During August 2018, I had the opportunity to give a talk about my work at Utkal University in India, as well as be part of a discussion panel. There, I was faced with an audience coming from a society where mental health is not even considered as a subject most of the time. How was I going to talk to them about mental health related work and keep their interest? The answer was I didn't. I didn't talk to them about my work, but I told them a story using simple words and comic like illustrations. The audience was really captivated because they could relate to the person in front of them telling them a story and through trying to teach them a lesson.
My talk was successful, and I received positive feedback because every single person in that room had at some point of their lives gone through the same things, they just didn't know how to express it. I even had people open up to me afterwards and tel I me their experiences. This really showcased to me the importance of considering your audience before delivering any content as well as how far visual communication and simple language can go when talking about hard topics such as mental health.
As part of my visit I also designed a workshop toolkit for talking about mental health within a university setting. The toolkit was a cultural translation of the Let's talk! Mental health discussion toolkit.
"Yes, I have struggled with mental illness through my life, I have had my battles with depression. But that is not my whole truth. Some people say don't let your illness define you. Well for me it is the complete opposite of that. I let my illness define me in a way. I carry it proud as a badge on my chest, I am very open about it. If it wasn't for my depression and anxiety I would not be the person I am today. I would not be a person passionate to changing, passionate about spreading the message that having a mental health problem is nothing to be embarrassed for. It does not make us weak, it makes as stronger. Imagine having to go through your life every day having 100 voices in your head telling you you are useless, you can't do this1 you are gonna fail. Imagine going through your life every day carrying a 100 kg of extra weight. That is how it feels, and being able to even get out of bed is a small victory. Being able to do things it is a victory, and this is the message I want to spread."