This May, during Mental Health Awareness Month and amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of us experienced increased isolation and a level of shared suffering. We invited people to answer a simple question: “How are you, really?”
How Deepak Chopra Is, Really.
DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 89 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”
As immigrant students return to school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many are experiencing increased mental stress and significantly limited support resources. We recognize students from all backgrounds might be feeling these emotions; however, BIPOC students and immigrants are at particular risk because of the inequalities prevalent in today’s society.
We are sharing these stories to amplify the injustices immigrants face in our country, while also highlighting their resilience and how many persevere despite these odds. Everyone deserves access to culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health care.
Artwork by Brian Herrera
Carley Tucker - Senior Program Associate at Golden Door Scholars
"Your immigration status should not dictate whether you have access to mental health services." "We all should be proactive in advocating for enhanced mental health services for all people regardless of race, gender, and immigration status"
Youssef El Mosalami (Egypt)
"The lack of resources and stigma against mental health and therapy support has always been something that impacted me." "Hopefully, when I get to campus in the spring it'll be much better, and I'll be able to seek the support that I want - and being an immigrant won't define me."
Pierluigi Mancini, PhD - Pres, Multicultural Development Institute & Board Member, MHA
"It's difficult enough to be an immigrant. Difficult enough to be a student. Racism, discrimination, bias and prejudice make it worse. It increases feelings of anxiety, depression and suicide thoughts." "If you're not able to access help in a cultural and linguistically appropriate manner, then you're sentenced to suffer in silence. Culture affects how we view mental illness and other conditions, and a cultural lens needs to be applied to the services provided in order for people to find recovery -- and language is the primary barrier to why many immigrants cannot get help."
Fabiola Garcial (Mexico)
"I did not choose to be born somewhere else. I chose to be a good person." "I earned a full ride scholarship to an amazing college with the help of Golden Door Scholars and my brain, to a sigh of relief. I wanted everyone to know that an immigrant got a full ride scholarship. That I was capable of doing that and so much more."
Arij Johri (Pakistan)
"Mentally there is so much going on, yet I don't know if I have the right to express it." "There's so much stigma around the undocumented community, where we do not think it's okay to talk about our things...but I want to tell everyone- we do. Let's make the change together. Let's talk about it. Let's help each other out. Let's make sure that we are all human beings, and we all deserve the right to express."
Mental Health Resource Providers
Hear from the individuals dedicating their lives to the mental wellbeing of others.
Clay Olsen, CEO & Founder ----- Lift was designed to help support individuals struggling with depression or anxiety - young and old - with tools, education and community to assist them in finding deeper levels of healing. Our mission is to help spark a happy uprising of people hungry for more lasting and sustainable healing in their lives.
While many of us have been tasked with staying home over the past few months to slow the spread of the virus, essential workers are at the frontlines keeping our communities safe every day. It is important that we help take care of them, as they have taken care of all of us. See their stories from the front lines, and hear how are staying mentally healthy during this time.
COVID-19 is continuing to affect us all in different ways, and we need to take extra care of our mental health during this time. We thank our Frontline Workers for serving our communities throughout this difficult time and always. As a first responder balancing a high-stakes job and other responsibilities, it can be hard to find the time to care for yourself, but this is a necessity in order for you to keep taking care of others.
Exec Director of Help USA Westchester, NY
"Once I was aware that the Black and the Hispanic communities were more likely to contract this virus, it was really challenging, sc"Once I was aware that the Black and the Hispanic communities were more likely to contract this virus, it was really challenging, scary, frightening for me. This led to sleepless nights and anxiety."ary, frightening for me. This led to sleepless nights and anxiety."
Delaina - Social Practitioner in NYC
"I think what's been the hardest part for me is not having that connection...knowing that what could solve my hardest days at this point is a hug from my family or my best friends, or just that one-on-one experience we have with people we love and we just take for granted."
