Larissa May, a social media strategist and music enthusiast based in Brooklyn, NY, is the CEO and Founder of #HalfTheStory. What started as a fashion blog from a freshman college dorm room, #HalfTheStory is now an educational nonprofit that serves as a platform for individuals to connect on a deeper level by sharing challenges, experiences, and passions. It is now a globally recognized organization centered around mental health and has been featured in Forbes, CNN, Health, and various other publications.
How did you start #HalfTheStory?
During my freshman year at Vanderbilt, I created a fashion blog which quickly gained popularity. I received amazing opportunities to work with really talented people and media outlets, even covering NYFW. The unfortunate reality is that behind the fashion column were struggles of both anxiety and depression. I was in a situation where I wouldn’t go to class while I struggled with mental health for two weeks at a time, and yet I would go out to go take pictures for my Instagram because that is how I showed people that I “had it all together.” After coming back from fashion week senior year, I had an anxiety attack, and I said enough is enough–at this point, I realized I really wanted to change the conversation. I wanted to share the other half of my story and encourage other people to do so as well. What began as a fashion blog evolved quickly into a global platform.
We’ve printed over 5000 stories from all over the world and have community members from South Korea to London to Bolivia, and others, really advocating for mental health in their communities. Last January, #HalfTheStory became more than I anticipated, and I decided to transition it to a nonprofit to provide more access and education for mental health to students across the globe while also serving as a media platform for mental health resources due to the epidemic and crisis that we’re facing. We hope to continue engaging with people in an exciting way and become the largest educational nonprofit around mental health.
What is it like working with such a sensitive topic that affects so many people, and how has that impacted the mission of #HalfTheStory?
Mental health is so personal, and it’s so much more difficult to get help than it seems. Even though we can post about the crisis line and getting help, something that people struggle with, and even I struggle with, is being able to afford mental health treatment. Around 60% of people that need treatment aren’t receiving it, and less than 1% of world aid actually goes to mental health. I think it’s interesting because in America we have a lot of conversations around mental health and are constantly talking about how we need more resources, but what’s ironic is that we are actually one of the most progressive countries with the most resources around the globe. I’ve learned that from other community members across the globe including Uganda, South Korea, and Bolivia, where they don’t even know what mental health means.
I think what’s most influential about #HalfTheStory is that it’s not generation specific, demographic specific, or language specific. It’s an idea that really transcends all barriers, empowering us to become global because it’s an idea that really transfers. It is definitely not easy because mental health is already a difficult topic and then add on the pressures on individuals by their communities and external factors. One of our big missions is to get in touch with such underserved communities in the mental health space, and it is something we are actively trying to pursue.
I think the biggest barrier that you have is your mindset. My biggest struggles and challenges have been anxiety and depression, so part of my goal is trying to move past that in my life so I can be limitless and live the life that I’ve always imagined and dreamed of.
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
I’m very interested in culture, music, and art. It is important to stay inspired by different types of cultures and tastes. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to stay in your lane so I think it’s important to gain exposure to other perspectives and genres. I’m also really interested in science and biohacking, ways that you can actually help your body function better- how you digest things, different sensitivities. I love seeing how it affects well-being, which is related to mental health, so I guess it all ties back to #HalfTheStory. I try to live my life in accordance with the things that I’m passionate about, so even though they’re all separate, they integrate to fall under the same umbrella.
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
For me, power is change. HTS is my life, and my goal is to make a change – whether it be a small change or changing the future of how we see the mental health system. That’s what I want my legacy to be. Power is also seeing something from idea to execution. We live in a world where we are constantly distracted by other things, and it’s easy to feel like we don’t have the resources to get things off the ground. I think if you can take an idea, small or large, and execute, you never know what can happen. I mean, #HalfTheStory started as an idea in my college dorm room, and now it has changed my life.
To read more about #HalfTheStory, check it out here!