TEDx Mental Health Speaker Helping Youth in Schools - 20 Percent Are Struggling with Mental Health Challenges

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Last Week, Mike Veny Offered Illinois Students a Fresh Perspective on Addressing Mental Health Challenges.

Self-destructive behavior, self-harm, and suicide attempts are some of the challenging issues that schools are dealing with.

Mike Veny, a national mental health speaker, is on a mission to inspire youth to be proactive in addressing their mental health challenges. He spent the last week of September in Illinois delivering presentations to students at school assemblies. He also gave a presentation to parents, teachers, administrators, principals, counselors, and psychologists in one of the districts he visited.

"After my presentations, many students and faculty shared their stories with me. Tears accompanied many of those stories. I am grateful for their courage and will continue to work with schools to find real solutions to address these problems. Self-destructive behavior, self-harm, and suicide attempts are some of the challenging issues that schools are dealing with," says Veny.

In 2015, he a delivered TEDx Talk where he discussed how mental health challenges have use and value. His perspective is much different than the traditional view, in which people see the subject of mental health as a taboo topic. New developments in treatments, education, advocacy, and marketing have slowly begun to make the issue of mental health a more normal conversation.

No longer seeing mental health challenges as a liability is a topic Veny talks about on a regular basis. He has been a television news guest and mental health speaker at conferences, colleges, and schools. His high energy, friendly demeanor and genuine personality keep listeners engaged and open to understanding more about this complicated subject.

Veny’s road to mental health awareness did not come without personal experience. He was hospitalized in psychiatric facilities three times during his childhood, expelled from three schools, self-harmed, and attempted suicide, and was eventually put into special needs classes in school because of his behavior and emotional outbursts. Although he is doing much better as an adult, he struggles with depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"I know what it feels like to be a child struggling with mental health challenges. It's important that students get to hear my story because many of them are going through the same thing."

After suffering through a crisis in 2011, he has turned his life around and become one of the foremost thought leaders in mental health. One of the biggest challenges that Veny sees in bringing the subject of mental health out of the darkness and into the light is the specific language used in when discussing it.

"I believe that it's important to be aware of our language when we speak about mental health. Many advocates, including myself, dislike the phrase 'mental illness' simply because it has a negative connotation. In fact, I do my best to avoid using that term whenever possible. Ironically, I decided to use term 'Mental illness' in the title my TEDx talk because it's a term that many people still use. When advocating for this, I believe that you have to meet people where they are at to start the process of transforming the stigma surrounding mental health,” said Veny.

Being selected to deliver a TEDx Talk gave him a new opportunity to reach a larger audience. Listening to TED Talks from Brene Brown, Mark Hennick, and Eleanor Londgen inspired him to pursue this platform. Delivering a TEDx Talk has been a large part of Veny’s success. His approach, however, can be a bit unnerving for some.

"I hate to call myself a mental health motivational speaker, but that's the best way to describe what I do. When I deliver a keynote, I am not looking to be inspirational or motivational. I'm a guest who is looking to be disruptive. People are living in pain and dying because they have lost hope. This is a real problem,” said Veny. As a mental health public speaker, his message is "Transforming Stigma into Strength.”

Above all, Mike believes that hope and recovery are possible for anyone who is willing and able to be brutally honest with themselves. Being brutally honest with yourself, he admits, is hard to do. "Transforming stigma," says Veny, "starts with you."

Learn more about Mike Veny and his TEDx Talk, here.

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Mike Veny
since: 03/2009
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Mike Veny
since: 01/2010
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