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Annual TEDx Talk returns with Uncharted Waters theme



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Chris Gernon will speak at this year's TEDx talk under the theme of "Uncharted Waters." Gernon is the president and CEO of Fugitives, a marketing company in Los Angeles, which works with virtual reality. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

The annual TEDx Talk returns with a variety of speakers telling stories relating to this year's theme, "Uncharted Waters.” The TEDx talk will take place in the IU Auditorium at 6 p.m Oct. 26. Ticket prices start at $15 for students and $25 for the general public. Tickets are available for purchase on the IU Auditorium website.

“The theme has many interpretations, conversations people don’t want to talk about or are difficult to talk about, just like a sailor has never been into uncharted waters,” said IU TEDx president and junior Alyssa Osborn. “These would be issues like mental illness, an issue that never came up in the past. The speaker we have curated to touch on this subject is using virtual reality to help with mental illness.” 

For Osborn, other topics to include in the theme are innovations, new technology, climate change and anything new and undiscovered. 

The speaker Chris Gernon is the president and CEO of Fugitives, a marketing company in Los Angeles. He includes mental illness, new technology and innovation into his work with virtual reality.

“Our speakers are curated by a team,” Osborn said. “The reason we chose all of our speakers is because they are doing something with their time, their life that adds value to the world in such a way that we believe is not as recognized as it should be.”

Gernon works primarily in advertising. Disney is one of his biggest clients. However, one day he got a new request.

“I got a project from a nonprofit organization, they wanted a film on mental illness that they could show at this annual event they were a part of,” Gernon said. “They had no idea of what they wanted, so I thought, let’s tell a story.”

Gernon’s film is a virtal experience. In the movie, the viewer is sitting with one man in Ghana as he tells his story about dealing with mental illness. Gernon sees virtual reality as a tool to create empathy. People are placed in the hut with the man as he speaks, seeing what he has been living like for the last two years. He is tied to a log and unable to leave.

“We are able to pull mental illness out of the shadows and onto the stage,” Gernon said. “Ghana as a country does not understand mental illness. They use very spiritual healing that is not rooted in science.”

There is only one therapist to treat 2 million people, Gernon said. Whole communities are suffering because people simply do not understand. 

Gernon said he drew parallels with his own struggle with depression and anxiety as he was creating the film. He said he saw himself as an example of someone who was able to receive help with his mental health issues, whereas the man in Ghana was not. Gernon said he was now able to help this man even if the help was late in coming.

“If no one is there to give him another option the situation takes a downward spiral,” Gernon said. “We all have tools, I am a fixer, I get into the nitty-gritty. What would help, funding a film? If you want to help, capitalize on what you have.” ​

At the TEDx talk Gernon will continue to speak about his time contributing to this film and how he makes a connection bridging mental illness and technology together. His fellow speakers will also have unique stories and solutions to offer on a variety of subjects ranging from fake news to pianists and sustainable food sources. 

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