During Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, we’ve curated five TEDxLondon talks that explore mental health, society, stigma and healing.

We’ve spent years exploring mental health in our talks – how it affects different people in different ways and how society plays a role in our mental well-being. We know mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is affected by many external factors outside of our control.

The talks below ask how mental health intersects with other issues such as war, trauma, food, discrimination, bias and more. But perhaps more importantly, they explore how we heal in the face of these difficulties, what compassion looks like and what wider actions need to happen to better look after ourselves and others.

Please take care whilst watching these talks.

1. Breaking out of concrete: six ways out of depression by Bethany Rose

Using poetry, humour and honesty, Beth’s part-talk and part-performance tackles this shocking experience and the reality of managing depression, mental illness and her own list of six things that helped her recovery.

“Share your vulnerable moments. I’m not talking about the time when you’re walking down the street and there’s a star and a rainstorm and you say: where did I go wrong? Because trust me we’ve all gone wrong. 

I’m talking about the really shameful moments like when you’re 20 minutes deep into crying onto the phone to a GP receptionist and you’ve eaten four packets of biscuits and the crumbs are literally exfoliating your thighs. Or when you’re 3 hours deep into a Facebook stalk of your childhood crushes ex-wife to check whether or not she has better hair than you. Trust me we all do these things. Share them. 

Sharing is a shame shrinker.”

2. Why there is no such thing as good or bad food by Pixie Turner

The majority of us have labelled foods as good or bad and assigned morals and rules to how we eat. But what if there was an alternative approach to food? As nurtrionist, Pixie Turner shares, she believe we can work towards food neutrality and think about our hunger with curiosity instead of judgement. 

“I believe we cannot fix emotional eating by resolving to never eat again when we are angry or sad or bored or stressed or lonely. We eat because we are hungry – not for food but something that is missing in our lives. 

Our self-critical voice says – oh why am I doing this? – a rhetorical question. So why not ask – hmm why am I doing this? – with curiosity. 

What are you really hungry for?

Is it the unconditional love you wish your parents had shown you? Is it a sense of safety? Fulfilment? Purpose? Self worth? What are you really hungry for?”

3. How diagnosis can get us wrong by Jules Montague

A diagnosis helps explain your symptoms and should get you the right medical treatment, but that’s not always the case. Journalist and former consultant, neurologist, Jules shares three stories about diagnoses where bias fed into how these patients were treated and what we can to tackle such bias. 

“For me this comes back to this idea of bias, because these diagnoses are decided at medical conferences, at scientific conferences. 

And they get refined there every year and then that diagnosis travels through hospitals and clinics and it ends up in your home. 

And if you can imagine it, at any point during that journey, you can get systemic biases jumping on it at any station

4. Why trans and non-binary joy is not radical by Ben Pechey

“Being trans is awful” according to the media, but it’s not trans people sharing this kind of hateful commentary. As author, Ben Pechey, declares in this powerful talk, trans joy is part of the here and now – mundane in fact – and accessible and attainable to all non-binary and trans people in their own individual way.

“So suddenly trans joy is not radical, it’s routine. And if you give it the space to develop, you can have it everyday. 

So we need to stop treating trans joy as radical, rare, even as an endangered species, but see it as mundane, individual, everyday. 

And suddenly trans joy is accessible, it’s attainable, it’s realistic and it’s not just something I would aspire to have. And so trans joy is not 30 years of soul searching.

It’s not having to shed your family. It’s not twelve different yoga retreats. It’s not even huge therapy bills.

It’s right now, and it’s for all of us.”

5. Healing through compassion and hope: a way forward from trauma by Dr Waheed Arian

Child refugee and Emergency doctor, Waheed shares his personal story of fleeing Afghanistan as a child to becoming an adult and doctor in the UK, to help show his journey of healing from trauma and PTSD. His overriding message is one of hope and compassion as a way to heal from trauma. 

“Trauma may be experienced by anyone anywhere. In my case, I am standing in front of you as one of the 400 million traumatised children of war and displacement, but my life has been transformed by the kindness shown to me.

And it’s also given me a purpose to give to others in need through my voice, medical profession and through my innovations to reduce healthcare inequalities for everyone, regardless of their race, background or religion.” 

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