Call for Participants for POC & Mental Illness Photo Project Shoot

Due to the success of the Kickstarter campaign, I am happy to announce that we are officially in pre-production for the large scale portrait series that will help further the work and message of this project! 

I have partnered with Dugud Lab and we will be doing on location shoots starting May 13th as well as studio shoots starting May 27th in New York City. 

Are you a person of color and live with a mental health condition/mental illness? We'd love to include you in this project! Please enter your information here or send  this link to anyone who might be interested!

I can't wait to start this work with you all and change how we represent and talk about mental health.

Name *

Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist Dior Vargas Joins Project UROK as Outreach Coordinator

I'm so excited to be sharing this news and press release with you all!

Mental health non-profit Project UROK is thrilled to welcome Dior Vargas to their team in the role of Outreach Coordinator. She will be creating original content, consulting, and doing organizational and community outreach for the organization.

"I'm very excited to be joining the team at Project UROK," says Ms. Vargas. "They're doing important work toward mental illness awareness and provide hope to those who are enduring a lot. I'm looking forward to contributing to this work. And remember, you are ok!"

"Since we first heard about Dior Vargas and saw the work she was doing we knew she was someone we wanted to work with and learn from," says Project UROK founder and executive director Jenny Jaffe. "She's an important voice in mental health advocacy and we are honored to have her joining the team!"

Launched in April of 2015, Project UROK is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create a catalogue of accessible, funny, meaningful videos for teens struggling with mental health issues, by adults who have been there before. In doing so we hope to provide not only practical assistance, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a sense of comfort, a sense of belonging, and a sense of hope. 

White House Honors Disability Advocates Across Generations as “Champions of Change”

I'm so excited to announce that I will be honored at the White House as a Champion of Change for my mental health activism! 


Office of Communications


July 23, 2015


White House Honors Disability Advocates Across Generations as “Champions of Change”


WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, July 27 the White House will honor nine disability advocates across generations. The event will be held in conjunction with celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights law that promises equal access and equal opportunity -- regardless of ability. The event will celebrate the success of the ADA and recognize both long-time disability advocates and young Americans with disabilities who are working to uphold and expand the spirit of the ADA.  The program will feature remarks by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, former baseball player Jim Abbott, and American football fullback Derrick Coleman.


The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit on Monday, July 27 at 10:00 AM ET.  To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.


Dilshad D. Ali, Richmond, Virginia

Dilshad D. Ali has been working in the field of autism and disability advocacy for nearly ten years. Through her work as an advocate with the Virginia Autism Project, she helped facilitate the passage of landmark autism insurance legislation. She is also on the advisory board for Enabled Muslim and MUHSEN, the first ever disability advocacy organizations focused on creating programs of inclusion, mentoring, and resource-sharing in the American Muslim community. Ali serves on the Faith Advisory Council for the Autism Society of America, which is working to create literature for advising houses of worship on creating an inclusionary atmosphere for special needs congregants. Five years ago she began chronicling her son’s and family’s autism journey in her blog, “Muslimah Next Door.” By the sharing of her son’s personal struggles and triumphs, she has sought to dismantle stereotypes that often relegate individuals with special needs to a hidden or “less than” status in her faith and cultural communities. 


Mike Ellis, Broomfield, Colorado

Mike Ellis is the National Director for Sprint Relay, the nation’s largest Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) provider for the past 25 years. Under his leadership, Sprint Relay continues to develop innovative solutions that increase communication and information access for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or have a mobility, cognitive or speech disability. Mike has testified before numerous government committees across the country and in New Zealand. He currently serves on the Foundation Board for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Gallaudet University’s Board of Associates.


Douglas Garner, Arlington, Texas

As the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation for Adapted Sports and Recreation at the University of Texas at Arlington, Doug Garner works to provide sport programs and opportunities for active participation of students with disabilities, injured service veterans and members of the community who face physical challenges.  He also serves as Head Coach of the University of Texas Arlington Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Team - the Movin’ Mavs. Over the past seven years, he has worked to increase the number of students with disabilities attending the University and has increased programs for and participation of students with physical disabilities from a wheelchair tennis team, to an adapted track and field team and has introduced a Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, the Lady Movin’ Mavs to the campus.  Under his leadership, participation of students on campus in adapted programs has risen to almost three dozen UTA Students in 2015, over 1,700 community participants in a variety of adapted special events, and over 500 annual participation opportunities for this population. 


