Why RAD Culture Wants To Teach You About Mental Illness, One Alphabet At A Time

Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme of the year is “young people and mental health in a changing world“. With the changes that happen in early adulthood, such as transitioning from school to university to work, starting to live independently, and trying to carve a career and identity, this exciting period of life can also be one of the stressful. In some cases, the amount of pressure and emotional stress can lead to or exacerbate mental illness. So who better to talk to about the mental health of the youth than the young founders of RAD Culture?

RAD Culture, a cause-driven organisation that stands for representation and diversification in both name and practice, was started by Hanis Khairuddin and her best friend Liz Azalea. Through RAD Culture, the pair utilise social media to increase awareness and generate conversations about the issues they’re passionate about – starting with mental illness.

RAD Culture’s Alphabets of Mental Illness is a series of visuals that explain different mental illnesses from A to Z. Using facts sourced from the World Health Organisation, the National Institute For Mental Health, and the Ministry of Health, Hanis and Liz hope to educate the public about the many faces of mental illness and eradicate discrimination or stigma surrounding people with mental illness. With mental illness expected to be the second biggest health issue affecting Malaysians by 2020, this deeply-researched and well-presented initiative couldn’t be timelier.


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I spoke with Hanis about the Alphabets of Mental Illness initiative, one of their first, and how it’s helping them reach their dream of transforming Malaysia into a stigma-free society that welcomes diversity, gender equality and women empowerment.

FEMALE: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Hanis: “I studied Law and am currently working in Public Relations. I have been longing to start my own-cause based organisation since I was in college because I feel we don’t have a lot of organisations that speak about mental health and social issues in Malaysia. My sister passed away early this year due to cancer, and that was my turning point to do something for myself and also to the community. I want to do something that can empower other girls and also the community. Hence, RAD Culture was born.”

RAD Culture co-founders, Hanis and Liz.

F: How did RAD Culture’s mental health initiative start?
H: “I had anxiety for the longest time and I never thought of it as an illness. I always just brushed it off as something that was wrong with me. It didn’t help that every time I tried telling my friends and family about it, they would say it was me being dramatic and maybe not coping well with stress. Finally, I decided to go see a psychiatrist and my doctor diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I knew then that I couldn’t be the only one who is dealing with mental illness. Seeing the statistics and news in Malaysia, we need to undo the stigma of mental illness through education and awareness.
Hence, RAD Culture started our first initiative ‘Alphabets Of Mental Illness’ with the aim to educate our society on the types of mental illness that exist, one alphabet at a time. We cannot start the conversation and undo the stigma of mental illness if our society doesn’t even know what is mental illness is.”

F: Are you working with any official bodies or health institutes on this?
H: “We in the midst in collaboration with other official bodies that speak on mental health issues and other social issues as well. It should never be a competition among organisations. In fact, all of us should support and lift each other up. It’s been an exciting journey so far to see RAD Culture grow and receive support.”
F: What do you hope to achieve with this initiative?
H: “I hope our society will be able to differentiate the types of mental illness and provide ample support for those that are living with and recovering from mental illness. I want the narrative of mental illness to change. There is so much negative connotation surrounding it., which doesn’t help anyone.”
F: Do you have any other plans lined up for the future?
H: “The next initiative that we will be launching soon is something we’re calling the Inda Initiative. It pays tribute to my late sister– Inda is the nickname our family uses her. The Inda Initiative will focus on female empowerment, career advice from women from a myriad of sectors and everything that can help other girls to feel empowered. Of course, we will also be highlighting social issues on our Instagram account @radcultureofficial!”
Keep following RAD Culture on Instagram to keep up with the rest of the posts in the Alphabets of Mental Illness series and their future initiaties!