Lisa Lai

George Washington High School, San Francisco

For Lisa, breaking the stigma of depression – especially in the Chinese-American community – is something that hits close to home. When her father passed away from heart failure just before her freshman year of high school, Lisa watched as she and her family members struggled to move forward, each eventually falling “like dominos.” And when a close friend became depressed during their junior year of high school but refused to seek treatment, Lisa knew it was time to become more involved in breaking the stigma that encapsulates depression.  As a member of the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), she designed and executed a mental health campaign for high school students in San Francisco with four other student leaders. Their focus was on the lack of culturally sensitive mental health resources for young people facing stress or crisis situations. She has worked with CPA to survey thousands of SFUSD students, organize protests, and demand better mental health resources for youth in San Francisco. During her work on this campaign, Lisa discovered that many Chinese-Americans, including her friend, do not use Wellness Centers (WCs) due to a lack of diverse, trustworthy, and understanding staff. This finding fueled her to initiate student-led conferences with the purpose of brainstorming ideas on how improve WCs.  As someone who leads through quiet support, questioning, and guidance, Lisa is focused on giving a voice to women of color who are rarely heard, and raising to a higher platform important issues such as mental health and social justice.