Hufsa (pronounced Huff-suh) is a Pakistani-American public speaker, social worker, standup comedian, and Muslim woman. Her life is dedicated to helping individuals with mental health diagnoses find the treatment and support they need in order to thrive. She has delivered over 100 presentations and speeches on mental health, including 2 TEDx talks: “Relapse is Part of Recovery” and “How to Share You Have Mental Illness (and How to Listen).”

Having transformed from a victim of her illness to a champion of recovery, she dedicates her life to helping other individuals with mental health diagnoses find treatment, recovery, and peace, as well as change the world’s view of mental health. She also believes that humor is a powerful tool for social change, thus she incorporates it in her life and public speaking. Her goal to is to end the stigma of mental health and her signature phrase is, “STIGMA SMASH!”

For her efforts, she won the Mental Health Association Hope & Courage Award, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Next Step Award, and many other accolades. She has served in the mental health field for 7 years as a public speaker, advocate, educator, direct service provider, supervisor, Mental Health Services Act Steering Committee member, and Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled board member. She is currently a graduate student at California State University, Long Beach, in the Master’s of Social Work program, and received a B.S. in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College.

In addition, Hufsa is a rising standup comedian who has performed all over the country, including at Ice House and Flappers Clubs in LA, Laughlin Laughfest, and San Diego Comedy Festival. She was featured on Signature Bits on Spotify and Amazon. Lastly, Hufsa is working on a book about the humorous experiences of “checking off so many diversity boxes” by being a millenial Muslim woman of color living with mental illness.

For the past 19 years I’ve had the honor of hosting the event and the highlight of the event is the keynote speaker who has both personal and professional knowledge of the multiple challenges in the recovery process. Hufsa Ahmad was our keynote speaker this year and bottom-line is that she was the most skilled, passionate, inspirational and entertaining speaker we have had during those years. Her articulate, wise, and compassionate presentation of her story resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation. I would recommend her as a speaker without hesitation and we hope to have her speak again in the future.
– Jeff Thrash, CEO of Mental Health Association, Orange County
Hufsa first made her presence known seven years ago as a volunteer for the NAMI Walk committee. Hufsa has made countless speeches advocating for those living with mental illness and has played an important role in destigmatizing mental illness here in Orange County. Hufsa’s quick wit and candid conversation makes her relatable to audiences regardless of their composition; family members, peers, providers, and friends in the community! Hufsa is just an excellent example of one person making a difference.
– Steve Pitman, President of the NAMI-OC, former President of NAMI National
Hufsa Ahmad was the keynote speaker for Anaheim High School’s inaugural Unity Week celebration, which was put on in collaboration by different clubs on campus. On Thursday, Women’s Rights Day, she gave a 90-minute keynote speech that was interactive and inspiring. She carried a powerful message of recovery that resonated with the audience and she also served as a strong, female role model for our students. She was truly an inspiration for everyone and her humor kept the students alert and engaged throughout the presentation. Overall, I highly recommend Hufsa as a speaker and look forward to seeing her speaking career grow further. We need her and her message in the world!
– Antonio Benitez, Client
I invited Hufsa Ahmad to be the keynote speaker at a Mental Health Awareness Event I hosted on September 19, 2015. She presented her story in a way that was sensitive to others who might have been experiencing challenges of their own at the time. Her story made clear the realities of mental illness, while emphasizing the importance of continuously working toward recovery and appreciating one’s own mind. The presentation was remarkable and uplifting, demonstrating that one can accomplish their goals and move forward in their life in spite of mental illness, as the illness is not what defines the person. I would strongly recommend Hufsa as a presenter—she shows an incredible capability to connect with her audience and deliver a message of hope and strength.
– Sophia Luzzi, Girl Scouts of Orange County
Hufsa is a member of the county’s MHSA Steering Committee, a Peer to Peer mentor at NAMI, a board member with the Dayle McIntosh Center, and has her own mental health blog. Hufsa devotes much of her time advocating for clients and changing how people perceive individuals with mental illness. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work in the community as well as for her personal resiliency in her recovery journey. Hufsa is described as Empowering.
– Mental Health Association, Orange County when delivering the Hope & Courage Award

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