A student at Emory University and a member of the Emory Scholars Class of 2021, Valery Berenshtein hopes to change society’s negative perception on mental health by spreading awareness of and educating about the many mental illnesses that affect the global community. First coming in contact with mental health problems her freshman year of high school, Valery was affected by anorexia and bulimia and was hospitalized during her sophomore year for risk of cardiac arrest and organ failure. She spent seven months in treatment, during which she learned of the grotesque prevalence of eating disorders and the immense stigma and misconceptions associated with them.
At the start of her junior year of high school, Valery made it her goal to spread awareness of eating disorders through organizing informational seminars, teaching an in-school awareness class, speaking at local high schools and community meetings, and starting Need to bEAT. She collaborated with the Bergen County, NJ, department of mental health and took part in the Stigma-Free Initiative to combat the stigma around mental illnesses in her community. In 2017, she became a facilitator for the Embody Love Movement as well as an affiliate of The Body Image Boutique and NAMI Bergen County.
In her senior year of high school, Valery once again was afflicted by mental health problems: depression, social anxiety, suicidal ideations, and eating disorder relapses. After pursuing treatment for these illnesses, she decided to shift her focus from solely advocating for eating disorder awareness to wholly advocating for mental health awareness, with a focus on self-love, self-acceptance and the pursuit of inner -happiness and -peace.
Today, Valery continues her advocacy work, hoping to raise money for eating disorder research, delineate mental health and give a voice to those who struggle. She is especially focused on progressing the self-love movement amongst teenagers and young adults, as mental illnesses are emerging at greater rates than ever in schools and universities. Through her tenacity, determination and outspokenness, Valery works towards building a more positive and hopeful future for herself and the generations to come.