Macy Lee on Mental Health, Moving Across the World, and Tackling Discouragement

There’s no better example of a positive and driven young woman than Macy Lee. Moving from the Philippines to attend college in the United States right after finishing high school and managing two international non-profits, she has been able to do it all. Despite facing mental health challenges of her own and having her true commitment to mental health awareness doubted, Macy has remained invested in what she is most passionate about–helping other people through their experiences with mental health.   

Macy Lee is a freshman at UC Davis, studying international relations and economics. She is the founder of Talang Dalisay, a nonprofit she started in the Philippines to spread awareness about mental health issues. Her inspiration was her autistic brother and her experience with anxiety – something she considers “a really dark time” in her life.  Talang Dalisay not only helped her further her mission, but also gave her multiple opportunities to develop her public speaking skills. Just like her move to the states, Macy made the most of this opportunity as well: “What I like about public speaking is that people are there to listen to you and learn from you. I feel reassured because people are listening to me and it’s really fun when you get to engage with them.” 

What drives activists like Macy, despite burnout and discouragement, to stay committed to their mission? What makes activists like Macy unique? According to Macy herself, we all have to “think about what makes you you, and consider: ‘Why am I so special?’” What is my energy that no one else has?” And for Macy, that was her passion and drive to do something, and come across as her “authentic self” in her applications & outreach activities. 

Another endeavor Macy puts her energy into is a chapter of a global organization, My State of Mind (which also works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health), with chapters in Australia, India, and Hong Kong. She “chose to bring it here in America because she felt that mental health issues are more prevalent,” and that there’s more stigma in the United States surrounding mental health.

Coming from a small Catholic all-girls school in the Philippines, moving to UC Davis and getting an opportunity to study in the States was a privilege, according to Macy. She explains: “standardized testing is not cheap especially for my family: it was one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make just going here because everything would change.” Being a “glass half full” person, Macy knew coming to UC Davis would give her the space to grow, so she made the sacrifices to attend. 

With success and achievement comes hate, criticism, and people who want to push you down – and Macy’s story is no different. As her non-profits grew, and she was accepted into UC Davis, she experienced backlash and mocking comments from people who did not want to see her succeed. Many even suggested that Macy had started her nonprofits simply to be a more competitive college applicant – something that frustrated Macy greatly. But she reminds herself how much she enjoys being a part of her nonprofits, furthering her mission for mental health awareness, and appreciates the opportunity to work with a team who all are supporting a greater cause. 

Women are constantly overlooked by others and many times are told that they cannot achieve, with their voices constantly drowned out in a sea of negativity coming from their opposers. Macy Lee was often told that she was “too young,” or “working towards a short term goal.” Although these comments posed challenges for how she viewed herself, Macy views these situations with her optimistic mentality. She explains “The key is to just not listen to them because they have no idea who you are and they have no idea why you’re doing it.” 

In a world where addressing mental health issues is becoming more common and normalized, selfless, resilient people like Macy have made this possible. Through using her own story and tough experience with anxiety, she has paved the way to bring more people into understanding mental health and the importance of reaching out and seeking help. 

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