asha international mental health

We Give Hope

George Washington University students teamed up to promote mental health awareness.

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.

Thank you Juan Young Trust!

Our deepest gratitude to everyone at the Juan Young Trust for their generous grant to support our youth mental health program Let’s Talk About Mental Health. Together, we will continue to empower our youth to take charge of their mental

 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.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, ASHA International will be transitioning from its in-person programs to virtual interactions until we can resume our normal programming. Please stay connected.

Share your story. Give Hope. Change Lives.

 
Each of us has a story – a story of struggle and resilience. 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. Our story is our SUPERPOWER!
 
Please send us your story and let us know how you are staying resilient in these uncertain times – what are you doing to take care of yourself ? What gives you hope? If you are sending your story in text, please keep it to 1,600 words or less, and email it to info@myasha.org If you are sending your story as a video, please keep it to 5 minutes or less, upload it to You Tube of a video sharing site, and send the link to info@myasha.org We will be delighted to share your stories on our social media sites to inspire hope in our community.

Westview senior and ASHA Storyteller spearheads first Mental Wellness Week.

by Genevieve Reaume | 

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.”

Together, we will rise up stronger, kinder, and resilient.

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.

A story of friendship & resilience

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. 

Thank you for joining us at the Celebration of Hope!

Thank you to everyone who attended the Celebration of Hope on October 24th. It was an inspiring night filled with stories of courage, hope and resilience. We raised just over $40,000 to support our mission to normalize conversations about mental health and inspire hope and healing, one story at a time. We are most grateful to each and every one of our donors for their valuable support.
 
If you were not able to attend the event, please consider making a gift and join our Circle of Hope. To donate, please click here …
We welcome gifts of any size and sincerely appreciate your generous support.
 
Enjoy the video and pictures…

Event Photos

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2019 Grit & Grace Conference – WOW!

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!

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Kids work to change cultural perceptions of mental health

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. 

My Story My SUPERPOWER Storytelling Show was a huge success!

Thanks to everyone who attended our My Story My Superpower Storytelling Show on May 29th. What an inspiring event! It was an evening of laughter, tears and breaking down stereotypes. We are so grateful for our amazing storytellers who shared their mental health journey.
 
Sharing stories about mental health is hard, and at times, uncomfortable. Molly even asked the crowd if her story made them uncomfortable. She shared that there has never been any positive change without people feeling a little uncomfortable.
 
Dave’s story of how his family has managed his young daughter’s anxiety was moving. Each day may bring its own challenges but we must reflect that we all have things to be thankful for. He shared a quote, taken from the Berlin Wall that is now tattooed on his arm and provides him strength day to day.
 
“Right now, someone is dreaming of living your life.”
 
Mental health affects us all. Sharing stories is the best way we know to give hope.
 
With your support we are able to shine a light on mental health and end the stigma, one story at a time.
 
Please consider making a gift today to support ASHA International. Your contribution will allow us to bring our message of hope and well being to more people at school, in the workplace and in our community. Please click here to Give the Gift of Hope today!
 
Here is feedback from people who attended the event:
 
“The program last night was amazing. My daughter kept turning to me saying “that’s me!”. She just started seeing an anxiety therapist and with our family therapy she is really finding her voice. It’s so great to watch her open up around her challenges and last night added so beautifully to these efforts. Thanks for extending the invite!”
 
“I just wanted to say congratulations on a successful event last Wednesday night! What a great turn out – and wonderful stories, of course. I brought my daughter Annie with me, a recent nursing school grad, and she really was moved by so many of the stories as well.”
 
“Dave, I want to say thank you for sharing your incredible story. I was moved by your presentation and loved how you were able to discuss mental health in a broader way, to include the entire family. We are really lucky to have you. I know what you are doing can help change the stigma around mental health in the workplace. I’ve heard from many people in similar, high-stress jobs (including those at Nike), who talk about the grind and the pressure and the impact it can have outside of work. Without people’s bravery in talking about it, nothing will change. So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. There are a TON of businesses who could greatly benefit from hearing your story.”
 

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

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Videos from the event

Meet Our Storytellers

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 info@myasha.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 Kastner

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 Schechter

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.

 

Paul Wroblewski

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 Pettitt

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.

 

Natalie Robinson

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.

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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2018 Grit & Grace Storytelling Show

On May 17th, 2018 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

We are thrilled to announce our 2nd annual Grit & Grace: Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference on Friday, September 27, 2019, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM. To learn more, please click here

 

Photos from the event

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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

We are delighted to launch SAATHI – our South-Asian mental health outreach program!

 

Mental health is integral to  our overall well-being, and the well-being of our families and communities. But, coping with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions can be difficult and isolating. And, the cultural stigma and shame surrounding mental illness in the South-Asian community can prevent people from seeking help.

