This immeasurable, unsettling year exacerbated by the global pandemic has not only brought devastating loss worldwide, it has also affected us in many different ways, particularly our mental health. In fact, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General says that society is at risk of a ‘social recession’ marked by an increase in loneliness and isolation. Making now more important than ever to prioritize our mental health and to check in on loved ones.
Keeping this inflection point in mind, the AIF New York Young Professionals (NYYP) Chapter hosted a ‘Mental Health and Mindfulness Forum’ on Thursday, April 1st. We hoped to spark a conversation on taboo topics that are often not acknowledged, or swept under the rug, particularly in South Asian communities. Bringing this event to life, an expert panel from various walks in life, shared not only their authentic stories but also best clinical practices for navigating the mental health journey. Aseem Tiwari led a riveting discussion with our panelists – Aparna Sangaram, Dr. Lakshmi Reddy, and Sydney Moondra.
Working in entertainment for over a decade between the U.S. and India, Aseem Tiwari writes stories to normalize mental health in Person of Color (POC) communities. When not writing, he is usually busy building Be Strong, a company developing equitable mental health solutions for POC communities, or trying to decide between peanut and almond butter (a highly controversial topic we found out as the night went along).
Aparna Sangaram, a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Philadelphia, helps individuals and couples navigate tough transitions. She uses her Instagram platform to educate people on the importance of mental health and provides tips for having healthier relationships.
Dr. Lakshmi Reddy is a faculty member of Weill Cornell Medicine and serves as an attending physician in the psychiatric ER. Dr. Reddy attended Cornell University with a focus in Adolescent Cognitive, Social, and Developmental Psychology. She resides in New York and is also a former Members Council (MC) member of the AIF NYYP Chapter.
Sydney Moondra is the CEO and founder of Dil to Dil, a nonprofit organization dedicated to destigmatizing mental health conditions within the South Asian diaspora through the power of storytelling. Sydney is also a healthcare consultant and researcher in the field of well-being, burnout, and resilience. You can catch Sydney scoping out the Washington DC restaurant scene, and walking her clingy four-legged friend outside of work.
The evening consisted of an intimate conversation with the panelists conversing all things – therapy, being a compassionate ally for a friend or family member, misconceptions surrounding mental health, tools to cope with anxiety, self care rituals and much much more. The most common types of self care rituals amongst our attendees were exercising, meditation, and journaling.
Some thoughtful resources that were shared by the panelists and the attendees are:
- TedTalks: Heart to Heart by Sydney Moondra, Why we should all try therapy by Emily Anhart
- Podcasts: Tell Me What You Are Proud Of with Dr. Maggie Perry, Beyond Your Past Radio, MaanMukti
- Books/Newsletters: We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider, Foreign Bodies
- Meditation: Many people in the chat echoed that focused meditation has immensely helped with calming the mind – Headspace and Calm are great apps when starting out.
- The Five Minute journal: A simple app that helps with practicing explicit gratitude.
- Mental Health Advocacy Communities: Dil to Dil, Brown Girl Therapy
- Therapy: We talked in detail about the benefits of therapy and how cathartic it can be even if it takes a few tries to find the right one. Folks currently in therapy shared the rewarding parts of the process.
Synthesizing the invaluable insights and putting it to practice, we concluded with a meditation session by the phenomenal Meera Dhawan, a licensed yoga teacher from California. Meera’s yoga journey started when she was a little girl practicing pranayama with her grandmother.
Meera focuses on teaching yoga from a place of authenticity in order to help others still fluctuations of the mind, and more so, approaches yoga holistically by drawing in practices from the Eightfold Path of the Yoga Sutras, weaving in asana, pranayama, meditation, and yoga philosophy. She led us through a guided Sama Vritti Pranayama, a practice of creating uniformity in the breath, also known as ‘box breathing’.
Mental health awareness is the first key step to combating the mental health crisis and the NYYP chapter is honored to have played a small role in amplifying this taboo subject in the AIF community and the South Asian diaspora!
Written by Kriti Sehgal & the NYYP Events Team
About the Author:
Kriti Sehgal serves on the Events Team at AIF’s Young Professionals Chapter in New York. She is passionate about philanthropy, service, and social innovation. She currently works at an investment bank creating technology for the firm’s institutional clients and serves on the board of Bluebonnet Data, a nonprofit organization democratizing data by building data talent and infrastructure for progressive causes.