5 Heart-Wrenching Ted Talks That Will Change the Way You View Mental Health & Suicide

Posted by Naomi Rohr on

Conversations are being had and taboo continues to be crushed as we as a society begin to shift how we think, feel, and respond to mental health and suicide.

Among the pioneers who continue to transform the dialogue around mental health are a few incredible speakers. With conviction, awareness, science, and compassion--these 5 heart-wrenching Ted Talks may permanently impact the way you view mental health and suicide.

What’s So Funny About Mental Illness| Ruby Wax

“All I got was a couple of phone calls telling me to perk up-- as if I hadn’t thought of that.”

Wax defines and breaks the barrier between how we treat those with physical illness that can be seen, comes with x-rays and a bunch of tangible tests vs. the essentially invisible nature of mental illness. Through her own experiences, Ruby Wax describes how nature and nurture brought about the breakdown that occurred at her daughter’s track meet and resulted in a month-long institutional stay. All of which brought about her understanding of how incredibly re-wired the brain can become and how powerful her understanding of the science behind the illness made her less afraid of herself and others (1 out of 4 of us)  living with mental health disorders.

The Bridge Between Suicide and Life| Kevin Briggs

“You listened. You really listened. And that saved me.”

Known for more than just its iconic architecture and views, the Golden Gate Bridge is where Kevin Briggs has found many at the brink of their darkest moment. Tasked with convincing them not to leap from the bridge to their death, Briggs has an insight into suicidal thoughts that many will never see. Through hundreds of encounters, and only two unforgettable losses, Briggs has concluded his and his team’s ability to listen and show compassion to be the primary way of getting a subject off the ledge. He challenges us to approach the topic of suicide with the same bravery and kindness that continues to save lives on the Golden Gate Bridge.

A Tale of Mental Illness| Elyn Saks

“There are not Schizophrenics, there are people with Schizophrenia.”

Having spent hundreds of days institutionalized and given multiple “grave” diagnoses along with a life sentence that consisted little more than staring out of a window. Saks never actualized her doctor’s prognosis. Living with Schizophrenia and bouts of psychosis Saks became a professor and Doctorate of Law and living proof that the human remains even when mental illness tries to prevail. Her will and determination speak volumes as she continues to pioneer how we understand and respond to Schizophrenia and those living with the disease. 

Her efforts shine a light on how involuntary institutionalization had gotten it gravely wrong when treating her and others. Professor Sacs tells a very straightforward personal story about having Schizophrenia, what treats do and didn’t work for her, and why the stigma against mental illness is why she kept it private until later in life. The richness and depth of people go far beyond their diagnosis. Her talk finishes with the objective it began with-- “The humanity we all share is more important than the mental illness we may not.”

Mental Health For All by Involving All| Vikram Patel

“If you should speak to anyone affected by mental illness, the chances are that you will hear stories of hidden suffering, shame, and discrimination.”

Prepare to be confronted for the often-overlooked treatment gap between those with and without mental health. Be it social, professional, or interpersonal the results of how the average person with diagnosed mental health disorders or disease is treated significantly worse is heartbreaking. Vikram includes studies and statistics demonstrating how the lives of those with mental illness are often cut short due to the neglect and lack of care from health professionals.

Patel goes on to demonstrate how everyone plays a role in the life expectancy and quality of life lived for those with mental health disorders all around the globe--Considering mental health is one of the leading disabilities. With robust psychological, medical, and social evidence that supports the improved outcome of those struggling with mental health--why aren’t we doing anything to make the lives of a huge chunk of the population better?

The Fight Against Teen Suicide Begins in the Classroom| Brittni Darras

Having attended a child’s funeral by the time she was 22. This teacher knew she had to do something to prevent another loss by suicide from any student ever again. It lingers on the mind of nearly every single person who has lost a loved one by suicide-- Where were the signs and how could I have missed them!?

Many of the 44,000 people who commit suicide each year in the US, don’t believe they will be truly missed. Teachers play a unique role in developing the hearts and minds of young people, doing the best to maintain boundaries while actively expressing to our kids how valuable they are and the important role they will play in the world.

Years later, Darras has come across other suicidal and depressed students. She has made it her personal duty to write a letter to each student at the end of the semester. To write personal letters meant knowing her students. Committing to take the time to learn about their interests, fule their passions, and validate their uniqueness that is too often perceived as teen rebellion. 

This Ted Talk, as well as the others, draws from a place of personal experience, scientific data, and a deep conviction toward developing the humanitarian side of us all. By creating a better, safer, more compassionate. and awareness world for those with mental illness will improve life for us all. 

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