SAATHI, a South-Asian Mental Health Outreach Program of ASHA International aims to:

  • Promote awareness about mental health and emotional well-being
  • Improve access to care, &
  • Connect people to community supports and wellness resources

The program supports people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan living in the Portland metropolitan area.

If you or your loved one is struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, you are not alone. We can help. Please email us at saathi@myasha.org A member of our team will reach out to you within 48 hours.

You are not alone. There is hope. We can help.

To meet the SAATHI team members, please click here…

We are delighted to launch LIVING WELL!

Dear friends,

For nearly a decade of my life, I struggled to free myself from the death-hold of depression. For years, I worried, “will I ever get better?” “will I ever be well again?” It wasn’t until I met other people living and thriving despite their struggles with depression that I began to believe that I too can get better and live well.

Over the last couple of decades, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible people around the world, men women and children living with mental health conditions, who have taught me that living well with a mental health condition is possible. At ASHA International, we are delighted to launch LIVING WELL  – a series of blog posts highlighting these people and the multitude of pathways they pursue to live well.

Please read the blog posts, hear their messages of hope, and share it with your friends, family and social networks.

Wishing you wellness,

Gayathri Ramprasad

Founder & President, ASHA Interantional

Shadows in the Sun: Healing From Depression and Finding the Light Within

“Mental illness recognizes no borders, yet few books have explored the difficulties of individuals dealing with cultural differences and none has done it better than SHADOWS IN THE SUN. Beautifully written, Gayathri Ramprasad chronicles the devastating impact that depression reeks on an entire family and then brings us into the light with her inspiring story of recovery. This book is a true gift to all those struggling with a mental disorder and those of us who love them. In writing it, Gayathri Ramprasad establishes herself as an international voice of hope.”

– Pete Earley,  author of CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness

The book is available at most major bookstores and Amazon.

Let’s Talk

I still remember sitting with my mother in a psychiatrist’s office in Bangalore, India. After seven years of suffering through undiagnosed panic attacks and depression, I had finally tried to kill myself. And, my family physician had referred me to a psychiatrist.

“I pray that no one we know sees us here Gayu” my mother had whispered into my ears, her voice filled with fear.

Within minutes of talking with me, the psychiatrist had a diagnosis – I had been struggling with major depression. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding the diagnosis became a noose around my neck, sentencing my family and I into a life of shame and secrecy. For years, we did not talk about my struggles with family or friends. And, despite access to mental health services, I cycled in and out of depression, suicide attempts and hospitalizations. Eventually, confined in the seclusion room of a psychiatric ward in America, stripped of freedom, dignity, hope and humanity, I finally decided to break the silence and talk about my struggles with mental illness. I began talking with family, friends and even strangers. Looking back, talking about my mental illness was the first step in freeing myself from the stranglehold of stigma and shame. Talking about my mental illness also gave me the courage to embrace my humanity and ask for the treatment and support I needed to recover and thrive.

Depression affects 350 million people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in all countries around the world. It impacts people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, and can have a devastating impact on their ability to earn a living, and their relationships with family and friends. When left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.

Talking about depression and other mental health conditions is the first step in destigmatizing mental illness and encouraging people to get the lifesaving treatment and support they need. Please join ASHA International in supporting the World Health Organization’s campaign  Let’s Talk to promote awareness about depression and encourage people struggling with depression around the world to get the help they need. To learn how you can make a difference, please click here…

Let’s Talk about mental health at home, at work and in the community. Together, we can create a world of understanding, compassion and inclusion where every man, woman and child struggling with a mental health condition will find the love and support they need to create a healthy, meaningful, productive life.

ASHA Interantional turns 10!

Happy World Mental Health Day!

10th-anniversary-2Ten years ago, I started ASHA International with a simple wish – to share the lessons I had learned in pain to give hope to at least one person struggling with a mental health issue. Thanks to your love and support, over the years my colleagues and I have had the privilege of reaching out and touching the lives of more than 45,000 people nationally and internationally with a resounding message of  hope and healing.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health issues impose an enormous disease burden on societies across the world. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Despite its enormous health, social and economic burden, mental disorders continue to be driven into the shadows by stigma, prejudice and fear.

At ASHA International, we are dedicated to bringing mental health issues out of the shadows and into the light. We are also dedicated to destigmatizing mental health issues and empowering people to find the treatment and support they need to recover and thrive.

Please give the Gift of Hope today, and partner with us as we embark on another exciting decade dedicated to promoting mental health and wellness at home, at school, at work, and in the community. Together, we can change lives, perhaps even save lives.

Namaste,

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Founder & President, ASHA International