10 Must-See TED Talks on Mental Health/Illness

Hi, how’s your mental health?

This compilation lists talks that offer tips on how to better care for your mental health, allow an inside look at mental illness, and challenge society to eliminate the stigma around mental health issues. These are the talks that have inspired me, and are continuing to inspire me, as a mental health professional and as a person. I hope you find even just one of these talks informative, helpful, or inspiring as well.

Take what you need, and share if you can. 🙂

1. Why we all need to practice emotional first aid [Guy Winch, 2014]

“We all know how to maintain our physical health and how to practice dental hygiene, right? We’ve known it since we were five years old. But what do we know about maintaining our psychological health? Well, nothing. What do we teach our children about emotional hygiene? Nothing. How is it that we spend more time taking care of our teeth than we do our minds? Why is it that our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health?” ~ Guy Winch

In this talk, psychologist Guy Winch argues that psychological injuries, such as loneliness, rejection, and failure, need just as much caring for as our physical injuries do. I enjoyed watching this because it’s filled with entertaining stories and funny yet relevant examples. I learned so much, I think just watching this talk started to heal part of my own psychological injuries.

2. How to make stress your friend [Kelly McGonigal, 2013]

“When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.” ~ Kelly McGonigal

I’m a believer in using cognitive techniques to improve both physical and mental health, so I couldn’t be happier hearing what this talk revealed about the new science of stress. If you deal with stress on a daily basis, you have to watch this. It might just save your life.

3. The power of vulnerability [Brené Brown, 2010]

“For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.” ~ Brené Brown

This talk is equal parts informative, entertaining, and moving. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. It just hits deep. Just watch it and see what I’m talking about. [Warning: This talk contains some difficult truths. If you’re allergic to your own feelings and to brushing up against your vulnerabilities, denial and defensiveness may ensue. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor (uhmm, yeah, as Guy Winch pointed out, not a real doctor—just a psychologist).]

4. The world needs all kinds of minds [Temple Grandin, 2010]

“Now, the thing is, the world is going to need all of the different kinds of minds to work together. We’ve got to work on developing all these different kinds of minds. And one of the things that is driving me really crazy as I travel around and I do autism meetings, is I’m seeing a lot of smart, geeky, nerdy kids, and they just aren’t very social, and nobody’s working on developing their interest in something like science.” ~ Temple Grandin

Diagnosed with autism as a child, Temple Grandin has since then learned how to use the peculiarities of her mind to solve real-world problems the neurotypical might not be as adept at. In this energetic talk, she campaigns for society (educators, especially) to see and harness the value in all kinds of thinkers—the visual, the pattern, and the verbal. This was the talk that shifted the way I saw autistic and other neurologically atypical patterns of thinking. There is value in all kinds of minds.

5. There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health [Sangu Delle, 2017]

“In 2009, I received a frantic call in the middle of the night. My best friend in the world — a brilliant, philosophical, charming, hip young man — was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I witnessed some of the friends we’d grown up with recoil. I heard the snickers. I heard the whispers. ‘Did you hear he has gone mad?’ (Kru English) ‘He has gone crazy!’ Derogatory, demeaning commentary about his condition — words we would never say about someone with cancer or someone with malaria. Somehow, when it comes to mental illness, our ignorance eviscerates all empathy.” ~ Sangu De

Sangu Delle’s reflections about how mental health issues are still met with fear, surrounded by stigma, and rife with misconceptions in Africa echo many of my own observations about mental health issues in the Philippines. If you think the stigma against mental illness is bad in the U.S. and other developed countries, imagine how much worse it can be in developing countries like the Philippines. So much work still needs to be done in eliminating the stigma, correcting misconceptions, and helping people understand the message that this talk voices: There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health.

6. What’s so funny about mental illness? [Ruby Wax, 2012]

“So here’s my question. My question is, how come when people have mental damage, it’s always an active imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?” ~ Ruby Wax

In this short talk, comedian Ruby Wax challenges society to end the stigma of mental illness. With witty humor, she talks about her experience of clinical depression and illustrates (literally, as you’ll see) the biological bases of mental illness.

7. A tale of mental illness — from the inside [Elyn Saks, 2012]

“I don’t wish to be seen as regretting the life I could have had if I’d not been mentally ill, nor am I asking anyone for their pity. What I rather wish to say is that the humanity we all share is more important than the mental illness we may not. What those of us who suffer with mental illness want is what everybody wants: in the words of Sigmund Freud, ‘to work and to love.'” ~ Elyn Saks

Elyn Saks is a mental health law scholar–and a person living with schizophrenia. In this talk, she courageously shares her personal experiences dealing with the symptoms of the disease and the stigma of society. I’ve watched this talk so many times, and I still cry every time. It’s one of the things that solidified my resolve to go into psychology and be an advocate for mental health.

