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By Gayathri Ramprasad
I was born and raised in Bangalore, India, amidst ancient traditions, and a large, loving extended family of twenty-three – grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. My happy childhood, however, gave way to a traumatic adolescence. By the time I was 18, I was debilitated by generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks. At 23, as a young mother in America, I struggled to free myself from the death-hold of depression.
On April 30, 1989, confined in the seclusion room in a psychiatric ward in America, stripped of freedom, dignity, hope and humanity, I promised to emerge a messenger of hope and healing. For every indignity that I had suffered in shame and silence, I promised to fight to restore my dignity and the dignity of others like me around the world. And for every moment that my family and I had lived in despair, I promised to bring hope to the lives of others like us.
ASHA International is the culmination of that promise!
ASHA International is a non-profit organization based in Portland, OR, dedicated to promoting personal, organizational and community wellness. Since the launch of our wellness campaign, Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives, my colleagues and I have reached out to thirty-thousand people nationally and internationally with a resounding message of hope and recovery.
ASHA literally means HOPE both in Sanskrit, one of the world’s most ancient languages which originated in India, and Hindi, India’s national language. In English, ASHA is an acronym for A Source of Hope for All touched by mental illness. At ASHA International, we offer people HOPE in all that we do.
When I started ASHA International, all I wanted was to share the lessons I had learned in pain, to bring hope and healing to one person struggling with mental illness. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have the opportunity to touch and transform the lives of thousands of people around the world. Helping others has helped me heal and become whole again.
SHADOWS IN THE SUN is the story of my cross-cultural odyssey through depression. It is also the story of my journey from the entrapment of mental illness to a life of empowerment and advocacy on behalf of the 450 million people living with mental illness around the world. I sincerely hope that my story will bring hope and healing to people struggling with mental health issues and their families, and educate healthcare providers and the general community about the cultural barriers to recovery and culturally-responsive pathways to health and wellness. Most of all, SHADOWS IN THE SUN is a call to action for all of us to come together to create a world of understanding, compassion, and inclusion, where every man, woman, and child suffering from mental illness is provided the love and support they need to thrive in life.