Siblings launch podcast to reduce stigma

In the second half of Gargi Girotra's freshman year at Hinsdale Central, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Amidst the tumult and tragedy, Gargi found herself drawn to issues concerning mental health, joining the Operation Snowball and Strong Minds Bring Change clubs, which later merged to become Evolve.

"Being a leader and going on the clubs' yearly retreats and seeing the impact we were able to have amongst our peers and community is what really sparked my interest," Gargi said.

When her younger brother Shreyas joined her on campus, they discussed extending support beyond the local area. Shreyas proposed hosting a podcast.

"Let's take it to the next level and maybe we can reach anyone anywhere," Gargi recounted. "That's where 'The Mental Plateau' came in."

The siblings' Mental Plateau podcast dropped its first episode earlier this school year. Shreyas said the name was borne out of their own journey through several family relocations.

"We like the idea of resilience or trying to get over your own mental roadblock is where the it came from," said Shreyas. "During e-learning, I got quite involved in technology, and it seemed like the perfect time to try something new, where my sister and I could incorporate our own ideas and have an outreach to the public."

In the debut segment, the pair give a short overview of the origins of mental health studies. They talk about pioneering researchers in the field and the evolution of viewpoints through both the warfare and scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, but in a playful back-and-forth that makes it accessible to all.

For their second episode, Shreyas interviewed Central Principal Bill Walsh about the ways the school works to help students navigate their high school years successfully and his own mental wellness path, including an early teaching experience in South Korea.

"That was really cool to learn how he framed his own career through that," Shreyas said.

Gargi said they want to broaden their examination of mental health beyond Red Devil Nation.

"We're planning on interviewing industrial workers to look at the importance of mental health in businesses," she said. "We know that mental health touches every aspect of life. There are so many topics that you could talk about."

Shreyas said they try to keep their ears open for potential subject matter.

"Our ideas come from peers who are trying to impact others, and then we try to engage our listeners through those who are trying to have a positive impact on society," he said. "We're looking forward to getting our reach as far as we can."

They've had nearly 200 listeners tune in, some even from Europe.

"I've heard from some at school say how they've been somewhat enlightened by what we're sharing," Shreyas related.

Even though they'll be at different campuses next year, Gargi said they plan to keep the podcast going.

"It's great to know that people care what we're talking about," Gargi said. "It's about driving that knowledge and awareness around mental health."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean