Michelle Siu

Giving back to her community

“I remember getting my first panic attack during a competition. Rather than being comforted by my parents and coaches, they shamed me for it.” This is what senior Michelle Siu recalls from a gymnastics meet. After facing overwhelming negativity, she recognized the need to normalize talking about mental health and create a safe space for others dealing with mental health issues. In June 2020, Siu found a way to do this by getting involved with the Purple Hydrangea Project (PHP).

PHP, a student-run nonprofit organization, works to advocate for mental health in children and teens. It hosts webinars and fundraisers, and its mission is to eliminate the stigma around mental health and make people more comfortable with seeking help when they need it. 

“People, especially youth, are afraid to speak about mental health and reach out for the help they need. Organizations like PHP help normalize topics like mental health and create a nonjudgmental environment for people to share their stories and feelings,” Siu said. “Growing up in a household where mental health is looked down upon was so toxic. I just want to help others become normalized with this topic.”

Siu first applied to be an intern June 2020. After being shamed for having a panic attack when she was younger she did not want others to have the same experience as her. 

“I put myself down and became normalized with the fact that experiencing anxiety and emotional trauma didn’t exist,” Siu said. “Not getting the help I needed caused me to struggle and always have a desire for someone to validate the way I was feeling.”

After working a couple of weeks as an intern, she became a permanent member. As a current member, Siu participates in weekly meetings with each committee, where they perform progress checks and discuss new ideas. Siu has helped organize PHP’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+ Mental Health Webinars. 

“I’ve spent the past couple of weeks emailing influencers or students who participated in our Q&A and working with the creative team of PHP to create graphics for it,” Siu said. “This was my first project I’ve led, so I’m really proud of it. I was happy to give the participants of the project a voice and a chance to speak out and for others to become more educated about mental health.” 

Alongside being a Social Media Manager at PHP, Siu is in the Finance, Outreach Project & Marketing Committees and the Human Resources Team. PHP is currently holding a campaign to raise money for future projects, and Siu plans on creating a PHP club in Walnut. 

“I’m hoping to begin fundraising right away, and hopefully making [PHP] a club where everyone who joins feels comfortable and actually has a part in it,” Siu said. “Students who join PHP will have a chance to learn new skills and have an active role in the club. I want to contribute if it means that kids will feel safer and more comfortable around the topic of mental health.”

By Flora Lei, Print editor in chief

Photo by Sherlene Su