Sandy Ho, Weston, Massachusetts

Sandy Ho serves on the Easter Seals Massachusetts State Board of Directors and is the Chair of the Youth Leadership and Transition Committee. She graduated from Lesley University with a degree in Global Studies. As a student, she served as President of Students for Social Justice, an intern on the Service Nation campaign, a research assistant at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School of Government, and was a research associate in the area of human trafficking for the Protection Project at Johns Hopkins University. Following graduation, she dedicated a year of service through more than 1,700 hours as an AmeriCorps member by developing a mentoring program for first-generation students at Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts. Sandy continued her dedication for youth advocacy by developing and expanding the Easter Seals Thrive Mentoring Program for young women with disabilities, and founded “Letters to Thrive,” an international project where disabled women around the world share life experiences through letters to their younger selves.


Catherine Hutchinson, Taunton, Massachusetts

Catherine Hutchinson had a brain stem stroke at the age of 43, and the stroke left her quadriplegic and nonverbal. Cathy was institutionalized and went on to share her experience of institutionalization while serving as the named plaintiff in the class action Hutchinson v. Park. As a result of her efforts, a Statewide Settlement Agreement secured access to home and community-based services for hundreds of other Massachusetts residents with Acquired Brain Injury. Ms. Hutchinson works to promote quality services and supports for waiver clients, volunteering her time on provider advisory boards and associations. 


Talila A. Lewis, Rochester, New York

Talila A. Lewis is an activist-attorney whose advocacy and research primarily focus on creating equal access to the legal system for individuals who are deaf and people with disabilities.  As the creator of the only national database of deaf prisoners, Talila advocates with and for hundreds of deaf defendants, prisoners and returned citizens, and trains justice, legal and corrections professionals about varied disability-related concerns.  Talila leads intersectional campaigns that advance the rights of multiply-marginalized people, including the #DeafInPrison Campaign, the Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign, and the American Civil Liberties Union’s "Know Your Deaf Rights" Campaign. Talila founded and directs Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), an organization that works to correct and prevent deaf wrongful convictions, end abuse of incarcerated people with disabilities; decrease recidivism rates for deaf returned citizens; and increase representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions.


Brian Meersma, Princeton Junction, New Jersey

Brian Meersma is a sophomore at Cornell University studying Industrial and Labor Relations. After realizing the ways in which assistive technology helps him as a student with dyslexia, he started an assistive technology blog to help others with disabilities learn about available resources. He also gives presentations demonstrating the ways in which these technological tools work. Brian advocates for improved dyslexia-related legislation at the state and federal level. He is a member of Bookshare’s National Advisory Board and is a Learning Ally National Achievement Award winner. As part of the American Association of People with Disabilities summer program, he is interning at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where he supports disability inclusive emergency management.

Maxwell Barrows, Montpelier, Vermont

Maxwell Barrows is a young man with Autism, who works for Green Mountain Self-Advocates, a disability rights organization in Vermont. As the Outreach Director, he mentors youth and adults with developmental disabilities to speak up for themselves and become leaders. Max connects with people on all levels advocating for true-inclusion of people with developmental disabilities. In his work, he advances the message that when you meet an individual with a disability, presume competence. Max is currently on the board of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), the national self-advocacy organization. His goal is to travel internationally to spread his messages of true-inclusion and self-advocacy.


Dior Vargas, New York, New York
Dior Vargas is a Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist. She is a CrisisTextLine crisis counselor and a facilitator for the Young Adult Support Group at National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC Metro. She was chosen as a Voices of the Year honoree at #BlogHer15: Experts among Us Conference for her online photo project, People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project. She was also chosen as a member of the 2014 class of the Women's Media Center's media training program, Progressive Women's Voices. Dior Vargas is a member of NAMI-NYC Metro’s Young Professionals Advisory Board; she holds a B.A. in the Study of Women and Gender from Smith College and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University.



Launching Survey for LGBTQIA Friendly, POC Therapists

Happy National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month!

To kick this month off, I have created a survey to compile a list of LGBTQIA friendly, POC therapists in the U.S.. I’ve seen the need for a list like this because we need individuals who are culturally competent and can understand what it means to be oppressed.

