A Chat With: Jada Atchu-Yudom and Sania Ahmad of REVIVE Mental Health

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Interview by Kalani Dunn

Jada Atchu-Yudom and Sania Ahmad started REVIVE Mental Health with a few teammates back in September 2020, and have been working diligently to de-stigmatize mental health ever since. Read to learn about their experiences working as mental health advocates, their own personal struggles, and resources REVIVE provides for those in need.

Welcome, Revive! We’re so excited to hear more about your amazing initiative and share it with our community. Can you tell us a little bit about what Revive is and what you aim to do? Who does Revive seek to help?

Thanks for having us! Revive is a product of many mental health advocates coming together to create a community that sort of acts like a global and virtual “haven”. We are dedicated to reducing the stigma around mental health and related factors by sharing studies, stories, and other media. Studies have proven that most mental illnesses start developing during youth years and if proper intervention is not sought, individuals are more vulnerable to certain conditions in their future. Hence, why our target audience is primarily teenagers and young adults and we aim to create content in a manner that appeals to them since mental health is typically not a subject taught in the default school curriculum. 

Explain what you mean by “the stigma around mental health”. For anyone who maybe is unfamiliar with the term, what exactly does it mean and why is it harmful? Why is it so important for Revive to strive to reduce the stigma?

When people talk about “the stigma around mental health”, it usually means having a negative and essentially dishonorable view on mental illness, mainly due to not being educated in the subject of psychology and believing myths. Individuals with a mental illness are often deemed to be dangerous and “psycho”, when only a small portion of mentally ill patients are. This is harmful because approximately one in four people have a psychological condition and invalidating them can lead to divisions and more conflicts. Many people discriminate based on disability, and some mental illnesses are considered to be a disability because they hold people back from being their best selves, therefore not being any different than judging a person in a wheelchair. Some people often seem to forget that the brain is an organ–one of the most important at that–and any threats to the brain cannot be dismissed. The stigma is the number one reason why many people don’t seek help for their diagnosable conditions. For example, we’re apart of the BIPOC community and wouldn’t have it any other way but unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness is heightened in our communities due to cultural norms. For instance, Sania is Asian and it’s safe to say that the idea of  “filial piety” is prevalent in South Asian societies as well, making it so that mental illnesses get blamed on the family of the individual which often leads to exorcisms and other rituals. Everyone needs to strive to reduce the stigma because as mentioned earlier, the stigma is often the main reason why people don’t seek help. If the conversation around mental health gets normalized, more people will get treated, and the world will become a better place. 

How can members of our community who have struggled or are currently struggling with their mental health benefit from the work you guys do? Are there any resources from Revive that people can take advantage of?

Like we said earlier, Revive is dedicated to sharing studies, stories, and other media to normalize the conversation around mental health. It’s important to be educated on the topic of psychology because it just helps you through daily living. For instance, both of us started reading more into psychology and even took some courses, and needless to say, it has helped us better ourselves and better understand people around us. Knowing psychology, in a way, removes the judgment from the subject. Furthermore, we share real stories from real people in hopes of showing our audience that it’s okay to not be okay and they are not alone. With all that said, our team works especially hard to create content that would benefit our audience in a manner that appeals to them. We do not offer traditional mental health resources, such as lifelines or consultations because we are not licensed professionals by any means, however, if you ever need a credible resource we can send you the link/information for it so shoot us an email at contact@revivementalhealth.org or text “YOURSTORYMATTERS” to 214-677-3861 if urgent. 

That leads me to my next question: is Revive made up of mental health professionals? If not, how do you still aim to advocate and uplift those who may need help or support?

No, Revive is not affiliated with, endorsed by, maintained, organized, or sponsored by any mental health professional. At Revive, we don’t treat patients but rather push them to seek help. We believe that it’s often less intimidating and more effective if someone closer to the age range of the target audience–for context we’re both juniors in high school–urges them to do something because going to therapy is not easy. We know that. It’s difficult to put your shoes on and be like, “today I will let all my feelings out to a stranger,” and there’s often that thought that many mental health professionals don’t care about their patients and it’s just about profit at the end of the day. We believe that the majority of licensed professionals do what they do because they care about the cause but us being a non-profit eliminates the fear of just that. Just to make things clear though, we are not here to counsel anyone, tell them what medication to get, and/or treat them. Any claims we make on any study postings are based on credible research studies and we have taken psychology related courses in the past and will continue to do so. If at any time, there’s something wrong, please make sure to contact us ASAP.

Now that we know more about the organization, tell us a little bit more about yourself! What do you specifically do? How do you balance Revive with your personal life? What has been your favorite part about working with Revive so far?

