Active Minds Speaker
Diana Chao is a first-generation Chinese-American from Los Angeles and 2021 graduate from Princeton University where she studied geosciences, history, and diplomacy. Diana was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 13-years-old and is a suicide attempt survivor and suicide loss survivor. In her darkest moments, she discovered healing through writing. Adopting the motto “writing is humanity distilled into ink,” Diana shares with audiences aspects of minority mental health from what it was like growing up below the poverty line with parents who didn’t speak English to the power that even the smallest acts of kindness have had on her life. She also focuses on in-depth, actionable mental health education that can be used to support oneself and each other.
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Diana founded Letters to Strangers (L2S) as a high school sophomore. L2S is now a global youth-for-youth mental health nonprofit impacting over 35,000 people on six continents. For this work, she became the youngest recipient of NAMI’s Young Leader Award, the youngest-ever winner of the Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Award (recognized by HRH The Prince of Wales), Oprah Magazine’s 2019 Health Hero, one of 30 Global Teen Leaders in 2017 by Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation, and the only American winner of the Global Changemakers 2019 cohort.
A Vogue Italia-published photographer, Diana fervently seeks to integrate socioculturally literate art into mental wellness for youth. Her “Minority Mental Health Month” self-portrait series went viral, engaging over two million people, and her TEDxTeen speech at Times Square has been viewed over 55,000 times on various online platforms. She’s created custom art for clients such as Adobe and has exhibited her conceptual photography to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, from the Adobe MAX keynote stage to galleries abroad. For her, “creativity heals” is not just an extension of mental wellbeing – it’s a way of life.
In her free time, Diana is a counselor for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Crisis Text Chat. She also gives workshops and speeches about youth mental health and her own experience with bipolar disorder, often integrated with slam poetry that named her Los Angeles’ 2017 Youth Poet Ambassador and brought her to the NAMI plenary stage and the Hammerstein Ballroom and beyond. For her, though, the most rewarding experiences always involve empowering young people – no matter where, no matter who.
- Bipolar Disorder
- Community Response to Tragedy
- Faculty/Staff Trainings
- Life Transitions
- People of Color and Mental Health
- Recovery through Creativity
- Suicide Prevention
- Workplace Mental Health
Diana's Presentation Options
This presentation tells Diana’s personal story, from aspects of minority mental health like growing up below the poverty line with parents who didn’t speak English, to the power that even the smallest acts of kindness have had on her life. Incorporated within are strategies for maintaining mental wellbeing for ourselves and each other. Though the presentation has an underlying focus on youth, it is suitable for an older audience as well.
Diana offers virtual versions of her presentations and workshops.
This presentation is focused on in-depth, actionable mental health education. It provides an overview of mental health and mental illnesses, then dives deep into concrete strategies and acronyms one can use to support oneself and each other. The information in this presentation was developed through years of experience in the mental health field and countless interviews with people from all walks of life. It is less performance-based than “Dear Stranger” and focuses more on audience learnings and engagement.
Diana travels from New Jersey and California.
“We are so grateful to you for sharing your story with all of the teens and adults at the conference. The vulnerability and passion you showed was incredibly meaningful for us and our students to see–you inspired the entire room!” – Rebecca Abrams, YouthBridge-NY Program Coordinator
“Diana’s engaging presentation certainly resonated with the Asian American and Pacific Islander students who participate in our programs. Diana’s authentic and vulnerable telling of her personal story and experiences leading up to becoming a mental health advocate has demonstrated to our students that they’re not alone in this journey, and that’s a powerful feeling.” – Melissa May, Director of Programs, APIA Scholars
Active Minds Blog – Diana Chao
“Everyone experiences mental health differently. Sometimes, our differences are small, forgettable even. But in others, they span cultures, languages, and histories. July is BIPOC Mental Health Month, and we’re taking an extra moment to listen, to reflect, and to share the stories of individuals who are underrepresented and oppressed. Changing the narrative around mental health requires each of us, not despite our differences, but because of them. We reached out to our BIPOC Active Minds Speakers to share their experiences and journeys with mental health.”
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