YouthSpeaks Story

YouthSpeaks was born out of a frenzied text sent late into the hours of the night. Sonya was thrilled about the possibility of diving into the world of mental health. Leela readily agreed, co-hosting season 1, but when she moved away to college, Sonya immediately FaceTimed her middle school best friend. Piya agreed to carry the legacy, and the rest was history.

Our goal at YouthSpeaks is simple: to provide the understanding that everyone struggles, no matter who they are. Everyone is human, and it is okay to have trouble understanding this world. By interviewing speakers with a different range of ethnicities, sexualities, locations, ages, and more, we aim to show that all people around the world fight for their own mental health. We want everyone to know to acknowledge their own battles, have access to help/therapy, and learn that is it okay to speak up and spread awareness.

We started the podcast to make sure that no one ever feels isolated through their lives. When we were younger, being in similar environments and situations caused similar trauma. Battling consistent anxiety attacks behind closed doors and coming out of the closet in private were moments that we continue to share—hoping that our future generations won’t be forced to do the same. Ever since we were younger, mental health was stigmatized in our households, being shushed and un-acknowledged.

We were consistently invalidated, and told that our experiences were normal, and “happen to everyone.” As Sonya speaks about largely on YouthSpeaks, her depression and history of anorexia was dismissed quickly, and she was told numerous times that it was “just a phase.” Piya, similarly, shares numerous similar experiences as she grew up in the brown community. For both of us, it wasn’t just parents or relatives that had an opinion on our lives—it was also the Indian aunty next door, the brown math professor at that nearby college, or even the sister's mother’s brother’s ex wife’s daughter.

To combat this taboo in the brown community, Sonya and Piya continue to run the podcast to hopefully, one day, fully de-stigmatize mental health struggles in Indian culture. YouthSpeaks covers stories that are raw and sensitive—including sexual assault victim narratives and eating disorder survivor tips—while celebrating the joy in life—with stories of acceptance and renewal. With the immigrant stigmas in America, but also the global spectrum of our listeners, we hope to spread awareness and consequently dismantle stereotypes about mental health. Further, therapy—among other mental health resources—is greatly inaccessible to people in marginalized communities, and we continue to speak about it heavily, aiming to normalize it globally.

Our lack of voice from a young age continues to motivate us into speaking up, and give a platform to others that don’t have that option. Join us today to remove the taboo around mental health globally!