Registered Nurse in Salt Lake City, UT
"These patients can't have visitors... they don't have someone at the bedside to really be there and advocate - so that adds a lot of stress as the bedside nurse to be an advocate for this person." "Changing and reframing my mindset of those macro problems, focusing on the individuals and the families that I'm helping. That's helped keep me in a positive mindset."
Pharmacist in Toronto, CA
"Although it has been quite a mentally-draining season, I have tried to stay happy and remember the positive things. I'm learning to appreciate all of the little things, I'm learning to appreciate the gift of life every single day, and I'm learning to appreciate the ability to help somebody in their health journey."
Black & Transgender
Black Transgender people hold multiple marginalized identities, which puts them at increased risk of negative mental health experiences. Roughly 48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall US population. The Black Transgender community is far too often targets of murder and violent acts, based solely on their identity — and we can no longer ignore the prejudice and racism this community faces on a daily basis.
We’ve partnered with The Okra Project to share and amplify authentic & empowering stories of the Black Transgender community and their mental health experiences. The stories highlight these folks’ resilience and how beautiful it is to be a Black Transgender person. We understand that society’s work is far from over in creating culturally informed, quality mental health equity for all — and we hope these stories will help in our efforts to educate, destigmatize and implement lasting change for the Black Trans community.
Ianne Fields Stewart (they/them/she/her)
The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever we can reach them. "I wouldn't give it up for anything. I'm just happy being me."
Jevon Martin (he/him/his/KING)
Princess Janae Place offers a community-based, safe and accessible place for people of transgender experience to connect to critical services and support. "What keeps me grounded and resilient is that the Black Lives Matter inclusiveness creates support for the Trans community."
The musical community is uniquely positioned to elevate the conversation on mental health, as it has an unparalleled ability to connect to the hearts of others and catalyze change. Musical events strengthen community, build empathy, and most importantly have the capacity to inspire action. As the world takes the necessary precautions to combat COVID-19, members of the music industry have been faced with cancelled tours, festivals, and recordings, adding unprecedented financial and emotional stress to musicians’ lives as well. We’ve partnered with Sound Mind to amplify musicians’ voices as they speak openly about their mental health and how they have found healing through the power of music. There is no single right way to practice self-care; we encourage you to find your own creative outlet to aid in your mental health journey.
Sound Mind Live’s Come Together is a virtual music festival that will take place on 10/8 in celebration of World Mental Health Day on 10/10.
About 20 US Veterans die by suicide each day. The effects of war on Veterans’ mental health most often extend past their time in service, as they suffer from increased rates of Major Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With effective treatment, we can heal the wounds of our nation’s Veterans.
This Veterans Day, we’ve partnered with The Headstrong Project, an organization providing effective mental health treatment for post-9/11 veterans and their families, to share the stories of Veterans’ mental health experiences and their resilience in the face of often significant hardship and trauma. It is important that we draw attention to these staggering statistics and the difficult transitions that Veterans experience upon their return home – in an effort to educate ourselves, destigmatize the Veteran mental health experience and increase mental health funding & resources for this disproportionately impacted community.
We honor their service, bravery, and the sacrifices they have made for our country.
Danny O'Neel - Army
Danny served in the US Army for 7 years as a 13F. After 2 back to back deployments to Iraq, he left the Army with PTSD and a TBI. He lost 9 friends on his last deployment -- and since then 15 to suicide. He was almost one of them. His road to healing has been long and arduous, but he refuses to quit. Today, he serves as a peer mentor and motivational speaker. "Things don't always go the way you see in your head, and it led to a lot of dark thoughts and memories about guilt and shame, things I wish I could've done differently."
Challen Giallombardo - Air Force
Challen was in the Air Force for over 7 years as Security Forces. She patrolled outside the wire as external security at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan and also worked in the largest vehicle search pit and tower sentry duty. "I constantly remind myself that things that happened weren't my fault. That it's not real. It's not happening anymore."