Okay! Well, we’re Jada Atchu-Yudom and Sania Ahmad, the founders and chief executive directors of Revive. We overlook daily operations, create documents, you know–all the fun stuff. Balancing Revive has been an issue that we faced which caused us to re-brand twice already (the third time’s the charm). We started a few months into the pandemic, September 5th, 2020 to be exact, and due to the current situation, we’ve had more time on our hands than we usually would as juniors in high school. However, we’ve learned that the key to balancing academics, social life, and extracurriculars is just to list your priorities. It took us a few months, but we’ve prioritized Revive and the cause at hand enough to be willing to stay in the know every hour. Even when we’re out and about, we try our best to check emails, social media platforms, all those things on the go. We’ve got to say, Google Drive’s app has saved our lives because we can easily create content anywhere really. It’s also been significantly easier since we’ve gotten a team assigned to do any major work, such as creating graphics or conducting interviews, whatnot. Stemming from that, working with Revive and the team has been a ride. We’ve rebranded for 2021 so we have a new team coming in (so excited!), but we owe so much credit to our old one. They were amazing and it was really fun, sometimes it didn’t even feel like work. As the founders and head directors, we strive to create a comfortable environment where extreme professionalism isn’t very necessary within the team itself. Since we’re high schoolers ourselves, we find it sort of weird bossing people around since some people on the team are in college and therefore try not to do that. Instead, we urge our teammates to give us as much input as they want and we’ll listen and consider it. No hesitation. If you’d like to join our team, make sure to check out our website at revivementalhealth.org to see if applications are open!

Have you struggled with mental health or seen mental health struggles first-hand? In other words, what exactly led and inspired you to begin working with an organization like this?

For sure. Who hasn’t ever suffered from something mentally? Jada’s sister, Arnel, has autism and it has affected her family greatly. For Jada, it was hard because she couldn’t treat her like a regular person and couldn’t quite understand her. When it comes to what Arnel needed, Jada had no clue. She rarely talks normally because she can’t quite understand what others are saying. Jada’s and Arnel’s parents hope that one day she would be able to talk again and take care of herself but till then all they can do is help and understand as much as they can, as well as try to communicate. As for Sania, her dad’s a psychiatrist so she practically grew up talking about mental health. Despite her household being open to the conversation around mental health, she felt the stigma with other loved ones when she would want to speak up about her feelings. She’s seen her peers suffer from mental illnesses, both acute and chronic, and oftentimes would wonder the depths of the conditions. Both of us are interested in the business field and psychology, therefore combining both our passions together and coming up with the idea of Revive. However, we can’t take all the credit. We originally formed Revive as a group of five best friends but due to personal circumstances, we have narrowed down to just us and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve been best friends since freshman year of high school and felt that starting an organization together was a step in the right direction, especially during a time where the world is in distress and more mental health awareness groups are needed. To be honest, our initial motive for starting Revive was the fact that it would look great on transcripts and resumes. However, we got a message a few weeks into operations that stated that we revived hope in a person just by our content and our vision automatically changed. Since then, all we want is to revive hope in our audience because that’s the only effective antidote for mental illness. We believe that no amount of medication can have the same impact as hope does. 

Where do you see Revive in the next year? What milestones and/or goals do you want to hit? What direction do you see the organization going in?

We get asked this question a lot and usually reply with some corny saying such as, “we don’t care about the number of followers we have” or whatever. However, that’s actually the truth. We’re not here to market ourselves or Revive, we’re here to market our cause and other organizations that have the same cause as we do (there’re many out there) are not our rivals but rather our allies. At first, Revive was something that we made to show off on our college applications and all those things, because come on, we’re juniors in high school and it’s only natural to want personal gain out of something you give hours to.  A few months later, it’s so much more than that. With that said, our milestone for one year is not to reach 5k followers on Instagram but rather to share 500 stories on our blog to get one step closer to normalizing the conversation around mental health. We also hope to get 50 projects, 5 campaigns, and many more studies by the end of our year. As of December 28th, 2020, it’s been a little over four months since we’ve first launched and we’re nearing our six-month anniversary. So yay to that. As for the direction we see Revive going in, we think we’re leaning more towards the ‘story sharing’ aspect of it and may consider turning it into a newsletter, or magazine even. But that’s for another time. For now, we’re content with our current operations and believe that we’ve rebranded too many times in four months. Laughing out loud. 

We’d love to know where we can see more of you, connect with your community, find resources, etc. 

Of course! You can always email us at contact@revivementalhealth.org, submit projects (i.e. blogs, interviews, podcast episodes, literally anything relevant) to submissions@revivementalhealth.org, or text “YOURSTORYMATTERS” to 214-677-3861 to get a faster reply. 

Our website is revivementalhealth.org, Instagram is @reviveorg and @revivechronicles and you can find all our other platforms by going to reviveorg.carrd.co. We’ve got something for everyone.