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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield - A Discussion with the Founders: “… inspired me”

In this Blog, Isara, founder of Mindfull, and Coco, founder of Shield, will reflect on their personal experiences with mental health, as well as what inspired them to found their respective organizations focusing on mental health. We hope this conversation can help voice up and acknowledge for and with those youths struggling with mental health.

1. What inspired you to create this initiative?

Isara: “I was inspired by my past eating disorder experience and local community. Since I was four years old, I have been doing ballet weekly. It was my dream to go to a ballet school and become a professional. However, with puberty and my body maturing, it felt like torture trying to fit ballet standards. One teacher even pointed it out in front of the class, saying that my legs were fat. There were days I felt miserable in my body. However, I wanted the world and other dancers to know that these behaviors and standards were unhealthy and detrimental to our mental well-being. In the midst of this, I also had an interest in psychology. Mindfull first started out as an eating disorder awareness website. However, after some time, I realized learning about different aspects and types of mental distresses was important and necessary. This realization came after volunteering at a children’s home. I assist in cooking and serving food to other volunteers and children. The children who come are often diagnosed with mental disabilities. I listen to the experiences they’ve gone through and how little support they have gotten from school and society. This made me annoyed at the current systems, and I felt the need to spread awareness of mental disabilities and the importance of health and well-being for all people. Mindfull became a more well-rounded space, striving to spread the knowledge that many people misunderstand.”

Coco: “During my sophomore summer in high school, I was extremely burned out by the heavy amount of workload I chose to put on myself. Yet instead of taking a rest I kept working. There was nothing else in my life except for the strong desire to keep working and pressing myself to finish everything on my calendar, till the end I broke down as these unrestfulness piled up. In long term, as I was reflecting back on that experience, I noticed an unconscious toxic lifestyle that made me stuck with my stress, as well as being more and more reluctant to take healthy resting – not only for me, for among most of my peers in high school, going through the same academic setting and mindset. I came to realize that what we need, as a youth, is not counseling nor a treatment, but simply a lifestyle that invests time and value in healthy resting. We need to educate youths the importance and necessity of putting this type of practice as a part of our schedule. And that’s when I found out about art therapy as a way to heal – with The Shield Initiative.”

2. So far, what was your most meaningful experience working with this initiative?

Isara: “The interactions and collaborations Mindfull has had are the most valuable and rewarding experiences. I have interviewed a couple of experts, and their stories inspire me. They come from a variety of fields—nutritionist, stress reduction specialist, you activists—yet all connecting through mental health and well-being. I love all the knowledge I gain from each interaction, and how much I can relate to their experiences. I feel that this collaboration with Shield has been one of Mindfull’s most meaningful experiences so far. This is our first collaboration with another student entity, and I’ve gained insight into aspects of mental health I never would have known about otherwise. These exchanges of knowledge are really inspiring, and it keeps me going and wanting to expand Mindfull’s reach even further.”

Coco: “After a few events we slowly expanded Shield outside of the student community, but with more general populations, in different countries, with different mediums of art. I always find it really meaningful when listening to the participants, as well as myself, opening up to each other, slowly figuring out our emotions throughout the process of art. Building connections through this process of self expression – but in a group sharing process – creates so many meaningful and surprising bonds between this group(s) of people. And in a certain way, through sharing and finding convergence we see our emotions finally visible and acknowledged. And finally, when thoughts and values of people over different ages, backgrounds, and nationalities somehow converge and communicate with each other, the process of art becomes even more purposeful.”



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