Pasha Palankar - Army
Pasha is a medically-retired 17 year Army veteran. He has lost more friends to suicide than to combat, and he himself struggles with chronic PTSD and TBI. He underwent every treatment for these conditions available to active duty service members -- but driven by isolation due to COVID-19 in 2020, Pasha was suicidal and checked himself into the ER on Walter Reed, where he was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Pasha has been in a steady state of recovery post-hospitalization and is currently focused on helping others who are struggling in silence. He is speaking out about his trials in hopes of reaching those suffering in silence. "When I just feel like I need to talk to somebody but can't find somebody to relate to, I just write it down on paper-- and that takes the burden off of me."
Pete Stegemeyer - Army
Pete served as an infantry team leader in the US Army, where he completed 2 year-long combat tours in Afghanistan. After leaving the Army, Pete moved to New York City with his wife and currently works as a cyber security engineer. Pete also is a standup comic and has produced several shows to help raise awareness for mental health and veteran suicide prevention. "When I was in the army, we weren't encouraged to talk about our mental health...so I didn't realize what was happening inside me until I got out of the army and was diagnosed formally with PTSD."
James Cantalupo - Marines
James was in the Marines for 4 years. He experiences PTSD and high levels of anxiety, which contributed to his previous substance use. He is now in recovery and working to maintain his mental health while living at HELP USA's affordable housing. "I went in when I was 17, and I don't think my mind was ready for that...."
Amanda Albert - Navy
Amanda served in the US Navy for 6 years as an Aviation Electrician and UAS Operator. Quickly becoming her squadron's token mural artist, she now has artwork all around the globe. Today, she works as a civilian contractor, deploying while continuing to pursue her passion for art and run her small business from wherever she is. "There were many instances of crippling depression, anxiety, complete loss of trust for the people closest to me, and even memory loss."
Blenda McElveen - Navy
Blenda was in the Navy for 10 years. She lost her husband last year and was struggling to find support but now feels like she is on a better track - living at HELP USA's affordable housing in NYC and speaking to a therapist weekly. "They just abandoned me, but now I'm on the right track."
Tahlia Burton - Air Force
Tahlia is a US Air Force veteran, serving 6 years as a cryptologic language analyst, interpreter, and subject matter expert --supporting real-time intelligence and special operations missions in some of the world's most volatile regions. Tahlia grew up in Wisconsin and Florida but considers herself a very proud New Yorker. She is a mental health advocate & public speaker, social impact strategist, and a talent & people partner at Wunderkind. "Today I feel okay. I still have my moments, but I'm here and I'm happy...I'm a testament to the fact that if you address your mental wellness challenges, you can get your life back too."
Jorge Cotto - Marines
Jorge served 4 years in the US Marine Corps. He works daily to improve his situation & mental health, speaking with a therapist and trying different coping skills. "When I got out of the military, I wanted to be a police officer, and I failed the police psychological exam. So after all the time invested in the military, I was left with nothing."
Jorge Parker - Army
Jorge was drafted in 1971 to the US Army, where he spent 2 years in service and 14 months overseas in SE Asia. He is currently living at HELP USA's affordable housing and continues to work on strengthening his mental health. "I don't know if the world had changed that much, but I know I had."
Interpersonal Violence Survivors
Approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted in the US, and ~20% of interpersonal violence (IPV) survivors experience an onset of psychiatric disorders. It can be daunting for IPV survivors to come forward and speak publicly about their experiences for many reasons, including fears of stigma and societal disbelief. It often takes just one person to tell their story for others to relate, feel understood, connect with resources, and even garner the confidence to do the same.
We’ve partnered with RAINN and 1in6 to share the stories of interpersonal violence survivors’ mental health experiences and their resilience in the face of often significant trauma. The stories highlight these individuals’ identification with ‘survivorship’, their enduring resilience and healing journeys. We are amplifying interpersonal assault survivors’ voices in an effort to destigmatize their experiences and empower others to connect with mental health resources and share their own stories in whatever way feels right.
