On April 2nd, my colleague David Guo and I spoke at TEDx Shanghai, organized by the Shanghai School International Division students. There were about 100 people in attendance, mainly students, as well as teachers, parents, and other members of the community.

The theme of the entire talk was Beyond Perception. Davy and I talked specifically about how people’s prior experience and belief system influence how they interpret/perceive a situation, and how experience gives us knowledge about the world, but we also bring existing knowledge to our experience. High school students in particular can easily overlook how their own evaluation represents reality given the overwhelming nature of their life. Thus being aware and paying attention to this process is critical for their psychological well being.

We used specific examples to illustrate how our beliefs and prior experience influence our perception, including personal stories and simple interactive pictures to demonstrate how people perceive things differently. In the end, we wrapped up and emphasized the importance of being aware and attending to such internal process, and how they were linked to high school students in particular.

We had an informal Q&A during the break time. Students came up to me and talked about their interest in psychology/counseling in general and what are some potential options. Also, some discussed their own experiences of having people around with mental health issues and what they could do to support. Some also inquired about simple things to do to reduce their stress as a student.

I think our goal was to bring more mental health awareness to the community and reduce stigmatization. It was fascinating to interact with high school students, and to see how interested they are in their own well-being and professional development. I’d like to thank the organizers and the school for putting together such a phenomenal event, and for giving us the opportunity to participate in it.