How stories support mental health: With Srividya Sivakumar

26 June 2023
Nandini K Written by Nandini K
Nandini K

Nandini K

Nandini is a passionate content and copywriter. Her curiosity to understand and simplify complex...

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What is it to teach? To love words all your life? To weave stories?

In voice, in print, prose, and poetry. 

We asked Srividya Sivakumar this, and her answer was simple. “I see it as my responsibility to be correct when I am talking about language,” she says.

Because as she says in the introduction to ‘Dear Mynd,’ the new storytelling podcast on mental health that she hosts: “We are, after all, our stories. And our stories are us.”

Dive into the conversation to know how stories hold the power to make people feel seen in the quietest but the most comforting way possible.

You have played a multitude of roles in your professional journey, be it as a teacher, speaker, trainer, or writer. Which has been your favorite and why?

The part of my life that has given me the most is definitely teaching. Simply because, as a teacher, you hold the power to change the way an individual looks at life.  

The biggest compliment for me has been the fact that some of my students, even from 20 years ago, are still in touch with me. Such a connection can’t be quantified. 

Have you always known that you would be a teacher? A lover of the English language? A poet? And a new persona as a creator on LinkedIn?

I don’t think I knew. What I remember is that growing up, my father would insist that we speak and write grammatically correct English.

And when I became a teacher of the English language, I learned that as a teacher, you couldn’t afford to be lax about the language.

Srividya Srikumar

Apart from my job, I write on social media mostly for myself, and if people are reading and enjoying it, I see that as a bonus.

As for the content I post on LinkedIn, there was a 3-line rant that I had posted on LinkedIn which talked about the difference between ‘for’ and ‘since’ because I saw a famous interviewer getting the words incorrect, and it bothered me so much. 

That post received a lot of traffic when I had just put it out there because I had a problem with it, but I was surprised to see how many people resonated with me.

It was then that it struck me that I could try to make grammar fun and more approachable because grammar is mostly looked at as something that’s boring.

And because I have been a teacher for 2 decades, I see it as my responsibility to be correct, or at least try to be, when it comes to language use.

And now. With your new role with MyndStories, would you say you are more of a mental health advocate too? How has your own mental health evolved over the years, and how would you describe it at present?

I wasn’t aware of the concept of mental health for many decades of my life, and when I did get my head around it, I could not bring myself to seek help. 

The first time I sought help was about 5 years ago. It helped me a lot because sometimes we are not able to articulate how we are feeling. 

And what a therapist does is they not only assure us as to how our feelings are real, but they also help us understand the root from which our feelings stemmed from. 

Through therapy, I have been able to understand the tools through which I get to navigate my thoughts and emotions better.

Currently, I am friends with my mental health. I do have days when I am sad and anxious, but I have observed how comforting it is to just wallow in negative emotions and not try to come out of them. 

Because I am aware of how complacent negative emotions can make us, I consciously make a choice to understand why I feel how I feel and try to crawl out of that rabbit hole of darkness as I hold onto the light of awareness.

Even on days that I struggle with self-confidence, when I walk into a classroom, I ensure I am my most confident self.

Because whatever it is that I am going through, my students don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of it. 

So, I put on my bravest face as a teacher and tell my students they can be whatever they aspire to be. And I believe that they can, too.

How does all of this translate to being a podcast host? That, too, for a storytelling podcast?

It’s been a lot of fun. 


Swati and Smitha felt the easiest way to talk about profound lessons is through stories. 

And it is true when we ask children about what they learned, they bring about such wisdom in the simplest of words. 

Through stories, we are trying to talk about mental health without actually talking about mental health.

Plus, I have always wanted to be a podcast host, and I felt like the universe had granted my silent wish when I got to host the ‘DearMynd’ podcast.

What, according to you, makes stories so powerful?

We read to know we are not alone. 

And the difference between reading to be informed as opposed to reading for pleasure is that when you seek out learning, you might or might not get what you were looking for. 

Still, when you’re reading for the pleasure of it, a lesson comes to you when you’re least expecting it.

Fiction allows you to identify and relate with elements in a story that no matter what genre you’re reading, you’ll find something that connects with a piece of you.

How do you think stories would help the listeners connect better with mental health?

When we try to advise people, it rarely works, and people tend not to believe it unless they have experienced it first-hand. 

And there is a certain resistance when it comes to talking about mental health, which is eased when conveyed through stories.

In fact, one of the best ways to talk about mental health is through stories because it enables you to get across a compelling lesson without compelling people.

Stories truly place the power of having the choice to interpret the story however the listener wants to. 

There’s this thing about children’s stories that reminds people of simpler times and how they got through situations that they thought they couldn’t get through as a kid.

Stories of childhood give adults the courage to find it in themselves again. 

And when you’re dealing with mental health issues, all you want sometimes is not to feel alone. 

One would want to feel the comfort of relatability or of quiet understanding. Stories do just that because stories hold the power to affirm people with the feeling of being seen.

We want to open up conversations on mental health by offering meaningful and relatable stories that comfort the heart and soothe the mind.

But even if one doesn’t look at it through the mental health angle, the stories that we feature on ‘DearMynd’ are short, being 5-8 minutes long to listen to on the go, and are just mini-stories that you might love. 

If there was one piece of advice that you had to give your younger self, what would it be? 

I want to tell my younger self to hang on because it gets better. At 13, everything seemed so bleak to me. 

But things do get better, we just got to hang on sometimes. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of MyndStories. As an interview, this is not verified or vetted by our in-house review board.

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