The first part was easy. Jordan and I matched on a dating app in September of 2016, the onset of what would turn out to be a rather rough cuffing season. That was the last time autumn was glorious.

Interview with Ishita Verma of Shattering the Stigma

Introduce yourself! 

Hello! My name is Ishita Verma. I am currently a high school senior from California. I love reading, watching cheesy movies, and meeting new people! I’m passionate about mental health, especially eliminating the stigma through awareness. My other interests include politics and science! 

What is Shattering the Stigma

Shattering the Stigma is an international, student-led project seeking to eliminate teen mental health stigma. With a team of 60+ international students and 500+ readers, we focus on demystifying inaccurate media portrayals of psychological conditions. We have weekly informational articles, a Podcast discussing these portrayals with experts, and a platform for students to share their stories. 

You can check us out here:

https://shatteringthestigma.wixsite.com/project

How did you begin this project? What inspired it, and what were the first steps you took to make it a reality?

This project actually started as a blog! After being angered by how frequently the media misrepresented mental health, I began posting articles online that scientifically explained the conditions and brought more attention to inaccuracies. This blog soon began to attract readers. I still vividly remember my excitement of seeing the views on my posts rising!. When students from around the world started contacting me, asking if they could be a part of the project, it opened up a new possibility of ideas. At the time, the information I was putting out only covered the scope of media that I consumed. I was excited by how by expanding the team, we would be able to educate on a wider spectrum of topics and reach a larger audience.

With this determination, I opened up the project, welcoming students as collaborators. We created a new website, brand, and platform. Since then, we have been continuing to progress, including starting a Podcast and additional blog for student stories

You’re leading Shattering the Stigma while also being “a part of Bring Change To Mind, and collaborating with your school’s support center on mental health awareness projects.” I know that you’re also an active policy-debater and are working on scientific research (not to mention just being a student). And what is your advice on how to balance all of this – activism, school, and your own health and wellness?  

I would say that time management and doing activities which you are truly passionate about is key. School, in it itself, is a large responsibility–requiring a lot of energy and dedication. With the time that we have outside of school, we should really spend it doing the things that make us happy. This makes it so much easier to commit yourself to different activities because you truly love them. Beyond that, prioritization is super important. Know what’s more important for you, because we only do have 24 hours in the day and can’t do everything. It’s good to create a schedule that not only keeps you engaged but also allows for some down-time to relax and spend time with loved ones. 

If you had the world’s attention for just 1 minute, what would you say? What message do you want to impart?   

This is a great question! I think that at this time, the world needs a reminder of each other’s humanity. I think that sometimes we can get so caught up in our biases that we can forget to treat each other with respect. Especially with there being so much negativity out in the world, we should keep in mind that we all have feelings, we all get hurt, we are all people. No one deserves hate or violence. Everyone deserves love, happiness, and compassion, and that is what we should aim to give to others.

You’re a founding member of this project and a senior in high school. How has this time of COVID-19 affected you and your work? How have you been coping? 

COVID definitely brought about a change in my work. For one, it provided me more free time. Before covid, my schedule was jam-packed with work and extracurriculars. COVID-19 really gave me the time to reflect on what I was passionate about and what I wanted to spend my time on. I was able to really focus on my passions over the past year, and it has brought a lot of purpose into my life, which I’m really grateful for. 

That being said, though, COVID did bring about its own set of challenges and changes. I’ve found that trying to keep myself positive and looking at the bright side of things can help to stay optimistic. With all this uncertainty and tragedy around us, hope is what truly holds the power to carry us towards a better tomorrow. 

What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself? 

Self-care is taking time for yourself. It’s something that can take many forms, depending on what works for different people. But, its goal should be to help you unwind, relax, and ultimately improve your wellbeing. For me, I try to put some time aside each week for self-care. I’m learning that it’s not healthy to push yourself to be productive at all times. During my “me-time,” I like to try new activities like roller-skating and baking and doing things like watching movies and reading books. I love the headspace that these activities put me in! 

Here are some rapid-fire questions: 

Your go-to boba order? 

Matcha milk tea!

Favorite color? 

Yellow

Any good films/tv shows you’re watching right now? 

Madam Secretary!

Ultimate comfort food?

Burritos 

What has been the highlight of your day today? 

I caught up with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while 🙂


Ishita is a senior in high school. She founded Shattering The Stigma after noticing how the media could misinform viewers about mental health and how that exacerbates the mental health stigma. She is passionate about mental health awareness and hopes that one day everyone will be able to receive the treatment/support that they need. Ishita is also a part of Bring Change To Mind and works with her school’s student support center on mental health awareness projects to promote the wellbeing of her peers.


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Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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