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Changing Minds About Mental Health


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Kyleigh Leddy is a Boston College graduate with her master’s in social work from Columbia University. In 2019, she won The New York Times Modern Love College Essay Contest after writing a piece about grieving her sister. She then wrote “The Perfect Other: A Memoir of My Sister” to shed light on mental health and schizophrenia.

Why Kyleigh Wrote Her Book

Leddy studied clinical psychology in college and took a writing class for enjoyment. Her professor encouraged her to submit an essay about her sister to a New York Times contest and it changed her life overnight.

Suddenly, a private family story was going to be published for millions of readers, but Leddy knew that her sister’s story needed to be shared. The book focuses on their relationship, her sister’s mental health struggles, and eventual diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It also focuses on how to recover from grief and loss.

The Scarcity of Mental Health Resources

Leddy’s family had all the resources they needed at their fingertips to care for her sister. Her parents got her an apartment and she was able to get treatment. The family had the resources and without them, her sister would’ve been homeless.

But what happens to people who have limited or no resources? Leddy worked in homeless shelters and group homes, and she’s seen people struggle with no support system. Many people don’t get the help they need because our society doesn’t prioritize support for people with mental illness.

Head Injuries AND Mental Illness

When Leddy’s sister was a freshman in college, she fell off the stoop of a brownstone and her head hit the concrete. She was placed in a medically induced coma and spent time in intensive care. When she finally came to, she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), after which, she was never the same.

They don’t know how much of her sister’s struggle with mental health was influenced by her TBI, but it likely played a part. Traumatic brain injuries are another part of the mental health conversation that isn’t talked about enough. Leddy shares that at least 25% of people experiencing homelessness suffered from a TBI at some point.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[1:30] Why Kyleigh wrote her book.
[3:31] How the book helped Kyleigh’s family heal.
[5:57] Her sister’s rebellious personality.
[9:14] The meaning behind the title, “The Perfect Other.”
[11:28] The lack of mental health resources for marginalized groups.
[14:23] The efforts being made to do better as a society.
[15:46] Why we need to end the stigma of mental illness.
[18:46] The connection between head injuries and mental illness.
[23:20] How Kyleigh started writing her book.

Listen to the member-only bonus episode to learn why it’s important to reject stigmas associated with mental health and how Kyleigh approaches her advocacy work from a place of love.