• Social Innovation Fellowship


Contemplative Studies & Global Mental Health

Award Year 

Project LETS

Providence, RI + Swaziland, Africa

Project LETS is an inclusive community for individuals living with mental illness, and aims to supplement traditional mental health care with peer support services. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, we are working towards honest, open, and critical interventions surrounding mental health education, policy reform, advocacy, and peer support. At LETS, we believe that strong peer-to-peer connections can help individuals through the process of deconstructing internalized stigma, and using effective tools for self-advocacy in a culturally and socially relevant way. We emphasize reciprocal relationships between community members, an innovative way to approach an area of healthcare that is, all too often, hindered by patient-clinician power dynamics-- if not rendered totally inaccessible by economic and cultural barriers. In addition, we aim to close the gap between impersonal, clinical research/doctors and lived experience, and are embarking on a dual-mission of humanizing mental illness and democratizing medical knowledge through task-shifting model of peer integrated systems.




After losing a friend to suicide my freshman year of high school, and silently suffering with my own debilitating mental illness — I became aware quite early of the silencing, stigma, and shame associated with these issues. Her death was not mentioned, not spoken of — ignored and forgotten. At the same time, I had also been struggling with progressively worse Obsessive­-Compulsive Disorder, and mood disorder issues. I silently lived with my lifestyle and routines, while still being a “high-­functioning” perfectionist — excellent grades, engaging in social activities, with a loving, middle-class family. I recognized the extreme privilege in my ability to obtain resources through the mental health care system, and also how rare that ability compared to individuals all over the world.

In this work, I come from the perspective of an individual with lived experience, and our team began filling a unique niche between clinical medicine and organizations focusing strictly on awareness. I am personally driven by the incredible response to our programs, the need we see portrayed daily, all over the world, and the number of individuals that are ­taken too soon by a debilitating mental disorder, or a failed societal response to that disorder. The medical model does not provide individuals with many resources, skills, or opportunities to become empowered, so it is truly a wonderful privilege to work in these areas. The relationships we have developed, and are able to sustain have been enough motivation to deeply love and enjoy this work, and of course, it is as much for my own survival and justice as it is for those that we serve.