By Amrita Jhooty
Asha means “hope” in Sanskrit, and this is the message that ASHA International organization has been promoting for 13 years to combat mental illness and destigmatize mental health. Let’s talk about mental health (this is not just romanticized Tumblr we are discussing anymore).
Founded in 2006 by Gayathri Ramprasad, ASHA International’s mission is to promote and support personal and community wellness and mental health awareness, creating a supportive space of acceptance, empathy, and inclusion for everyone with a mental health condition. To achieve this goal, the organization is currently running a lot of wellness workshops and circles and establishing various programs concerning the cultural aspects of mental wellness such as Cultural Competence Training or SAATHI. Their extensive programs have helped this thirteen-year-old organization reach more than 50,000 people nationally and internationally.
As part of the organization’s “Let’s Talk About Mental Health” program, today, one of the organization’s “storyteller”, Bekah Miles, came to OES to share her story and raise awareness on mental illness. Having struggled with depression since her early adolescence, Miles reached “rock bottom” in her sophomore year in college, and it took her a while to finally accept professional help. It was a rocky journey, but eventually, she gained back the hope she needed to fight her mental illness.
When she decided to share her tattoo Save Me/ I’m Fine on Facebook along with an anecdote of her personal experience with major depressive disorder, the post reached the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people with millions of likes and shares. Miles started receiving messages from strangers, sharing their own struggles and thanking her for her courage and encouragement. It was then that Miles realized mental illness does not have a barrier, it could happen to anyone of any age group, race, gender, or socioeconomic class, but the number of conversations was not enough, and there were still stigmas around the issue.
Bekah Miles’ visit to OES last week opened up several avenues to talk about mental health. During her presentation, Miles directed the conversation over to the audience, asking them to announce some stressors and destressors in their lives. As more and more people shared their stressors, she would pour water into a cup until it overflowed, or reached its “breaking point.” This activity not only visualized a person’s mental health but also allowed the audience to share their experience with mental health. Similar to the wellness Wednesday lunch meetings that Meghan and Erin hold every Thursday, these conversations slowly and slowly normalize the talk ar mental health.
During the workshop, Miles did a small activity in which she placed a cup inside a bowl to simulate humans’ coping. She asked all workshop participants to share their stressors, with each pressure an amount of water was poured into a cup; in return, she would pour water from the cup into the bowl with each distressing method shared. This activity is similar to humans’ mental space in that everyone has a breaking point and when that limit is reached (= the cup is fully filled), life becomes overwhelming and harder to deal with, oftentimes resulting in strains in relationships, declining productivity, or sometimes suicide. Yet, with the appropriate and necessary destressing method, the balance will be regained.