, dad and brother all helped provide a supportive base for him, and when it became clear his pain was too much, they helped fight to get him home.
While trying to learn how to cope with his mental illness, Austin went back to school and work, taking a job at Pepsi, and then moving onto a different job at Intel. He was commuting long hours from Kelso to Hillsboro, and although he was on a strong path, an unexpected tragedy halted that. Another good friend of his died serving. And, Austin didn’t know how to cope with it. The trauma of the losses, in combination with his depression, became too much.
Austin decided he would take his life on Jan. 9, 2018. Just before 5 o’clock that night, he sent out a tweet. ‘Hey, I need somebody to talk to.” A friend saw his tweet, reached out to him, and then his family. And, ended up saving his life. Now, Austin wants to share his story to help de-stigmatize mental health, and advocate for people reaching out to help each other.
Dave, a 24-year NIKE, Inc. veteran, has served in several leadership roles across sales, merchandising and footwear product creation, including four years with the Jordan Brand and an overseas assignment in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He currently serves as a Global Vice President of Footwear, working in the NSW category on AirMax products.
Before coming to NIKE, Dave spent five years in sports media relations and marketing, including stops at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Rams. He’s a graduate of the University of Arizona and has taken coursework at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, with a focus on leadership.
Dave and his wife, Tory, have two teenagers at home. In his spare time, Dave enjoys traveling, sports, motorsports, music and movies. He’s involved in mentoring programs at his alma mater and with NIKE, and partners with Tory to elevate mental health awareness, with a focus on young people in the Portland community.
In early 2015, Roule’s founder, Paul, was in an unhealthy place. The previous year he saw the end of his nine-year marriage and lost his best friend since childhood in a car accident on Christmas Eve. He poured himself into his work thinking that the creative outlet and his drive to succeed would sustain him. Instead, he had a minor heart attack according to a blip on an EKG. He was overcome by stress from both life and work and didn’t know how to manage it all. Paul was depressed. He felt hopeless. He just felt done.
After some strong encouragement to get outside and exercise, he decided to dust off his neglected road bike and go for a ride. It was slow and painful. He was embarrassed to realize how unhealthy he had become after being active and athletic his entire life. But he noticed something positive amidst the physical struggles—cycling was helping Paul decompress, clear his mind, and manage his depression.
Added bonus: His physical health rapidly improved in a matter of months.
As when he first learned to ride as a child, Paul was again hooked by the beauty and freedom of cycling. Learn more at https://www.roulecycling.com/
Lilly Glass Akoto, LCSW
Lilly is an enthusiastic hiker, a competitive tabletop gamer, and an unabashed adventurer. As a licensed clinical social worker, she is passionate about helping the hurting find avenues and ways to heal. She believes in the power of the journey and understands it is not the end result that matters as much as the steps taken. She sees the beauty in the most broken and carries a beacon of hope in the darkest seasons.
Her passion comes from the lessons learned in her own story of brokenness to wholeness. As a young, brown, adopted girl growing up in Massachusetts, it was easy to fall in to the lies that “she was different”. Depression was her constant companion for nearly 30 years. Her struggle with lack of confidence, sense of worthlessness and failed suicide attempts came to a welcome end in 2008 when she worked with an EMDR therapist and her life completely changed. Her mind was set free, her heart was restored and she began her walk as a strong, independent and confident woman.
In 2015, her husband of 22 years, passed from cancer. She and her two boys have been on healing journeys since that time. The greatest gift from her loss has been that Lilly found herself and fell in love with whom she found. She now lives her life as an accomplished mental health therapist, avid hiker, passionate dancer, table top gamer, and amazing mom. She loves to share her story because she sees the power it has to help others realize they are not alone. She loves to teach and impart wisdom as it warms her soul to see people transform.
She embraces all that life has to offer as she lives by one simple truth…we are here on this earth, and then one day, we are not! Learn more at http://lilocounseling.com/
Erin San Antonio
As a first generation Filipino-American, Erin understood at a young age what having a mental illness meant when coming from an immigrant family. As a child, you are often taught that mental illnesses are things to be ashamed of. This is why after struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-harm for almost a decade in silence, Erin is choosing to take a stand by sharing her story in the hopes of bringing awareness towards mental health and intergenerational trauma.
By doing so, she hopes to impact others with an emphasis on communities of color, women, and those within her Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, to speak up and reach out for help in order to reframe how people think about mental health and normalize dialogues that encompass the lived experiences of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma.
Adam is currently a PhD student working on getting his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. His research interests are how and why depression begins to emerge, especially within adolescents. Unsurprisingly, his research interests are a direct result of many of the mental health struggles he faced while growing up and into early adulthood. Throughout Adam’s life, Adam has experienced multiple episodes of severe depression and anxiety, but now uses those experiences to help him both as a researcher and a clinician in training.
He is passionate about understanding the causes of depression in order to design interventions that can help prevent people from experiencing mental health disorders before they occur. He is also passionate about helping those around him realize that there is hope for a better life, and they are not alone in their struggles. He also believes that a central component of helping those struggling with mental health issues is being open about the impacts of mental health issues. He hopes that sharing his story will reduces the stigma associated with these disorders and increase the chances that the people that need help the most will realize that there is hope and they can reach out and find it.
From the outside looking in, Natalie had an idyllic childhood. She had an active and busy social life filled with soccer, dance recitals and girl scout meetings. She had a diverse group of friends and a family that loved and supported her. Although she could have been described as shy or introverted, her friends probably thought of her as a “normal”, carefree child. But even at that young age she was experiencing sensory issues, generalized anxiety and OCD.
Her parents helped her in every way they knew and brought her to specialists to help give her the skills she needed to thrive. She persevered, still occasionally scared to face the simplest situations. But by middle school, her anxiety was beginning to play a bigger part in her daily life.
During the fall of eighth grade, when she was 13 years old, she was diagnosed with depression. In the months following, anxiety and depression started to take over her life, making attending school nearly impossible at times. Through the help of family, friends, and her therapist along with medical support, she is thriving as a current high school student. Anxiety and depression are still present in her life, but she hopes to use her story to bring awareness to mental health issues and encourage others to seek help.
By talking about our mental health openly, we can make a huge impact. Join us in shattering the stigma!
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.