Having feelings is not a sign of weakness – feelings mean we are human, says producer and activist Nikki Webber Allen. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, Webber Allen felt too ashamed to tell anybody, keeping her condition a secret until the suicide of her nephew Paul revealed to her that others close to her were also suffering. In this important talk about mental health, she speaks openly about her struggle — and why communities of color must undo the stigma that misreads depression as a weakness and keeps sufferers from getting help.

Who is she?:

Nikki Webber Allen is a two-time Emmy winner with 20 years of experience producing content for media outlets including Warner Bros., HBO, ABC, 20th Century Fox and BET.

In 2013, while working as the vice president of casting and talent relations for the cable network TV One, Webber Allen lost her 22-year old nephew, Paul, to suicide after his years of struggle with depression and anxiety. Since then, she has become a passionate mental health advocate.

. She has an M.A. in media studies from The New School University in New York, NY and a B.A. in communications from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ

Why you should watch:

In Paul’s honor, she launched the nonprofit I LIVE FOR… FOUNDATION, INC. to create a safe space for honest, unapologetic conversations about mental health in communities of color, where the cultural stigma of mental illness discourages far too many people from seeking help. Michael Eric Dyson, advisor to the foundation, has called I LIVE FOR… “an incredibly important organization that offers much-needed support to those who too often suffer in silence.”

Webber Allen is currently producing and directing a documentary film featuring a diverse group of compelling young men and women who reject the stigma of mental illness and share candid stories about their experiences living with depression and anxiety.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the common perception of depression in a person?
  2. What were the symptoms of her depression?
  3. Why did she not tell others?
  4. Why did she “come out” as a depressed person?
  5. Depression is the leading cause of illness in the world. Can we do anything about this?

Making connections:

The death of Robin Williams has shocked many. Being one of the funniest people of all time did not protect him from his personal demons. While he is not available to shed light on his pain and suffering, there is a TED TALK by comedian, Kevin Breel that addresses this seemingly paradoxical issue. In a review, the Huffington Post said, “If someone in your life suffers from depression, you need to watch this video. If you don’t think anyone in your life suffers from depression, you need to watch this video — because you may not realize it if they do.”

Please note that we do not provide discussion questions for our FEATURED STORIES of the month – We would ask you to think, and reflect.

New York native Dior Vargas was 11 years old when she tried to end her life for the first time.

“At 8 years old I wrote in my diary that my life was over,” she said. “I tried to overdose on anything that I could find in the medicine cabinet.”

Dior was a witness to domestic violence from a very young age. As a result, she spent most of her childhood terrified.

Dior Vargas


“I was always scared, but also angry because there was nothing I could do. I thought in some way that I would die.”

That night she didn’t succeed. However she would try many times after that, for eight years until she was admitted to a psychiatric ward at 19. That experience finally helped her make a change.

“After being there, I realized this was something I couldn’t continue doing,” Vargas said

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky, posits that depression is the most damaging disease that you can experience. Right now it is the number four cause of . (May 26, 2010) Professor Robert Sapolsky finishes his lecture on language and then dives into his discussion about schizophrenia. He discusses environmental . In a talk for the Stanford Help Center, Prof. Robert Sapolsky explains why depression, the kind that does not go away has biological origins, akin to diabetes.

Don’t Suffer From Your Depression in Silence with Nikki Webber Allen


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