Full text of AI engineer Aneysha Bhat’s talk titled “Anxiety: A Cancer of the Mind” at TEDxUIUC conference. In this talk, Aneysha, the co-founder of TenseSense, explores the prevalence of anxiety and how we can stand together to fight the stigma associated with mental health.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Aneysha Bhat – Co-innovator of TenseSense
I’d like to begin by asking you to close your eyes.
Imagine that you’ve just come home from work. You want to relax. You sit down on the couch and just breathe. You look to the side, and you realize that it’s raining.
And then you look again to the window and see that the window is open. You think – at first everything is calm. But then, everything goes haywire.
“What if my floors get damaged? What if the rain damage affects my entire apartment? What if there’s a flood? What if I have to move? What if … “
Your thoughts are blinding. Your mind is racing. Your heart is beating right out of your chest. Your thoughts are just everywhere. And then, you lose it all.
Now, I have something to tell you. Anxiety sucks.
But do you know what the worst part about it is? It’s not the dizziness or the palpitations or the excessive overthinking. No. It’s the stereotype that goes with it.
Mental illness has a stigma associated with it. Think about it. We’re fixated on this idea that mental illness is associated with incompetence, fragility, failure. When a friend or a loved one is having a moment of vulnerability, we say that it’s a “mental breakdown.” When they’re having issues or when they’re having struggles, we call that “crazy.”
And it’s true. Why? Because mental health has a stigma.
We consider mental illnesses to be burdens, traits of people that make them undesirable, less important, less valuable. And this is a huge problem.
If we continue to treat mental health like this, we’ll never be able to understand our loved ones. We’ll never be able to understand those who need our help.
And so when you leave this talk today, I want you to realize one thing. You have the ability to save and impact a life by the way you treat others.
Now, I believe that it’s time to change the way we think about mental health. We have ways to identify glucose levels and pregnancy hormones. But what about anxiety? Why don’t we have a way to detect elevated stress levels? Everybody gets anxious, right?
We get anxious because we don’t know what will happen. We’re afraid. We’re scared. Fear is normal. In fact, it’s evolutionary. But when we worry excessively, when we get so scared, we develop anxiety.
But, okay, everybody gets anxious. Instead of creating a stereotype about it, instead of making a stigma, what if we tried to make a change?
There are 40 million Americans who live with anxiety currently. That’s one-eighth of the population who feels alone, misunderstood, unsure about who to talk to, how to get help.
Do you know what’s worse? 35% to 50% of those cases go undiagnosed. That’s up to 20 million people who don’t get the care that they need.
Now, this is a huge problem. So if we think about biomedical advancements, what’s the first thing that comes to our mind? Cancer. If cancer goes undiagnosed or even untreated, the problems build up on themselves, leading to a cascade of cellular trauma that results in fatality.
Anxiety is a cancer of the mind. It’s something that eats at the conscience. It’s something that weakens the heart and destroys the self, something that leaves you feeling empty, feeling alone, like there’s no one to help you, like there’s no one to understand you.