UBC Sauder alum advocates for mental health and social justice
Warning: this content mentions attempted suicide and may be distressing to individuals who have experienced traumatic life events.
Ameera Ladak (they/them), a UBC Sauder School of Business graduate, struggled with mental illness during university, but gradually recovered and upon graduation received an award for their contributions to mental health advocacy. Now, Ameera is leading conversations about diversity, inclusion, equity and mental health while creating a supportive community where individuals and their differences are honoured and respected.
Ameera first became involved in mental health advocacy while a Bachelor of Commerce student at UBC Sauder. After years of struggling with identity issues, Ameera came out as queer gender non-conforming.
“From the time I was 18 to when I was 20, I was a completely different person. My life had changed in every way imaginable,” says Ameera, who uses they/them pronouns. “Everything I thought I knew about who I was as a person was challenged.”
During this period, Ameera was also suffering from a medical condition that caused daily seizures and a serious mental illness. Ultimately, they were able to start receiving treatment, but their personal experience of having to jump through hoops and systemic barriers to get access to professional help inspired Ameera to want to help others.
“The experiences that I've had have profoundly shaped me. As a survivor of three suicide attempts, there's a certain responsibility and an onus to make it better for those that come after me.”
Ameera began speaking out about the need for more services for young people in crisis. In 2014, they became Co-President of UBC's Mental Health Awareness Club and worked to eliminate the stigma around mental illness while also promoting mental health in the student community.
In 2016, Ameera graduated and was recognized for their contributions to mental health education. They received the Lauren Wilmot Award, a special honour offered to a business student who has demonstrated enormous courage in the face of adversity.
Shaping diversity, inclusion and belonging in corporate Canada
Ameera was awarded the Marg Starzynski Award for Mental Health Leadership in 2018.
With their business credentials, Ameera moved to Toronto and was hired by Labatt as a Logistics Analyst. Within months, they were promoted to Ontario Deployment Manager and oversaw deployment and distribution of Labatt products within Ontario.
That success led to a move to forecasting at Canadian Tire, and then onto a promotional planning role. There, Ameera oversaw a quarter of a billion-dollar portfolio, but perhaps an even greater contribution was their advocacy work.
“I helped their team get their first diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy off the ground,” says Ameera. “Working on that from day one as a Courageous Conversation Facilitator for employees was really exciting.”
Calling out discrimination and injustice
Ameera also launched a blog called Surviving By Living. They wrote about growing up Muslim in a post-9/11 world, being a sexual/gender minority, and living with mental health challenges and a physical disability. Ameera’s posts attracted 25,000 readers in 85 countries.
“We're existing in spaces that are not built for us,” Ameera explains. “Not only are they not built for us, they're actually built against us. And that makes existing a radical act – to exist in a space that was never built for you.”
The positive feedback that flowed from the blog inspired Ameera to pursue mental health advocacy in other forms. Today, they co-host a podcast series called High-Functioning, which explores high-functioning millennials with mental health issues
They’re also an equity consultant for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada’s National Youth Advisory Council, as well as a Diversity and Inclusion Trainer and Facilitator for The Ismaili Council for Canada. In addition to these roles, Ameera is a regular contributor to The Mighty, an online health publication. Their articles about mental health as it pertains to gender, race, social justice and suicide prevention have cumulatively been liked and shared over 40,000 times.
Practicing micro advocacy in everyday conversations
Ameera, seen here with sister Shazya, hosted a fundraising event benefiting the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.
Ameera does all this on top of their job as a Supply Chain Manager for Calgary-based BlackSquare, a provider of digital and ecommerce solutions. Eventually, Ameera hopes to fully blend “my 9-5 career with my 5-9 advocacy work”.
“We have a responsibility to our communities to speak about injustices and try to be part of building a better, safer, more equitable and more accessible future for others. Being able to wield your privilege to go down some of these corrective paths is exactly what it means to have responsible leadership and social impact.”
While working to shape large-scale organizational change, Ameera sees the impact each one of us can have in smaller, daily actions to combat racism and injustice.
“I think there's so much power in micro advocacy, which is really rooted in connection and understanding. And that's the one-on-one conversations, the difficult discussions you might have at a dinner table with friends. It's calling someone in when they might say something that's offensive or exclusive. It's taking advantage of these micro moments of learning and knowing that change can occur on these smaller scales, but it's actually not that small of a scale because it's changing someone.”
Supporting young people and creating allyship
In addition to their career in supply chain management, Ameera is a writer, speaker, mentor and activist dedicated to creating community for people experiencing mental health challenges.
It’s been almost a decade since Ameera began advocating on behalf of students experiencing mental health issues on the UBC campus. The UBC Sauder alum wants young people to know that if they’re struggling, they should reach out for help. And remember: It’s not your fault.
“There’s no shame in opening up or needing help to get through trauma, big or small. Find spaces where you can be your authentic self and surround yourself with friends that see you for who you really are. Your pain is valid, you matter, and you deserve support.”
For those seeking counselling and other forms of support, visit:
- UBC Crisis Support Services
For support and resources for UBC’s LGBTQ+ community, visit Pride UBC:
If you’re not a UBC student but live in Canada and need support, visit:
- Crisis Services Canada (support for anyone concerned about suicide)
- Wellness Together Canada (mental health and substance use support)
- Hope for Wellness Helpline (support for Indigenous peoples across Canada)