Gayathri Ramprasad is the Founder and President of ASHA International a non-profit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness. And, the author of Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within. Her successful battle in overcoming life-threatening mental illness and her amazing recovery taught her the power of hope and holistic wellness. Now, she shares that message with others. Since the launch of ASHA International’s wellness campaign, Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives in 2006, Gayathri’s keynotes, wellness workshops, and cultural competence trainings have reached more than 30,000 people nationally and internationally, with a resounding message of hope and healing. Individuals and organizations alike applaud Gayathri as an agent of hope and transformational change.
My Definition Of Success | Success is the ability to realize my fullest potential and help others do the same.
My definition of success has certainly changed over the years. Growing up in India, success was measured by my grades at school and my compliance at home and in the community. All that changed when I began my harrowing journey into the dark abyss of depression. In the decades to come, success was defined by my ability to free myself from the insidious chains of stigma, shame and secrecy.
“The function of freedom is to free somebody else” said Toni Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer and Nobel laureate. Having found the freedom to recover and thrive, I define success in helping as many men, women and children struggling with mental illness around the world to set themselves free.
I Am Driven By | My love for our common humanity, and belief that every man, woman and child deserves the opportunity to thrive.
My Highlights | Personally, my family is my greatest joy and strength. Professionally, I am most grateful for the opportunity to promote mental health awareness, and bring hope and healing to people’s lives.
I was born and raised in Bangalore, India, amidst ancient traditions, and a large, loving extended family. 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 of a psychiatric ward in America, stripped of freedom, dignity, hope and humanity, I had promised to emerge a messenger of hope and healing. For every indignity 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. For every day that my family and I had lived in despair, I promised to bring hope to the lives of others like us.
In April 2006, along with a distinguished group of mental health advocates in Portland, OR, USA, I started ASHA International www.myasha.org a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting personal, organization and community wellness. When I started ASHA International, all I wanted to do, was to transform the lessons I had learned in pain to bring hope to one person struggling with mental illness. Today, my colleagues and I are honored to have the reached out to more than 35,000 people nationally and internationally, with a resounding message of hope and healing. Helping others has helped me heal and become whole again.
A Key Talent | Courage has been critical to my success. When I think of courage, I used to think of firefighters braving into a raging firestorm to rescue people they don’t even know. But, my battles with depression, has taught me a different perspective of courage.
As American author and aviator Anne Marrow Lindbherg says:
“It isn’t for the moment you are stuck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back into sanity and faith and security.”
It has been a long uphill battle from the entrapment of mental illness to a life of empowerment and advocacy. And, I have needed courage every step of the way.
Regardless of our journey, all of us need courage to overcome our fears and achieve success. Whether it is a little child overcoming her fear to go to her first day at Kindergarten, or, a young entrepreneur launching his business, each of us needs courage to believe in our dreams and realize our fullest potential. And, the best way to cultivate courage is to choose to do that which we fear most with faith and conviction. As with any skill, the more we practice, the better we get.
How I Use My Mind | As a young girl, I had absolutely no idea of the phenomenal power of our mind. My struggles with depression awakened in me, a deep appreciation for the fragility and resilience of the human mind. As a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation for the past twenty-five years, I have learned that it is only in the silence of our minds, that we can hear the song of our soul. I welcome our readers to unplug from their hectic lives and take time each day to sit still and meditate to discover the song of their soul.
The power of intention, I have realized is the best way to achieve our goals, and realize our dreams. As the ancient Upanishads say “You are what your deepest desire is, as your desire, so is your intention, as your intention, so is your will, as your will is, so is your deed, as your deed is, so is your destiny.”
Lessons I Have Learnt | Confined in the seclusion room of a psychiatric ward, I learned that while mental illness can break my mind, and the mental health system can confine my body, there are no walls in this world that can contain my spirit. The most important lesson I have learned so far is that inherent in each of us is the invincible resilience of the human spirit to break through barriers, and soar beyond our fears to realize our wildest dreams.
As Booker T. Washington says in his book, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
Dealing With Doubt | As I mentioned before, the only way to overcome self-doubt, fear or negativity, is to do that which you fear most with faith and conviction. As we know, public speaking terrifies most people. I am no exception. However, each time I share my story, people tell me they are inspired. Whether it is a young woman contemplating suicide, or an overwhelmed parent wanting to know how to help their loved one struggling with a mental illness, they tell me, I give they hope to live and persist on their road to recovery. Most recently, I was absolutely worn out from the constant travel and speaking engagements to launch my memoir, Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within. Preparing to present yet another keynote at an event in Baltimore, MD, I teetered on the verge of a breakdown and was terrified that I would stumble on to the stage, mumble my words and make a fool of myself. Worse yet, I feared that everyone would finally see me for who I really am, just a crazy woman. However, even as the tsunami of fear, self-doubt and negativity threatened to engulf me, I took a deep breath, and another, and another, and repeated my mantra, “dare greatly, love deeply, and share your light.” And, I was most grateful for the phenomenal response to my talk. That night, I slept in gratitude knowing that I had chosen to overcome my fears and succeeded in bringing hope and healing to people’s lives.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | My dream is to serve as an UN Ambassador to promote mental health awareness, and bring hope and healing to the 450 million people struggling with mental health issues around the world.
My vision is to create a world where every man, woman and child struggling with mental illness are provided the love, treatment and support they need to thrive in their communities.
I Am Inspired By | Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou are few of the role models who inspire me every day.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I would like to leave a legacy of love and compassion.