In my own personal experience, having a queer friendly, WOC mental health professional at my side and involved in my mental health care was essential. I was able to express myself in ways I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing otherwise.

I want to provide this as a resource so we can get the support we deserve. Please share with your friends and networks. I’m really excited to see what we can come up with to share with one another.

People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project Kickstarter Launched!

After one month of preparation, I’m ready to announce that my Kickstarter campaign, People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project, is now live! I would be extremely grateful if you would check it out and contribute.

I wanted to make this a larger project where I would be able to continue amplifying the voices of marginalized communities who live with mental illnesses. With all of the press, commentary, and feedback I’ve received for this project, it gave me the confidence to move forward with this next stage. 

So, I’m launching a Kickstarter project to fund a photo shoot for many of the participants so we can have higher-quality photos.

I would appreciate it if you could share, retweet, and reblog to your friends and networks. I’m really excited about the work that I can accomplish with these new photos and I’m glad to be taking this journey with you. 

With your support, we can continue this work of humanizing the experience of mental illness and raise awareness among people of color.

Thank you!

People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project Update

So after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided that I want to expand the work that I’ve started with the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project. 

For the past 10 months, I have been collecting self-portraits from people of color dealing with mental illness around the country on my website; so far, I have 61 amazing images. This project is a response to the media representation of mental illness which excludes people of color. So the next phase would be to commission a photographer to take photos in a studio space. That way we can have high resolution, professional photographs that do justice to this issue. Besides raising awareness, I want these photos to initiate a dialogue so that these experiences are normalized and people feel more comfortable to share their stories. This in turn can allow the prioritization of mental health in these communities. These photos can be used for various projects in the future: I would like to host gallery exhibits in communities where there is a large population of people of color so that these images can be viewed by those who otherwise might not have seen them. This would facilitate a gathering of individuals who want to start these conversations and take part in ending the stigma. I would also like to produce print books so it is a tangible object that people of color can share with one another. Having an object that people can have makes the images more intimate.

I’m still in the process of figuring things out but if you’re interested in following along with how the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project develops and evolves, you can sign up for my newsletter.

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New Projects Coming Up in 2015!

2014 was the year that I started to focus my activism on something that I've been dealing with all my life: mental illness. I started a photo project in response to the media representation of mental illness which silences communities of color. I've received such a great response to this and it means a lot to know that this is making a difference in people's lives. Note: Submissions are still welcome! :)

I'm so excited for 2015 because I have two projects in the works:

  1. Anthology of POC & Mental Illness: I am requesting submissions so I can edit an anthology of essays, poems, etc of people of color and their experience with mental illness. *I am actively accepting submissions to this project.*
  2. POC & Mental Illness Monologues: I will be conducting interviews and  I am going to write a vagina monologues but for POC and mental illness. If I can get funding, I hope to conduct all of these in person in different states. *Later in the year*

Please contact me if you're interested in participating!

Have a Happy New Year!

Much love and appreciation, 



Who is Missing in Media?

Here is a video I was in earlier this year on where I talk about my mental health activism!

More information: - In the U.S. Latino community is identified as a high-risk group for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Prevalence of depression is higher in Latino women (46%) than Latino men (19.6%) Dior Vargas, Latina feminist and mental health activist, talks about the stigma that mental health has on the Latino community.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Community Walk

I will be joining with thousands of people nationwide this month to walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Please donate!

The image above is a picture of a diary entry from when I was 8 years old. Things were bad at home: we had experienced years of domestic violence at the hands of my father, my mother got on welfare after my father left home, and we barely had anything to eat. I felt that my life was over.

Fast forward to 2 years later and I was being bullied at school. I was still experiencing violence at home and food was scarce. At 10 years old, I first tried to end my life. I wrote a note and everything. But the next day I woke up. Yet that didn't stop me. I continued trying but each time I would wake up the next morning. 

The last time I tried was when I was back home from my first year in college in 2006. While things had improved since the first time, it was still hard for me. I was unhappy at school and when I got home where I thought things would be better, I was unhappy there too. I reverted back to that old self where ending my life would finally put me at peace and in a place where I didn't feel constant pain. I did wake up afterwards but I could tell that it was finally working. If I hadn't told my sister what I did and if she hadn't told my mom and stepdad I don't know if I would be writing this right now. I was taken to the hospital and then to a psychiatric ward. 

