Mount Mary’s Voices of Leadership event Wednesday, Nov. 2, will feature the work of mental health advocate Diana Chao, whose personal struggles as a teen led her to establish a global mental health movement for youth.

In her presentation, Chao will share her perspective on minority mental health as a first-generation Asian American who grew up below the poverty line. Diagnosed with a bipolar disorder at the age of 13, Chao founded Letters to Strangers as a high school sophomore. A decade later, L2S has become a global youth-for-youth mental health nonprofit affecting more than 35,000 people on six continents each year.

She credits the power of small acts of kindness to change the life of another and has based her organization around this theme. According to the L2S website, “often there is nothing greater than a person-to-person human connection. We want mental health made personal, because each person deserves to be treated as the individual they are. No one’s identity should be buried beneath statistics.”

This topic of in-depth, actionable mental health education will engage youth and mental health advocates, and resonate with members of Milwaukee’s professional community who attend the annual Voices of Leadership event, said Keri Schroeder, executive director for Mount Mary University’s Women’s Leadership Institute.

“From a business perspective, the conversation around mental health is critical,” Schroeder said. “Employers are realizing that in order to retain talent, their company culture needs to address personal well-being; today’s employees want more than a paycheck and insurance.

“Taking a more holistic point of view ties in beautifully with this speaker and the mission of Mount Mary University.”

Chao is a speaker with Active Minds, a nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students; it has 400 chapters in high schools, colleges and universities nationwide, including a chapter at Mount Mary University.

Voices of Leadership is an annual keynote event for Mount Mary, providing the opportunity to engage in conversations with women leaders who have broken ground in entrepreneurship, innovation, social change and leadership. These women share their experiences, stories and best practices to help participants see and pursue their own leadership potential.

The event will be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. in the Alumnae Dining Room in Bergstrom Hall. A panel discussion with local mental health professionals and Mount Mary faculty will follow the keynote.

Tickets to the event are $45. Order tickets online at

Diana Chao