From a young age Katya struggled with anxiety and depression, but couldn’t make sense of what she was experiencing. A confluence of factors pushed her mental state into a negative place as Katya struggled to find her place in the world. katya
Katya was a “people-pleaser.” Her childhood was preoccupied with making her family proud. The daughter of parents who came from traditional ethnic cultures made her feel pressure to be the “all-American girl.” With her parents longing to assimilate to American culture, they put a great deal of importance on achieving The American Dream. As she struggled to develop meaningful family connections, she strived to be everything she thought her parents wanted. She couldn’t see that her parents were simply providing her with opportunities they never had, and only wanted her to be happy and healthy.
When she reached adolescence, she began to seek validation from her peers. The challenges of growing up in her small, affluent town were exacerbated by a genetic predisposition to mental illness, lack of understanding, and traumatic events.
When she was 15 years old, Katya was sexually assaulted, leading to a subsequent unhealthy relationship. Unable to process these experiences and feeling too ashamed to share her trauma with those around her, Katya sank deeply into depression, anxiety, and negative coping mechanisms. She pushed herself to maintain the image of being a good student and pretending to have it all together – she was on the school newspaper, honor roll, and the cheerleading team. She was a School Peer Leader, homecoming queen, and friendly to all. Katya feared being seen as “the sad girl” so she hid her depression out of fear of rejection.
Eventually, she became lost in depression, anxiety and negative coping – not knowing herself or who she wanted to be. During a study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, Katya broke down, unable to function or continue her daily life. This pushed her to finally get the help she needed in therapy and began her journey of healing. Through talk therapy and art, Katya found positive ways to manage her mental health and connect with the people around her. She leaned on the people who truly care about her – her family. Now healthy and accepting of herself, Katya empowers students to make healthy choices and build their own identity.
Equipped with a degree in advertising, her passion to help others, and ongoing mental wellness, Katya travels the country to educate students and adults about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and healthy relationships, and helps them understand empathy, consent, self-care, and positive coping skills. Her goal is to help others express themselves, and inform students about the messages that they receive from society and media regarding their physical and mental well-being.
Katya is based in southern New Jersey. Speaking engagements beyond 120 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.
Read what organizations have to say about Katya:
‘Katya did a fabulous job engaging our middle school students throughout her presentation. Katya’s presentation was heartfelt, real and dynamic. Her story allowed the audience to see how stigma regarding mental health can hold people back from getting the help they need. Katya gave the kids an understanding of how depression and anxiety if not addressed can be problematic. She gave the kids hope and understanding into how getting help can allow someone to get back their life back and turn things around in a positive healthy ” –Unity Charter School (NJ)
‘Katya’s presentation was exactly what we hoped it would be. Our students identified a need for mental health education/access during research for a civics project. When they found your organization, we didn’t know what to expect. Katya held firm the attention of students in grades 6-8 for nearly 2 hours, which is quite an accomplishment. A fellow staff member described our assembly as the most relevant in the 10 years of our school’s history. I completely agree.” – Staten Island School of Civic Leadership (NY)