Diana Chao

diana [at] letterstostrangers.org

Diana Chao

Founder & Executive Director

I'm a 23-year-old first-generation Chinese-American immigrant from Southern California, a huge matcha fan, and an absolute chaotic good on the alignment chart. I grew up with bipolar disorder and c-PTSD and didn't believe I deserved the air I breathed. After surviving a series of suicide attempts, I found healing from an unexpected source: writing. In writing letters to strangers, I realized that I wasn't alone - I never was alone. And you aren't, either. So as a sophomore in high school, I founded Letters to Strangers, which has since grown into a global youth-run organization that seeks to destigmatize mental illness and increase access to affordable, quality treatment. Among many other honors, the We Are Family Foundation named me a Global Teen Leader for this effort in 2017, I am the youngest winner of the Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Award, the only American winner of the 2019 Global Changemakers, the 2019 NAMI Young Leader Award winner, and I gave a TEDxTeen speech at the Playstation Theater in Times Square to a standing ovation. I also used to volunteer for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Lifeline Crisis Chat.

 

All of this has taught me that if we all had second chances, perhaps our lives would be so different. But not all of us are lucky enough to get a second chance. 

This is why I fight. I know personally that when all you understand is emptiness, one letter--one human connection--can save a life. Mental health matters; mental health is personal. I fight because I can't bear it otherwise.

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hchen [at] letterstostrangers.org

Helen Chen

Chief Content Officer

Hello! My name is Helen and I’m from New York City! I love and miss my home so much, it has been such a big factor on my self growth and sense of individuality. Currently, I’m at Princeton University, Class of 2022. I was initially intrigued by the letter writing process provided by Letters to Strangers, but upon joining, I’ve come to learn that L2S is a lot more than the regular letters that I’ve previously written. I’ve honestly learned so much from being a part of this organization and it has supported me in ways that were very much necessary during my rough first year at college. I currently manage Letters to Strangers’s social media pages and I hope that through the process, I’ll be able to help us develop a more unique and individual style on our pages. I also hope to become more active on the mental health scene and in particular, I am looking to spread what L2S really means!

Clayton Becker

Chief Learning Officer

Younger generations always seem to get a bad rep. It often feels like the elder adults in our life don't really understand what we're going through, as though they've forgotten what it was like to be young and to deal with the 'less valid, less real' struggles that come at you as a young adult. At Letters to Strangers, it is my mission to make sure that people of all ages have someone, some resources, something to turn to that they feel actually gets it. Currently a PhD student in the Political Science department at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), I am committed to getting people the best information that addresses the multifaceted world we live in. There is no one size fits all when it comes to mental health, and I want nothing more than to help Letters to Strangers stay in the vanguard of the movement to make that clear to everyone and anyone.

clayton [at] letterstostrangers.org

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Dan Kanceljak

Chief Outreach Officer

Around sixty years ago, James Baldwin wrote that “love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within”. One could argue that there have been few, if any, sentences that spoke so eloquently about the essence of our existence. Personally, I find Baldwin’s statement to be the perfect summary of my envisioned purpose at Letters to Strangers. For I wish to empower individuals, wherever they might be, to embrace who they truly are and by virtue of doing so, experience the beauty that is hidden behind the concept of love. If anyone would like to join me on this journey, I am only one email away.

dan [at] letterstostrangers.org

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Paisley Shultz

Communications Manager

Hello, everyone! My name is Paisley, and I am the Communications Manager for L2S. Majoring in industrial-organizational psychology at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Baruch College, I have a great interest in understanding how mental wellness impacts people’s performance in the workplace. In my free time, I love exploring New York City, going to art galleries, journaling, and relaxing with my friends. It is my goal for the blog to be a place where all writers have the opportunity to express themselves, build connections with their readers, help others understand the world around them, and imagine a more equitable existence for all. I am excited to create pieces that will make an impact. 

Pearl Lee

Volunteer Coordinator

Hi! My name is Pearl and I am very excited to be a part of Letters to Strangers as the volunteer coordinator. I once read an article titled “The Best Way To Save People From Suicide” in which some patients stated that during times of despair, their greatest solace came from letters through either family or even strangers. The study truly intrigued me as I didn’t know how much letters could help a person. Seeing how letters could communicate a sense of kinship, I decided to look more into it, and there I discovered L2S! Again, I am excited to be involved with the organization and its mission!