I'm doing this walk for the young Latinas who are like how I was: desperate, lonely, depressed, angry. I don't want them to try what I did. I want them to know they are not alone. I want them to know that they can talk to others who have been there. We can give them some type of reassurance that they are strong, resilient young women who have so much ahead of them and that they are needed in this world.

Please contribute anything you can. It would mean a lot to me. 

Thank you, 


Requesting Photo Submissions for Minorities and Mental Illness Project



This is a request for POC (people of color) to speak out about their struggle with mental illness. There is a lack of media representation of POC and mental illness. There are tons of articles that list people with depression and other mental illnesses but you rarely see someone who looks like you. We need to change the way this is represented. This is not something to be ashamed about. We need to confront and end the stigma that this is a privileged, white person's disease. This is a reality for so many people in our community. 

Please join me in this project to show people who are truly are. We are not our disease. 

Please submit a photo of yourself holding a sign saying "I'm [your name] and I have a mental illness (or the exact type)." Whatever you feel comfortable doing. 

· This project is ongoing. 

· Angle (shoulders up, waist up etc): shoulders up

· Send to:

· Save the image as a JPEG and saved as your first and last name

Women’s Media Center Announces WMC Progressive Women’s Voices Class of 2014

I am proud to say that I am part of this list of amazing talented women who are ready to take their work to another level.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Women’s Media Center announced today that 20 women have been selected for its WMC Progressive Women’s Voices class, the organization’s premier media and leadership training program.  Since the inception of WMC Progressive Women’s Voices, WMC has trained over 152 thought leaders, journalists, and advocates from across the nation.

“The Women’s Media Center works to make sure that who defines the story, who tells the story, and what the story is about, represents women and men equally.  This group of dynamic women is part of our strategy to expand the media talent pool,” said Julie Burton, President of The Women’s Media Center. “Our trainees will receive advanced, comprehensive training and tools to position themselves as media spokespersons in their fields and will be promoted through WMC SheSource – a brain trust of top women experts used by media worldwide.”  Burton continued, “These women reflect diversity visibly absent from the mainstream media within important conversations around national security, health care, immigration, workplace policy, reproductive health, climate change, and other issues that fill the headlines every day.”

Former graduates include frequent cable news commentators Sally Kohn, Maria Theresa Kumar, Zerlina Maxwell, Anu Kristina Bhagwati, Shelby Knox, Courtney Martin, Emily May, Linda Sarsour, Rinku Sen, Amanda Terkel, Jessica Valenti, and many others.

With the WMC’s training and support, WMC PWV experts have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, New York magazine, USA Today, Forbes, Variety, Mother Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Salon, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters, numerous NPR shows and within hundreds of top-tier media outlets.

Speak Out! Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

A few weeks ago I asked for Latin@s to submit videos of themselves speaking out about their mental illness. In full transparency, I only received one submission which was from one of my friends. But I can understand the hesitation. It is a lot to ask for people to come out and make themselves vulnerable to criticism, judgments, and shame. 

So I decided that I should submit one of my own so that maybe others can follow suit. Whether or not something comes out of this, it doesn't matter. I want people who look like me to know that they are not alone. There are so many instances where white people show how they have overcome the struggle of mental illness but I never see someone like me. So I decided to do it myself.

Please feel free to see me as someone you can reach out to and count on. We have to support one another. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done but I am who I am. I am not my circumstances. I am my resilience.

23 Women Show Us Their Favorite Position

Check out this article where I am featured among so many other amazing women!

Production manager in International Digital Operations at NOOK Media/

"My favorite part about this job is that I get to be at the forefront of the latest developments in digital newsstand publishing. Also, I get to work with publishers from 32 countries and in 21 languages! There are very few women of color in this industry, so I am very happy to be part of it."

2014 NYC Walk to End Alzheimer's: 10/19/2014

My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer's and she means the world to me. She raised me when my mom was busy working because she was a single mother. My grandmother made sure I was always showed love. It's hard to see someone you love slowly deteriorate in front of you. Please help me raise my goal of $100 for the walk! I will greatly appreciate it.