10 Best TED Talks on Mental Health


In today’s digital world, many of us find ourselves bombarded with a wealth of media content, particularly online. Though endless pages of content may be available to us at the click of a button, it can be particularly difficult to find meaningful, quality content online, especially in regards to mental health issues.

TED Talks, many of which are now available online, offer refreshingly smart, emotional content to those looking to explore such subjects as mental health from a more personal perspective. Today, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the most thought-provoking TED Talks that consider the complex way in which we manage our mental health. These intelligent lecturers speak from the heart, often providing viewers with a personal look at the ways in which such illnesses as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia affect their everyday lives. Whether or not you suffer from mental health issues yourself, these talks are an inspiring reminder that some of the most difficult illnesses are the ones that no one else can see. Fortunately, however, mental health treatment is improving every day, a topic many of these lecturers also discuss. If you’re in need of inspiration, watch one of these talks today. Your perspectives on mental health will likely be changed forever.

Depression, the Secret We Share – Andrew Solomon

In this TED Talk, acclaimed writer Andrew Solomon gives a moving speech that covers a number of topics, ranging from his personal experiences with clinical depression to his research on the treatment of mental illness within impoverished neighborhoods. Solomon draws many meaningful conclusions from his research, noting, for instance, that mental illnesses often go undiagnosed and untreated in poor communities, likely because poorer individuals attribute their sorrow to their circumstances, rather than to a treatable medical condition. Most powerfully, Solomon concludes that we ought to embrace the diagnosis of depression rather than hiding it in shame. In treating and accepting their mental illnesses, patients can ultimately live more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Parkinson’s, Depression and the Switch That Might Turn Them Off – Andres Lozano

This TED Talk by Andres Lozano, the chair of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, approaches the subject of mental illness from a highly scientific perspective. Lozano has made a number of pioneering discoveries in the field of deep brain stimulation. In this jaw-dropping speech, Lozano discusses how implanting electrodes into the brain has been proven to cure the shaking of Parkinson’s patients. Lozano then describes how deep brain stimulation can be used to treat cases of severe depression that were resistant to conventional medical treatment. This intellectual speech gives tremendous insight into the future of neurosurgery and is guaranteed to leave you feeling optimistic about the incredible medical advances being made in the field of mental health.

The New Era of Positive Psychology – Martin Seligman

Professor Martin Seligman is a scholar known to psychology students around the world, particularly for his studies on the subject of learned helplessness in relation to mental illness. In this speech, however, Seligman focuses on a new field of study which he developed, entitled “positive psychology.” For the past 14 years Seligman has dedicated his life to researching positive psychology. Seligman believes that psychological research of the 20th century focused too exclusively on remedying mental health problems; with positive psychology, he hopes to instead increase the emotional well-being of all people. This insightful TED Talk also explains how a pleasant, good, and meaningful life can make the difference between a miserable person and a happy person. Finally, Seligman gives examples of meaningful interactions that can boost and prolong individuals’ happiness. Whether or not you are currently being treated for a mental health issue, this speech is guaranteed to change the way you look at happiness.

How Electroshock Therapy Changed Me – Sherwin Nuland

Sherwin Nuland, a writer and former surgeon, steps onto the stage at this TED Conference prepared to reveal a secret about himself. Though Nuland has revealed much about himself through his writings on philosophy, history, and the mysteries of death, no one in the audience knew that his past was filled with great despair. In the early 1970’s, Nuland’s life had spiraled so out of control that the best psychologists in Connecticut were convinced that he would never recover. Mental health professionals thought there was no other choice but to perform a pre-frontal lobotomy on Nuland. Nuland, however, made one request of the doctors: try electroshock therapy first. This speech details Nuland’s battle with depression and the incredible recovery he experienced after receiving electroshock therapy. Nuland’s speech is guaranteed to make you rethink the stigmatization of electroshock therapy and will make you grateful for the many treatment options available today.

On Being Just Crazy Enough – Joshua Walters

This quick speech by beatboxing performer Joshua Walters is unlike many of the TED Talks on this list. Walters is no expert in the field of psychology; he is, however, a young man who has suffered from bipolar disorder for a number of years. In this light-hearted talk, Walters reframes his mental illness as “mental skillness,” positing that those suffering from mental health conditions are perhaps merely more sensitive to the world than others. If those of us who suffer from conditions like bipolar disorder can channel the best of our manic creativity into our work, it is possible to accomplish more than we ever imagined. Perhaps we are all a little bit crazy, Walters argues. Using this craziness to our advantage just might be the key to our happiness and success.

The Bridge Between Suicide and Life – Kevin Briggs

This heartfelt TED Talk is given by Sergeant Kevin Briggs, a retired member of the California Highway Patrol. For many years, Briggs’ duties included monitoring the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most common places for suicide jumps in the world. Briggs talks in-depth about the individuals he was fortunate enough to save, as well as the two men who unfortunately chose to jump. This talk is a moving and insightful look into the lives of those who have seriously contemplated suicide. Briggs reminds us that listening to others is sometimes the greatest gift we have to give. No matter how dark things seem, we should never lose hope.

Mental Health for All by Involving All – Vikram Patel

Vikram Patel is a man on a mission. Mental health care, he argues, shouldn’t be a privilege for the First World alone. In developing countries such as India the number of mental health practitioners is only 2% of what it should be. What is the solution to this problem? Patel argues that psychiatrists in these countries must work to train the members of local communities. When local men and women are trained to treat depression and anxiety through such methods as cognitive behavioral therapy, recovery rates increase dramatically. Patel’s speech is a humbling reminder that much of the world has only limited access to mental health treatment. By educating community laypeople, however, we just might be able to change this in the future.

The Voices in My Head – Eleanor Longden

Eleanor Longden’s powerful TED Talk will change the way you look at schizophrenia. Most individuals assume that schizophrenics are “crazy.” Though hearing voices in one’s head can make one feel crazy, Ms. Longden, a schizophrenic herself, has come to realize that the voices she hears are not merely a symptom of an illness, but, rather, a coping mechanism resulting from a troubled past. Longden discusses her life with schizophrenia and the ways in which she has triumphed despite her diagnosis. Longden has received a Masters in Psychology and is continuing her education in pursuit of a PhD. This strong woman shows how working with, rather than against a diagnosis can sometimes be the best tool in managing one’s mental health.

The World Needs All Kinds of Minds – Temple Grandin

Though technically considered a neurodevelopmental disorder rather than a mental illness, autism is a disorder that significantly impacts the mental processes of those who have it. In this incredible speech, Temple Grandin, renowned doctor of animal science and autism activist delves into the way the high-functioning autistic mind works, particularly based on her own experiences as an autistic individual. Grandin emphasizes the ways that the American educational system must change in order to adapt to the learning styles of autistic children, and emphasizes that hands-on, concrete learning will pave the way for further accomplishments by autistic individuals. Grandin’s TED Talk is powerful and educational, and highlights the ways in which autism has shaped our world for the better.

Your Brain Is More than a Bag of Chemicals – David Anderson

In this excellent lecture by CalTech professor David Anderson, the mechanisms of conventional mental health medications are questioned. Why do we drench our brains in chemicals like dopamine, Anderson asks, when we should instead strive to treat the specific parts of the brain that use these chemicals? Anderson presents the surprising results of his experiments on fruit flies, revealing how specific regions of the fly brain use dopamine, and how regulating dopamine in these regions can eliminate symptoms of hyperactivity and learning disorders in such flies. This fascinating talk will fill you with hope and optimism regarding psychiatric treatment in the future.