TED Talks to get you thinking about mental health

There’s a TED talk on almost everything. In fact, there are over 2,200 TED Talks available online. From cutting edge insights into technological breakthroughs to an Oregon activist who demonstrates how using just one paper towel to dry one’s hands can help the US reduce its six billion kilograms of paper towel wastage per year reduce paper wastage.

TED talks are also valuable resources for exploring attitudes, ideas, theories, and experiences of mental health. Collective Purpose embraces the diversity and individuality of mental health experiences and we have created a short list of our 5 favourite TED Talks on mental health from the perspectives of experts, consumers, carers, and friends to inspire you, challenge you, and get you thinking.

1. Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability. June 2010

Brené Brown is a “research storyteller”, who is fascinated by vulnerability, a feeling that affects all of us. For example, you have a meeting with your boss who tells you all the wonderful things you have done…and then offers you one area to improve on. Chances are that, rather than concentrating on all the positives, you would zoom in on that one piece of feedback that triggers your vulnerability. Brown believes that this vulnerability is linked to shame: those feelings that our inner critic tells us we should not be proud of, such as not being tall enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough. She argues that people should try to embrace their vulnerability and broaden their comfort zones to turn our discomfort into something comfortable. Embracing our imperfections and letting ourselves “be seen, vulnerably seen…to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee…to believe that we are enough”, is a key to living a more authentic life.

Brene Brown TED talk

Brene Brown

2. Melissa Walker: Art Can Heal PTSD’s Invisible Wounds, November 2015

Walker is a US-based creative arts therapist who specialises in assisting war veterans who experience PTSD. She calls PTSD an invisible scar, and discusses how military veterans suffer it in silence: without access to proper diagnoses or proper care. She advocates for including art therapy into their treatment because art engages with both left and right sides of the brain. Art makes the invisible visible. Sometimes, people need more than simply talking through their trauma. Art therapy can assist the processing and conceptualisation of traumatic memories by giving people different outlets to express their whole experience. Walker takes her patients through an artistic journey where they make masks of their experiences. At the time of her talk, over one thousand masks had been made and she was hopeful that her good work would continue.

3. Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar: What happens in your brain when you pay attention? April 2017

Phones, tablets, televisions, social media, apps, online shopping, chatting with friends. With so many things to stimulate our brains, paying close attention can sometimes be a difficult task, especially when we have so many different things to direct our attention to. But, did you know that our attention is not just what we focus on, but also what our brains do not focus on. Computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar investigates the patterns in the brain when people try to focus. He discusses how he hopes that this research will be used to build computer models that can help treat ADHD, and help those who do not have the ability to communicate, such as people with Dyspraxia.

4. Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share, October 2013

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.” In a talk equal parts eloquent and devastating, writer Andrew Solomon takes you to the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression. That led him to an eye-opening journey across the world to interview others with depression — only to discover that, to his surprise, the more he talked, the more people wanted to tell their own stories. For Solomon, experiencing depression enabled him to “find and cling to joy”.

Andrew Solomon TED talk

Andrew Solomon

5. Sangu Delle: There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health. February 2017

After experiencing an anxiety attack and was advised to seek help from a mental health professional. “Mental Health?!?!”, Delle asked, bewildered and overcome with an immense sense of shame. Laden with the burden of stigma, but supported by those around him, Delle still could not bear the thought of speaking to someone about his mental health. This was amplified by what he calls “the rigid architecture of African masculinity”, where African men “neither process or express our emotions…We deal with our problems.” Growing up in West Africa, the term “mental” invoked images of destitution, homelessness, spiritual possession, and drug addiction throughout Delle’s childhood. Declaring depression would result in one’s local pastor driving out demons, and driving out the witches in one’s village. He states that most African governments invest less than one percent of their health care budget in mental health. This is worsened by a severe deficit of psychiatrists. Delle implores us, not just Africans, to realise that our mental health is as important as physical health, and to realise that our mental struggles do not detract from our humanity, but makes us so.