Roxanne Elizabeth Epperson
Roxanne E. Epperson is the Executive Director and Founder of Women Against Abusive Relationships (WAAR). After surviving an abusive relationship that almost took her life, and multiple sexual assaults and rape, she became passionately committed to ending violence in women and girls' lives. Roxanne realized that her survival was a blessing from God that allows her to use a life-threatening experience to prevent others from suffering the same. "You did not deserve it, and it was not your fault even if the perpetrator says it was." "Ignore the stereotypes or the stigma that if you go to therapy you're crazy...actually you're showing courage and you are taking the first step towards healing." "I turned my sour lemons into sweet juicy lemonade."
Ifer lives in Los Angeles and loves caring for children as a nanny. As a survivor of sexual assault and being constantly triggered by the political drama of 2016, Ifer wrote a zine called, Trump Reminds Me of My Rape. "By telling my story I think it helped me have clarity on what that meant for me and my mental health and processing it really" "I don't necessarily label myself as [a 'Survivor']...yeah, this is something that happened to me, but I don't think it's my identity." "What did happen to me did change me, and I was left with a fear of men and a fear of the world...I was scared of everything after that happened..." "I'm feeling just grateful for the life I am leading right now. That I have a home, that I have a supportive family, that I have a supportive community."
Jason was sexually molested from age 12 to 17 by his Boy Scout leader, who was also his youth leader at his church. Although Jason has identified at least 47 men who were abused by him in total, he was 1 of 3 victims who pressed charges, leading to him being sentenced to 30 years in jail. He has struggled with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and believes in therapy and being an active participant in his healing journey. "Once I admitted I had a problem, I entered into therapy with a dual focus on dealing with my abuse history and trying to integrate all the different compartments I had built up inside of my head." "Today, with thirty years distance between me and the trauma I mostly deal with the manifestations of [CPTSD]...I deal with that, and the way they personify my addictions, and how they impact the way I see myself, and how I interact with others around me." "Healing doesn't happen unless I'm an active participant in the process." "I don't find much value in living in the past or living in the future, yet my mind constantly moves me in those two directions. It is so much easier and healthier to live in the now."
Jo is a marketer and model based in New York City. She was repeated sexually abused at the age of 3 by a teenager who was at her babysitter's. She was again assaulted at 17 when she was at a party, where she was was given alcohol and raped by a fellow partygoer. Her mental health was affected in relation to her body image as she struggled with eating disorders and feeling as though her body was not worth treating well. She is now comfortable and happy with her body and how she views herself after years of effort, therapy and soul searching. "One of the things that I wish I knew earlier is 'You are not alone. You do not have to hide this.'" "When you are comfortable, and as you are comfortable, talking about it helps, because it helps you explore those feelings, get them out and understand them."
Joe is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse from multiple abusers. After years of counseling, he has found that joining other survivors in advocacy work helps him continue his healing journey. He believes that if he can help even one person, it feels like he is passing along some of the help he got from so many others. He is also a big fan of dinosaurs, hot sauce, chocolate, and tea. "The PTSD to me wasn't so much a label as it was a way to understand...some of the events of my life [and] some of the responses." "One of the things that I have told other survivors, in person and online, is these things you're going through are a perfectly normal response to a very abnormal situation." "The hidden talents that are in us didn't go away when we were abused... and each and every one of us has an opportunity, if we choose, to nurture that talent, that essence, that who we are, and have it help us make healthy choices for better outcomes despite whatever was in the past."
Julie is a survivor of years of childhood sexual abuse and other one-off sexual assault experiences by family member and family friends. With sexual assault being common in her family and culture, seeking help was not an option, and she did not know it was wrong until a family friend started molesting her at 9 years old, which continued until she was 17. Most of the sexual abuse that she experienced was from trusted adults in her life including the last incident at 28 years old by someone who was a friend and mentor. For Julie, healing has been a journey of learning to befriend her body and release the traumatic energy that has been unconsciously stored. Now, as a somatic trauma therapist, Julie helps others heal themselves. "My healing journey was about befriending my body. Learning how to feel safe in my body. Find my strength and therefore to also feel safe in the world once again." "I am empowered to help others find that sense of safety in their bodies and in the world as well."
