Hakeem Rahim, a 32-year-old Harvard graduate and Hempstead native, has bravely battled bipolar disorder for almost 15 years. Despite his struggles, Rahim has also become a powerful advocate in the fight against stigmatizing those who suffer illnesses of the brain. Rahim, who was valedictorian of his class at Uniondale High School, was invited to address a congressional panel on mental illness in March of this year—a moment he said was awe-inspiring.
“It was a great experience to speak on Capitol Hill,” said Rahim. “It was one of those moments you can’t process until afterwards, but having my story heard by the country’s decision makers felt amazing. It was empowering. Most of the people who testify are doctors, or experts. I was the first person to testify from a personal perspective.”
Rahim first suffered a panic attack in 1998 when he was a freshman. In 2000 he suffered a second episode, which he has characterized as a complete break from reality. “I had visions of Jesus and heard cars talk,” Rahim recalled. Even after extensive treatment Rahim still battles his demons, but he also takes pride in speaking for others who cannot articulate their own suffering. His LLC, Live Breathe, focuses on educational consulting and mental health advocacy—developing lesson plans for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Breaking the Silence program is just one example. Rahim speaks at schools throughout New York year-round and has, to date, delivered his message to more than 6,000 students.