The subject of mental illness has been challenging to talk about in society, as people tend to associate mental illness with a stigma. Too often, many who experience various forms of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, suicidal feelings, etc., stay private and are unable to share their experiences with others.
Do you know that one out of five adults in the United States experiences some form of mental illness every year?
However, as mental health issues continue to increase worldwide, awareness and education are crucial to ending the stigma and advocating for better mental health care.
In this article, we have curated a list of powerful TED talks about mental health from speakers who have lived experiences and boldly share their experiences to help raise awareness so that others don’t have to go through it all alone.
From various misconceptions to the shame associated with mental health, we cannot overemphasize the importance of speaking about it. These misconceptions prevent people from talking about their mental state, leading to adverse mental health problems like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, impaired social relationships, and so on.
It is important that people begin to understand that a mental health condition is not a “dramatic episode” but an existing health condition.
Accordingly, many benefits exist when people share their mental health stories. For further reading, check out our compilation of some of the best and most inspiring mental health quotes to complement the talks below.
Elsewhere, for other ways, people express their journeys and grow awareness, check out our compilation of mental health tattoos.
Here are a few reasons why it is essential to talk about mental health:
Despite the focus on mental health in recent years, many still associate the subject with stigmas. People may shy away from speaking up to avoid discrimination from friends, family, and loved ones.
When people begin to speak about what they are going through, others will feel more comfortable speaking up about what they are struggling with. It also corrects misconceptions and changes perspectives in society.
Over 700,000 people die of suicide every year, and many suicidal attempts are linked to mental illnesses. When people cannot talk about their mental health, it could worsen their feeling of anxiety and depression, leading to eventual suicide.
Speaking up about mental health can encourage others struggling with suicidal feelings to talk to others about it or seek the mental health interventions they need.
Some people may not be aware of the presence of mental illness. When someone begins to talk about their personal experience, others may be able to understand their condition better and become aware of ways to get treatment.
Mental health goes beyond mental illnesses. Talking about mental health goes a long way to maintaining good mental well-being and dealing with emotional pain. Education can help people improve their mental well-being and benefit from helpful advice on the early detection of mental illnesses.
Healthy mental well-being enhances the quality of life of people. Talks on stress reduction, exercise, and mindfulness can help improve one’s well-being.
Related: read more in our mental health language guide.
Here’s our list of mental health TED talks by experts, speakers, and survivors in no particular order:
If you’ve ever felt shame talking about mental health, this TED talk by Sangu Delle is sure to let you know you are not alone.
Stress and anxiety finally hit hard in this story, forcing Sangu to confront his prejudice against men and mental health. He shares his journey from cultural biases, ignorance, own deep prejudice, and fear to a place where he could now deal with the subject and even inspire others to do so.
With this inspiring story, he advises people to talk to a friend or family member. He says that talking about our emotional feelings is not a sign of weakness. He ends the TED talk with an empowering statement: “Being honest about how we feel doesn't make us weak - it makes us human.”
Thomas Insel, a director at the National Institute of Medical Health, approaches mental health from a medical standpoint. He highlights that there is a 63% reduction in deaths caused by heart disease, thanks to medical research. He challenges the audience by asking if we could experience the same outcome if we focused on mental illnesses.
In this TED talk, he explains that it is vital that we approach mental disorders as brain disorders.
Eleanor Longdon shares her tumultuous story as a college student in this TED talk. She started college as a vibrant and promising young lady. However, this was only on the surface. On the inside, she struggled with a deep sense of insecurity, anxiety, and fear on the inside. This is not to mention that the voices in her head began to talk to her. These voices were hostile and antagonistic, turning her life into an unbelievable nightmare.
She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hospitalized. Mocked and disregarded by the system, the situation turned much worse for her. After the years-long journey of mental health struggles, together with support from her doctor, friends, and family, she begins to take a progressive journey towards wholeness.
This moving tale ends with a brave comeback. She learns to listen to the voices in her head and works with them to create a more stable life. She is brave enough to help others suffering the same recover as well.
Vikram Patel dives right to the point, sharing a story of two men who suffer mental illnesses, distinguishing between wealthy nations and the poorest countries in the world. He highlights that mental illnesses are among the leading causes of disability globally.
With statistics, he reveals many are truly affected by mental illness, including those closest to us. He expresses that most people affected by mental illnesses go without treatment despite the drugs available.
Vikram Patel gives us a highly promising approach. He encourages training members of communities to help provide mental health first aid, empowering ordinary people to dare to take care of others.
Joshua Walters, a comedian, was diagnosed as Bipolar and speaks of the thin line that exists between mental illness and mental illness.
In his funny and thought-provoking TED talk, he challenges the audience with a question. He asks them what the right balance is between medicating craziness away and continuing life on the manic edge of creativity.
Ruby Max is a comedian who shares her mental health illness story. She highlights that body diseases get more sympathy than those related to the brain. She tells the audience she was diagnosed with clinical depression and urges people to treat brain-related illnesses with the same diligence as body illness. She also urges people to put an end to the stigma.
This piece makes our mental health TED talks list for several reasons. Through his personal stories and past experiences, Guy Winch opens up a different perspective on mental health and our emotions. He speaks about how we pay attention to physical pain but fail to pay attention to emotional distress.
He points out the major damages that issues like loneliness and rejection can cause. He urges people to practice emotional hygiene and take care of their emotions and minds just as much as we pay attention to our physical bodies.
In this TED talk, psychologist Susan David talks about how emotions affect most aspects of our lives, including our relationships, career, and actions. She speaks about emotional rigidity in our world today and how many people try to push them aside, labeling them as either bad or good.
Susan David argues that we own our emotions and urges people to fight emotional rigidity in this deep talk. She encourages people to become emotionally agile and cultivate that ability. She also speaks about positively looking at our human emotions.
Kevin Briggs shares his story of the dark times he experienced while he patrolled San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge for many years. The bridge, famous the world over, was known for many good things, including its architecture. However, it was also popular for suicide attempts.
In this talk, he speaks of having over 1600 people leap over the bridge and unto their death. He shares the personal stories of survivors who had attempted to take their life all through his many years of working there. He ends this moving talk with a piece of powerful advice for people contemplating taking their lives.
Mark Henick, in this TED talk, tells his own story of his suicide attempt as a teenager. In detail, he shares a first-hand perspective on the discrimination and prejudice associated with suicide and mental illnesses.
He asks a profound question to the audience: “can suicide really be a choice if it’s the only choice?”
He explains that human perception contracts and expands, which greatly influences our choices. He challenges the audience, explaining that the first step to dealing with suicide is to look at it as a “public health concern” rather than a “criminal one.” He ends by challenging everyone to look at the subject of suicide as a big deal and to focus on reframing conversations about it. He also encourages suicide attempt survivors to hold on to the hope within.
Educational content creator Peachy Liv opens up about her experience creating content in the online community. She states that while she has gained some success on social media, some downsides come with being online.
Hate speech, inappropriate comments, and cyberbullying are among the negative online experiences. She suggests various ways to deal with this and urges people to create a more positive space for everyone online.
People who suffer from mental illness-related issues like depression and anxiety often feel stigmatized and remain silent.
However, these TED talks above help share stories of different mental health experiences such that others can gain an understanding that they are not alone and shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and seek help and support.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
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