Kelly Johnson was 23 and leaving for work in the morning when she was attacked by a home invader who beat, strangled and raped her. Kelly chose to speak openly about her experiences with those close to her and because of the support she was met with from her family and friends, she felt comfortable starting to work with a therapist. While she accepts that her healing journey will continue to be ongoing, she finds that her good days now outweigh her bad ones. "I was a 'victim', I was 'victimized,' but I am a 'survivor'...and I feel like that transition began when I started speaking to people about what happened to me." "It's a really strange thing to be grateful that you've been messed up enough on the outside that people can acknowledge that you've been messed up on the inside." "It's not that I couldn't still have an amazing life. I just couldn't ever again have a life where this wasn't part of it, where I wasn't carrying this with me...and for me, accepting that there was no factory reset, that no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to find a button that would get me back to me mental and emotional state from before the attack, it was kind of freeing. It took away one of the internal battles I was fighting and made it easier to start building a sustainable path forward."
Megan is 31 years old and was raised in Southern California. She is a litigation attorney in New York City and recently started her own professional organizing company, Tidy Tribe, where she helps people seek serenity and take back control of their lives by helping them organize their home and other spaces. She experienced domestic violence with an intimate partner several years ago, which involved both physical violence and severe emotional abuse. Her partner was battling depression and addiction at the time, which played a huge part in the trauma she experienced. "What about me? What about my well being and my safety and my suffering? I really did lose my sense of self." "I've found a lot of peace in my journey of healing by trying to help others who are dealing with a similar situation who may not have the resources that I have." "I know that trauma is not linear and it doesn't just go away." "I just want people to know that domestic violence can truly happen to anyone."
Michael is a father, husband, and child advocate, and he describes himself as an agent of change. He grew up with family members targeting him for their sexual gratification and heir fury, and his childhood experiences is the embodiment and manifestation of his family's criminality, their mental illnesses, incest, and more. He feels that once he connected with a therapist who specializes in trauma and abuse, things began to change for the better. "It left me unable to trust, feel safe, vulnerable, and specifically unable to develop healthy sexuality." "My [healing] journey is at times painful and at times full of 'aha!' moments. I work hard at it, fully engaged. Once I connected with a trained therapist, specializing in trauma and abuse, things got scarier, but things also began to change for the better." "I thrive and I struggle; when I'm chill I take on more and when I'm triggered and stuck in a trauma-response cycle, my life and the lies of those around me is the tempest of chaos." "I'm not alone. I know it and i feel it. I know that I'm worthy of peace, of calm, and joy."
Mirabelle Jones is a researcher, artist, and creative technologist living in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mirabelle founded Art Against Assault, a nonprofit organization giving survivors a platform to create artwork which speaks out against assault, after being sexually assaulted during their second year of graduate school. They were drugged by a person they met at a bar. Talking to a crisis counselor from RAINN enabled them to believe that it was not their fault and online forums helped them feel like she was no longer alone. The person who assaulted them never spent a day in jail, and while Mirabelle is still angry, they continue to use their voice and art to speak out against assault. "I'd be lying today if I said that I'm fine. I'm still angry. I'm angry at what happened to me, and I'm angrier still at what happens to hundreds of people in the United States every day and what happens to thousands of people around the world every day. I refuse to accept this as normal." "I'm proud to say that I've been able to use my voice to speak out against what I refuse to accept as normal."
Reggie Walker is a dad to three, a husband, and an ex-NFL player living in the Kansas City area. Reggie is a sexual assault survivor and survivor advocate who believes his own healing journey began when he lost what he calls the first love of his life- football. As an NFL player for 7 years, and a captain of the Arizona Cardinals, football had been, among many things, his coping mechanism for sexual assault. Facing the reality of his experience with sexual assault many years after the fact led to a lack of self confidence and self control, but his belief remains that sitting with feelings related to trauma or of pain is necessary, and relying on your own resilience can get you through it. "My healing journey didn't really start until I lost the first love of my life, which was football. Football was a coping mechanism for me, my teacher, and so many things to me. When it got taken away it forced me to sit with myself, and sitting myself was something I never fully gave myself the time to do." "You're going to need your trusted friend, your best friend, probably the biggest thing that is going to help you out is going to be resilience, but I say its a friend because you really need to form that relationship with it because sitting with yourself is a brutal process and resilience is your one and only friend at times to get through that." “You need to be very comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. But you can get through it. I did it.”
