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Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are becoming more and more common in the Western world. It is well-known that depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses worldwide. Luckily, there are some excellent inspirational talks on the TED website that give hope and direction for people affected by these disorders. These talks come primarily from people who can relate and have done a lot of research on the subject. Some of the talks listed here address some aspect of overcoming the stigma associated with depression and anxiety in order to get help and stay strong while others are primarily for those who wish to reach out and help those with anxiety and depression. In no particular order, here are 10 TED talks for anxiety and depression recovery.
In his talk, journalist Johann Hari shares insights on the causes of anxiety and depression from some of the world’s leading experts. He suggests that we might need to stop looking at it from the perspective that our brain is malfunctioning and needs to be “fixed” with drugs. Rather, the focus should be on our unmet human needs, such as human connection.
Nikki Webber Allen is a producer and activist whose main message is that having feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being human. The stigma of mental health struggles, specifically in the African American community, kept her from revealing her own until a family tragedy revealed how loved ones were also suffering in silence. She wants everyone to know that they are not alone and to reach out when they need help.
Comedian Kevin Breel discusses his own struggles with depression and the part of him that only he sees, but he encourages those going through the same thing to let others know about their struggles. “It’s a massive problem,” he says, but one wouldn’t know from looking at social media. People tend only to post the best and happiest moments. But he wants everyone to know that knowing about the darkness does not take away from the light.
In this talk, JD Schramm advocates for resources for suicide attempt survivors because “it gets better.” Many who attempt suicide a second time after a first failed attempt will be successful. Those who have tried and failed but found their way back to a meaningful life need to be willing to speak up to convince those who may be thinking about suicide that it really does get better and that their lives matter.
Psychologist Susan David claims that we live in a world of emotional rigidity. What we feel is often not meant to be outwardly shown and expressed. Most of the population is either obsessively brooding on their feelings or trying to push them aside. Emotions are labeled as either “good” or “bad,” and the bad emotions are pushed aside so as to not legitimize them. She argues that “We own our emotions, … they don’t own us,” and that we must be emotionally agile in order to combat the emotional rigidity around us. People and organizations, she argues, achieve resiliency when they are open to the full range of human emotions.
An activist from Ghana, Sangu Delle discusses the ways in which he felt the stigma of mental health as he battled his own anxiety. “Mental health” is such a misunderstood term in Africa that many men feel like they cannot talk about their feelings openly. Delle suggests that we must overcome the stigma and realize that being honest and open about our feelings does not make us weak. Rather, it makes us human.
Comedian Bill Bernat gives some advice to people who want to engage with friends with depression but just don’t know how to go about it. In this humorous talk, Bernat goes through a few “do’s” and “don’t’s” to help you connect with friends with depression. The key is to treat them as you would anybody else. Talk about normal life activities, and don’t focus on the depression. One thing that is emphasized is that it’s possible to be sad and OK at the same time. Remembering that will help you more easily connect with a friend who has depression.
Founder of HALT, an Australian mental health organization, Jeremy Forbes discusses how and why he started the organization. He saw people who were anxious, depressed or thinking about suicide but felt like they had to suffer in silence because of cultural expectations. He thought about ways to get the community together for a conversation about mental health. It turns out that with the stigma attached to mental health, especially in his local community, the best way to get people to open up about their mental health issues was to get them into an environment where they weren’t expected to, but where they felt they were in a safe space to do so.
Anxiety researcher Olivia Remes talks about the different types of anxiety. Around the 7-minute mark, she begins to discuss three specific coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety. The first has to do with jumping into a project without giving yourself too much time to think before diving in. The second is forgiving oneself. Be kinder to yourself and forgive yourself for mistakes as you would show that same compassion to others. The last involves finding meaning and purpose in life. We can greatly improve our mental health when we find that our life contributions matter to others and affect others in a positive way.
Comedian and performer Jordan Raskopoulos has what is referred to as “high functioning anxiety.” She doesn’t have any stage fright, but offstage she has what she refers to as “life fright,” a constant stream of worried thoughts in all situations. In this talk, she discusses how she gets along so well in society despite the stigma of anxiety. She has certain situations that she avoids and certain methods of focusing on one specific thing at a time. Talking about her anxiety issues and developing hobbies are among the methods she discusses in this humorous talk.
Depression and anxiety are extremely common in our society, but often the stigma associated with mental illness leave those diagnosed with these disorders to suffer in silence. These talks let those who are living with mental health issues know they are not alone and shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help. Many of the speakers have experienced mental health issues themselves and have experienced the power of speaking up. In addition to these talks, there are many more on TED.com. TED talks on mental health topics held at independent organizations can be found by searching YouTube.