Keep Oregon Well is a public advocacy campaign designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health, build a trauma-informed community, and give people the opportunity to learn more about mental health and stand with those struggling with theirs.
This ongoing volunteer spotlight blog series features some of the many caring, talented, passionate people it takes to spread the word about Keep Oregon Well throughout Oregon!
Keep Oregon Well Volunteer Spotlight on: Ditha Balaji
I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and mood-related disorders throughout my childhood and early adulthood. Beyond the debilitating nature of these illnesses, I found myself face to face with not only the pathology of mental illness, but also the stigma surrounding it and its patients. Lacking the language to aptly describe my condition, I felt lonely and misunderstood, craving respite from the internal turmoil. Fortunately, I garnered help through my university community and discovered a therapist who was not only able to help me manage my symptoms, but also provide the words through which I could relate my experience with loved ones. As I recovered, I began noticing an overarching gap in care and advocacy, as more often than not, those with mental illness are left to fight the battle unequipped and alone. In acknowledging that mental health is the all-encompassing, inclusive structure upon which a healthy lifestyle rests, I firmly believe that everyone deserves access to support services that promote their healthiest mental states.
What initially made you want to volunteer with Keep Oregon Well or Trillium?
I discovered Keep Oregon Well through Trillium Family Services. As I learned more about the advocacy work that KOW is involved in, I fell in love with not only the goals and values of the group, but also the people working to achieve them. KOW’s commitment to help the Oregon community while also challenging those in better circumstances to aid in the efforts to reduce the stigma and advocate mental health awareness aligned with both my personal struggle and the change I aim to see in the community.
Tell me about your favorite volunteer experience?
Thus far, tabling at Pride was my favorite volunteering experience. As I engaged with the LGBTQ+ community of Portland and the surrounding areas, I was all the more inspired to keep working towards my goal to serve them as a medical professional. As I introduced KOW to the individuals at the event, I was baffled by how many shared in this sentiment as they openly communicated their experience navigating their mental health. I found this engagement invaluable and left feeling incredibly committed to continue my service.
Keep Oregon Well is centered around wellness and self-care. Tell us about some of the ways you take care of yourself.
My self-care regimen consists of exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep These definitely seem typical and not particularly specific to a “self-care routine”, but this combination helps me maintain a sense of calm and clarity. A large amount of my positive-thinking happens as I work out — I reassure myself not only of my physical capability to finish the exercise at hand, but also of my mental capacity to take on whatever might be a current challenge. I indulge in healthy yet appetizing food, and my bed is my favorite place on this Earth. I found that the best variety of self-care is something easy and can be returned to often, so I’m mindful of keeping these activities incorporated in my routine.
“Nevertheless, she persisted” stated by the one and only Mitch McConnell struck such a nerve with me that it became my favorite quote, as it did for numerous other feminists. His ironic reprimanding of the apparently “outspoken” Elizabeth Warren highlighted the lack of equality between the male and female population of this country, while also inspiring many to take action to relieve this injustice and fight for gender equality. Ultimately, this quote has invoked in me the very persistence it denounces and so I will persevere.