Technology, Entertainment, and Design, better known as TED, is a nonprofit that creates and provides a space for people to gather and discuss ideas of science, education, business, global issues, and more. According to their website, “TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power to change attitudes, lives, and, ultimately, the world.”
As many people across the world continue to experience mental health crises, it’s important for people and organizations to use their platform to listen, help, and encourage those struggling.
Here are four TED talks that focus on mental health and offer key information on the complexities of mental illness.
Mental Health, Suicide, and the Power of Community – Haley DeGreve
Haley DeGreve, co-founder of The Gray Matters mental health awareness and suicide prevention nonprofit, took to TEDxYouth to share her own personal story of living with mental illness. As she researched the quickest way to die and contemplated ending her life, a friend called out of the blue and was able to listen to her and her pain. That phone call saved her life.
Throughout her talk, DeGreve emphasizes the impact having a community can have on those struggling with mental illness. Living in a world significantly lacking in mental health resources, it’s important to work together to provide a safe space for people to express their struggles and what they need to make it through.
DeGreve states that according to the CDC, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide attempts in young people increased by nearly 50%. This was largely due to the isolation which resulted from spending so much time in quarantine. As people were asked to stay in and not go out, they were all stripped of community.
Suicide prevention comes in many forms. It can be providing more mental health training, or working to support housing and food security, ending homelessness, and standing up for victims of bullying.
DeGreve calls on her audience to make a difference; we all have a heart, which is everything we need to make a difference. She says, “With the right tools, resources, and people around you, life can absolutely be worth living. Help is attainable.”
When you reach out to loved ones and show them you care, you are supporting mental health awareness by creating spaces for people to share the worries and depression they live with everyday.
As her talk comes to a close, DeGreve encourages individuals to stay for themselves. For all of the amazing things that will happen. Whether it’s traveling, spending time with all the loved ones you have and have yet to meet, or exploring new ideas and hobbies, there’s a world out there that needs to be seen.
Is Someone You Love Suffering in Silence? Here’s What To Do – Gus Worland
After his mentor, who was also his father figure, friend, and cousin’s husband, died by suicide, Gus Worland was forced to come to terms with the tragic truth so many have experienced first hand. He, too, was now able to relate personally with others who have lost a loved one to death by suicide.
Worland finally decided to share his story on his radio show in Australia, The Grill Team. For 90 minutes Worland talked about losing his mentor, and received calls from people who had been through similar situations. More significant than the thanks he was receiving for sharing his story, was that he had created a space and given a ‘green’ light to talk about what had been weighing on his listeners.
He then wondered how many other people are worrying alone.
In 2017, Worland established a not-for-profit foundation, Gotcha4Life, with the mission to live in a world without suicide. Through the creation of mental fitness programs, Gotcha4Life “create meaningful mateship, build emotional muscle, and strengthen social connection in local communities.”
Worland’s call to action is to text someone you care about, saying, “I love you. I miss you. See you soon. Xoxo.” He wonders, “what if we just started to look after our own people, the people you love and adore and can’t imagine living without.”
As Worland concludes, “It’s all about connection. It’s all about making sure you look after the people that are most important to you.”
Mental Health For All, By Involving All – Vikram Patel
In his TED talk focused on the lack of resources to support mental health, Vikram Patel discusses how task shifting is key to making care more accessible.
Task shifting in global health works to improve mental health care by training local individuals instead of relying on a few highly trained providers. In rural Uganda, villagers were used to deliver interpersonal psychotherapy for depression, and in rural Pakistan, women health visitors learned to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy in depressed mothers.
By training these workers, citizens automatically have greater access to mental health resources. In working within task shifting, there are several key lessons.
- Simplify medical jargon and messaging;
- Deliver health care close to people’s homes;
- Deliver health care using whoever is available and affordable in local communities; and
- Reallocate the specialists that are available
Patel states, “Task shifting is the ultimate example of democratization of medical knowledge, and therefore, medical power.”
Patel encourages the audience to take a moment in the coming days to think about someone they love who experiences mental illness, and “dare to care for them.”
A New Way To Help Young People With Mental Health – Tom Osborn
Growing up in Kenya, Tom Osborn felt the pressure to succeed early in life. His parents repeatedly emphasized how much they had sacrificed in order for him to receive an education, and it was in high school where he “began to notice the personal, emotional, and behavioral toll that this pressure-cooker system had exerted of myself and those around me.”
In Kenya, 50% of adolescents struggle with mental health challenges. But there are very little resources to help them combat the illness. There is not only a vast lack of experts, but also a significant weight stemming from social stigma.
Because of the way society views and discusses mental health and illness, many of those who struggle are too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.
Kenyan citizens, however, are stepping up to help. Osborn explains that these lay health workers are expanding access to mental health care by delivering evidence-based care to young people who want to get help, intervening without a diagnosis so as to avoid stigma, and working in their home communities to “fix the divide between mental health treatment and the social and cultural needs of the communities they serve.”
Osborn concludes his talk, by expressing that mental health is not a Kenyan and African problem, but a global problem. He says, “We need big ideas to tackle this problem. And our case for optimism is that our youth-oriented, community-focused model can be a template for the rest of the world.” He encourages people to come together and create a world in which young people can “flourish and thrive.”
It is clear that community is essential to supporting mental health. When people are alone, they struggle more, and their pain feels immensely overwhelming. While being surrounded by others may not always eliminate the pain, knowing you’re not alone may make things just a little bit easier.