By Mariel Abanes
It’s true that the first step to everything is self-awareness. Social advocate Kana Takahashi knows this so well. She carries her causes—mental health awareness, LGBT inclusion, and women empowerment—on her shoulders everyday, campaigning for people to take notice and dig deeper than just scratching the surface.
“When people hear the ‘f’ word, they think that feminism is about women thinking that they are better than men,” she says. On mental health, the 20-year-old states, “I view mental health as the center of our lives. It can affect anyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, and so on. Though people are already aware as to why it is important, stigma is still there. And we need to eliminate that.”
Co-founding UST Hiraya, the first intersectional feminist organization in UST, and taking the social media researcher post for the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, are both her baby steps to reach out and spread word on these relevant issues. Their goal is to spark a conversation about issues that matter and actually do something about it, through talks and conversations from people from all walks of life. Learning never stops, she says.
It all starts from within, as Kana relates her initial interests on the subject matter. One of her professors’ talk on mental health sparked her curious mind and soon found herself looking up all the organizations that were mentioned until she found Y4MH.
As a member of the student government, on the other hand, the Psychology major felt the need for her officership to mean something more, especially with her involvement in numerous community development and field works. “Through these, I became aware of how discriminating and unjust our society is,” she shares.
And as she believes—to able to inspire others, you must be inspired yourself. To be able to educate others, you must first educate yourself. And to be able to make a difference, you always must make the first move. So Kana did.
Her winning formula that keeps her on the move? Checking in on herself every now and then. Kana says that the practice of self-care is as important as helping nurture others' well-being. During rough times, she takes a moment to pause and breathe, set aside time to watch movies and bond with friends like other kids her age. The future psychiatrist or developmental pedia also considers kindness and compassion as key. “You’ll never know what a person is going through at the moment and you don’t know the struggles they're facing so being extra kind and compassionate to everyone you meet won’t hurt,” she explains.
The UST graduate hopes that one day, all their efforts in bringing it out there will motivate today’s youth and the next generation to continue making a change. “I want them to know that we shouldn’t be afraid to take a big leap especially when we have good intentions. As long as what we do is right and is for the common good, nothing should get in our way,” she adds.
It sure sounds a lot for a girl who just stepped out of her teen years, but Kana doesn’t see the things she does as heavy. With a burning passion to lend a hand to those in need, she’ll start everyday lacing her shoes, getting out there, and serving her people. “If you care and believe in something, go for it."
Watch Kana star in our 18th anniversary campaign #ChalkGen18 as part of this year's Chalk Bright Young Manila:
ALSO READ: #ChalkGen18: Meet The 18 Individuals Of This Year's Chalk Bright Young Manila
Photographed by Stephen Capuchino
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Madel Asuncion
Makeup by Ces Ramirez of Makeup Design Academy
Hair by Jennifer Pascual of Triple Luck Brow and Nail Salon
Clothes by Bench