8. Depression, the secret we share [Andrew Solomon, 2013]

“You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. It’s easier to help schizophrenics who perceive that there’s something foreign inside of them that needs to be exorcised, but it’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth.” ~ Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon is a writer who’s lived through the horrors of depression and sought to understand and find meaning in it. He traveled the world and interviewed both people going through depression and people trying to remedy it, and in this talk, he shares what he’s learned. This is such a precious account filled with gems of wisdom for anyone wanting to understand more of the “noonday demon.”

9. Confessions of a depressed comic [Kevin Breel, 2013]

“I suffer from depression, and for a long time, I think, I was living two totally different lives, where one person was always afraid of the other. I was afraid that people would see me for who I really was, that I wasn’t the perfect, popular kid in high school everyone thought I was, that beneath my smile, there was struggle, and beneath my light, there was dark, and beneath my big personality just hid even bigger pain.” ~ Kevin Breel

In this talk, writer and comic Kevin Breel discusses his personal experience of depression, the stigma against mental illness, and the dangers of continuing to keep silent about these issues. His story acknowledges the struggle inherent in life and in living with mental illness, without failing to deliver a message of acceptance, of strength, and of hope.

10. The bridge between suicide and life [Kevin Briggs, 2014]

“Suicide is preventable. There is help. There is hope.” ~ Kevin Briggs

Kevin Briggs worked as an officer patrolling the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most notorious sites for suicide attempts. In this somewhat somber yet gripping talk, he shares accounts of his encounters with people “standing on the edge of life,” and offers insights on how to talk, and more importantly listen, to them.

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If you think any of these talks could help a loved one through a tough time, send him/her a link today. If you want to help end the stigma against mental health issues, spread the word. Write about it. Talk about it. Post about it on social media. Share what you’ve learned in these videos, whether to a friend, a colleague, or a family member. Silence won’t do us good anymore. Join the conversation.

›  »  •  «  ‹

Resources for Suicide Prevention

In the US:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
A free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

In the Philippines:
(02) 804-HOPE / (02) 804-4673
2919 (toll-free number for Globe and TM subscribers)
A 24/7 suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in emotional crisis and in need of immediate assistance.

If you’re actively suicidal, please reach out to someone or read this.

For other international resources, please click here.

This entry is part of my undertaking a 30-day challenge Matt Cutts talked about at TED2011. The premise is to “think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days.” I am challenging myself to post one blog entry a day for 30 consecutive days. 

Today is Day 22.

About the Author •


14 thoughts on “10 Must-See TED Talks on Mental Health/Illness

  1. I am a member in a Clubhouse which is part of an international organization. Our programs revolve around the strengths of each member (all whom have a mental illness.) There are staff on board, but they are more like guides with the bottom line responsibility. The idea behind the philosophy is that every person, no matter how severe their illness is, can be productive, social, and independent. Each day, we are disproving the stigma around mental illness. Our program helps members go to work at regular jobs which can be added to any resume. We are also encouraged and supported going back to school – whether it is to earn a GED, or to participate in college. We are given the opportunity to have our own apartments and to live independently. There is a whole model that is followed. At my Clubhouse, Gateway, in Greenville, South Carolina, we are a training base for this model. That means people from all over the world come to learn the philosophy and to see the amazing results. I am a proud member. I have a mental illness. But I can thrive. I have my own apartment and go to college. I work at the Clubhouse most days of the week. It is so complicated to explain all we do in a post, but anyone interested can look us up on the web. Although so many great things have been happening here, there is still too much stigma; even in our own backyard. We present to organizations and to our state representatives, but they are not always interested in providing for the mentally ill. I believe that I will not see the day that we are considered equal to those who live without this type of disorder. But, nonetheless, I am still fighting for equality. We need to speak up and let others know that we are capable of living a healthy and “normal” life!

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is awesome, thank you for sharing this! I’m so happy to know groups like your Clubhouse exist and are doing significant work helping those with mental illness lead productive and independent lives. We need more organizations instituting and supporting programs like yours. I love your Clubhouse’s philosophy, and I admire your dedication and efforts! More power to you and your group!

      Liked by 1 person

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