In a recent study, rates of depression and anxiety among children aged 3 to 17 have increased, making youth mental health a critical public health issue, as stated by United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Etasha Donthi, an 18-year-old high school senior, has taken this issue to heart and is determined to impact the mental health space positively.
Etasha’s motivation stems from a personal tragedy—losing a close friend to suicide a few years ago.
This heartbreaking event led her to question how she could contribute to improving mental health and potentially save lives.
In addition, being part of the digital generation, she recognized the significant influence of social media on mental well-being.
She observed that many individuals use these platforms to express their struggles and emotions but often go unnoticed amidst the overwhelming posts.
She was Driven to make a difference, so Etasha embarked on a self-learning journey.
While juggling prom preparations, exams, and college applications, she taught herself coding through online research, YouTube tutorials, and participation in female-led STEM organizations such as Kode With Klossy, founded by Karlie Kloss.
Her efforts culminated in the development of Livity, a pioneering algorithm with a pending patent.
Livity utilizes natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis, which are areas of artificial intelligence, to identify suicidal ideation and mental health concerns in posts on platforms like Twitter and Reddit.
By analyzing the text data using AI techniques, the algorithm determines the emotional tone and sentiment expressed, enabling it to recognize language indicative of mental health struggles.
Upon identifying such posts, Livity aims to connect individuals with free mental health resources, offering support to those who may not have access to such help.
In 2021, Etasha founded She The Change, a non-profit organization and podcast highlighting female leaders and changemakers challenging the status quo in male-dominated fields.
She firmly believes that connecting with others and understanding that one is not alone are crucial steps toward positive change.
Etasha’s passion for gender equity and being a catalyst for change continues to grow as she prepares to pursue an engineering degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
When asked about balancing her responsibilities as a full-time student and an entrepreneur, Etasha acknowledges that it has been a learning experience.
Managing her time effectively has been essential, and she is committed to making room for her start-up venture, which holds immense significance to her.
She even takes calls and attends business meetings in the school cafeteria to accommodate her busy schedule.
Etasha’s journey into the tech field and entrepreneurship was not something she initially anticipated.
She encountered difficulties during her high school STEM classes, as few girls, including herself, were in those courses.
The lack of representation, coupled with microaggressions and competitive environments, made it challenging for her to explore her passion authentically.
However, Etasha found a supportive community of like-minded individuals through various Women in STEM organizations.
Despite the physical distance, she connected with people who shared her interests and understood the obstacles she faced.
To young people pursuing careers in STEM, Etasha’s advice is simple but powerful: Your voice matters, and you should have faith in yourself.
Imposter syndrome, a feeling of self-doubt, is common, but recognizing that others face similar challenges and that a community supports you can help combat these feelings.
In addition, finding one’s voice and realizing one belongs in male-dominated spaces is an important step toward achieving equity.
Being honored as a Voice of Change by Seventeen magazine holds deep meaning for Etasha.
It signifies being a source of inspiration and representation, especially for women of color.
She is gratified
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