Samantha is a singer songwriter who was born and raised in Seattle. She loves woodworking and all of her fur babies. After experiencing sexual assault by someone she knew, she believes that living was a choice, and continue choosing to live her life while processing her past. She wrote and recorded the song 'Be Anyway' about her experience as a survivor. "Music has been a wonderful coping mechanism for me to get through even the toughest times." "I consider myself a 'survivor,' because there were many times throughout my healing journey where I made the active decision to survive. It's not just that I survived a traumatic event in my life; it's that I survived the aftermath." "It was a lot that I was keeping inside, and not everyone knew what happened to me, but they could see what was happening to me." "There are so many people out there who do feel the same way. Even in my darkest moments...the days that I felt I was so alone, there are people out there that understand." "It's been four years since I was assaulted, and I can say that at this moment, I am present. I'm happy when I'm happy. I'm sad when I'm sad. I'm angry when I'm angry...it's really cool to say that I'm present, and I'm able to feel how I feel."
Melissa is a professional dancer, model, personal trainer, and Boston College graduate. More than anything, she is a performer on a mission to bring more beauty to this world in every way that she can. She is also a survivor of domestic violence. "I have never been more grateful for my art form than I have throughout my healing journey. I think that when words fail movement doesn't and unraveling how complicated a domestically violent relationship is, and all of the layers that coincide with that, was really challenging, and dance has always been my first language." "Having a medical expert to help me go through a trauma and deal with it has been such a necessary part of my healing process. If I had a broken foot, I would go to the doctor. This for me is the same thing." "The way your brain works before trauma and after trauma is completely different, and understanding what is going on in your body allowed me to work with myself instead of against myself." "You have the strength and power to get through this because you are already surviving."
Stephen is a song writer, singer, performer and most of all a human who lives to help others. As a survivor who experienced being silenced after 14 years of childhood sexual abuse, he refuses to rest until he can ensure that no other child has to walk into their adulthood carrying the kind of pain he did. He has felt the effects of society's lack of acknowledgement for sexual abuse as a men's issue too, and believes he deserves, as all human do, to heal. "I have finally lived more years alive without abuse than I have with abuse, and for me that's a big thing." "I have to decide everyday if walking outside my front door is worth the triggers that I may face... and some day's it's not... I don't get to choose the triggers that affect my mental health, and I don't always get to choose how those triggers affect the way I react." "This world doesn't make it easy for men. We are told be a man, be a tough guy; we're told don't be a sissy, don't cry. But I am learning that it's ok to live in those emotions and express those emotions and process them, and that is how we heal. We heal by speaking out and speaking up about our stories."
Kristine is a Senior Recruiter for an information technology company in Pennsylvania, where she is married with two children. As a freshman in college she was raped by an acquaintance who left her on the side of the road for dead. She created a nonprofit organization called Voices of Hope where she shares her personal story and helps others share their stories of trauma and healing. "Speaking about my story actually has been a really great way for me to heal." "I no longer define myself as a victim. For a long time I defined myself as a fighter but also I define myself as a thriver... There are definitely some bad days still, but the good outweigh the bad." "I used my eating disorder as a way to hide feelings that I didn't want to feel. Whether it was sadness or anger or hurt or anxiety... I experienced PTSD, I battled a couple years of depression, and anxiety..." "It wasn't until about...6 years after the rape, when I actually took some time off from being in any form of relationship and really learned to find myself and figure out who I was... because after I was raped everything changed. I knew who I was prior to it but I didn't know who I was after."