We had the good fortune of connecting with Meera Varma and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Content Warning: This interview briefly mentions anxiety, depression, self harm, suicidality, and body dysmorphia. 

Hi Meera, what matters most to you?
Validation is a principle that’s extremely important to me. It’s a mindset and process of understanding that whatever you are feeling and are going through is okay. Emotions are extremely complex and often very difficult to understand. Sometimes we don’t know why we are feeling a certain way, and that’s okay! As a mental health activist, I always tell my friends, family, and audiences I speak to that their feelings are valid, no matter what they are in that moment. Knowing that “it’s okay to not be okay,” is something that I emphasize because oftentimes we try to strive to be “okay” all the time. By validating our own emotions, we can start the process of developing a deeper relationship with ourselves and seek comfort in our emotions.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a 21 year old undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I became a mental health activist when I began struggling with my own mental health in high school. I have battled with a multitude of mental health challenges, ranging from panic attacks and body dysmorphia, to self harm and battling suicidal thoughts. I wanted to be open about my story to help others and to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. UCLA provided opportunities for me to grow as an activist. I became an integral leader of Active Minds Inc. Active Minds is a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness through initiating mental health conversations and education among college students. The organization has a presence at over 800 college campuses nationally, and I have leadership positions at UCLA and on the national level. I am also an integral part of The Shawn Mendes Foundation as a youth activist, dedicated to changing the conversation around mental health on a global level alongside Shawn. I’ve spoken at panels, schools, and organizations in my community to educate others about mental health and how to seek proper treatment. Through sharing my story, I hope to encourage those struggling to get the help they need and deserve. To anyone who is struggling with their mental health: you are not alone and the world needs you here.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am born and raised in the media capital of the world – Burbank, California. In light of that, I’d start off our day touring Warner Brothers, so my friend could see where Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Westworld, Harry Potter, and where so many more iconic shows were filmed! She’d then take her friend to Porto’s, an authentic Cuban bakery. To end off the day, Meera would take her friend to Wildwood Canyon for a sunset hike.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be the the mental health activist I am today without the support and guidance from Active Minds. Active Minds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students, via peer-to-peer dialogue and interaction. Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon in 2003, after her older brother died by suicide in 2000. Active Minds has a presence at over 800 chapters across the nation at universities and high schools. I’ve been a dedicated member of UCLA’s chapter since my freshman year, and have also interned and currently hold positions on the national level. I thank Active Minds for giving me the encouragement and guidance to follow my dreams of being an activist for mental health!

www.activeminds.org

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/meeravarma

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meeravarma/

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/meera-varma

Others: Meera’s Shawn Mendes Foundation World Suicide Prevention Day Content View on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CE9nW2iHR5q/ View on Twitter: https://twitter.com/shawnfoundation/status/1304094555776659462 View on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShawnFoundation/posts/346638813363345

Image Credits: Personal Photo Credits – Becky Fein, Active Minds Inc.

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