MRS. WISCONSIN INTERNATIONAL 2019
Raising Awareness on Mental Health: Promoting the Wholesome Person
“I strongly believe that health is not just the absence of physical symptoms, but a state of complete Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, and Spiritual well-being. I believe that life is a glorious gift and that we cannot enjoy our lives and live to our fullest potential if we do not “feel” well.”
My name is Shailja Tiku, and I am honored to be representing Wisconsin as the 2019 Mrs. Wisconsin International crown holder. Born and raised in India, I moved to the United States nearly fifteen years ago for my advanced education. Though I started my career as a Medical Doctor, I longed to pursue more opportunities in health prevention, and therefore went on to receive my Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. And now I am currently pursuing my Doctorate in Public Health at the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, Milwaukee.
My passion for preventive medicine stems from my upbringing and my experiences as a practiced physician. It was during this time that I encountered some of the most profound and life-changing experiences that helped shaped my platform for mental health promotion and illness prevention. For me, it was hard to distance myself from the pain and suffering of my patients and their families, because I was absorbing the trauma that I witnessed almost on a daily basis. I also realized there was so much potential for reducing disease by examining upstream factors, and decided at that point to pursue a Doctorate in Public Health, which not only gives me the opportunity to explore strategies for health, but a way that we can bridge medicine with prevention. Pursuing a Doctorate while raising a family is challenging, but I strongly believe in being a part of something bigger than myself, and my ability to make the world a better place. It is this passion that motivates me to work hard, in whatever way I can, in order to leave the world a bit better; if I can touch even one life I will call it success, because every individual counts!
My current research interest is focused on identifying gaps between bullying and mental health. For my platform as Mrs. Wisconsin International 2019, I am focusing on mental health promotion and disease prevention. I very strongly believe that health is not just the absence of physical symptoms but is a state of complete physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. I believe that life is a glorious gift and that we cannot enjoy our lives and live to our fullest potential if we do not “feel” well. I believe that promoting a healthy mental lifestyle, promotes the wholesome person. Unfortunately, mental health continues to affect many individuals in our society and community, including our youth. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 44 million adults in the US have a mental health condition; that is, 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental health illness. Young adults, 18-25 years old, have the highest prevalence of any mental illness. This means that we know someone - a friend, a family member, a colleague, or even yourself - who has lived with a mental health illness at some point in their lives. We can change this! Furthermore, as someone who has struggled with anxiety, and fortunately conquered it, mental health promotion is a topic close to my heart! I realize that an individual’s potential to become an important part of the community can be diminished in the presence of anxiety, PTSD, depression, and more. In my role as Mrs. WI International, I am advocating for mental health education in our Wisconsin communities, across the country, and worldwide.
I have partnered with Mental Health America (MHA) to spread awareness, fight stigmas around mental health, and advocate for families in need of such services. I work one-on-one with MHA and dedicate my time, both as a researcher and as a practitioner to helping individuals and families affected with mental health illnesses. I have also partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) to advocate for healthy living through promotion of the whole person. Truly, we can’t focus on just one aspect of health, it is a uniform issue that must be addressed in totality. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading contributor of deaths in the US. Approximately 1 in every 4 deaths is related to heart disease, with women at higher risk than men. This is why the AHA’s campaign of “Go Red for Women” is geared toward decreasing the gaps in heart disease related deaths, and why effective mental health approaches can help decrease the incidence of heart disease.
As a mother, my biggest strength and inspiration is my son and my family. I envision a mentally safe world where my son can live to his fullest potential. To help me spread my message and to help our community in recognizing the public health issue of mental illness, I will continue to need the support of my Wisconsin friends and businesses as I step on the stage in July to compete for the title of Mrs. International 2019. I firmly believe that together we can help people live the lives they are meant to live!
As Mrs. International 2019, I will continue to advocate for Mental Health Awareness throughout the US and the world by spreading my message through research and education.
Meet Shailja’s Family
Shailja lives in Wauwatosa, WI with her husband, Amit Aneja, a Physician who is just as passionate about creating healthy living through his work, and their 9-year-old son, Arin.
Just like Shailja, Amit is committed to creating change within healthcare and how we approach and address these issues. But their motivation to continue this work is also driven by the fact that their 9-year old son, Arin, should live in a world that is made free from health issues that limit our potential. Both Shailja and Amit would like future generations to have access to resources that can promote healthy living.
Shailja’s parents live in India and continually support her work and commitment to public health. Her parents will even be flying in from India to see her compete at the July Mrs. International 2019 competition.