Most of my life I have wondered what it is I am meant to do… I weaved my way through various degrees and different jobs. While each step felt right at the time, I was always searching for what it was I was really meant to do with my life, time, career. It wasn’t until the last year that I truly found my passion and place. I can say I have found what I am meant to do and what I want to do. I have found what makes my heart sing and what I believe is my way to help others.
While I enjoyed being a counselor, I knew early on it was not my forever job. I thought because of this conclusion it was meant for me to be a professor in a counseling department, but during my doctoral work, I never felt like I belonged in the world of academia… for a variety of reasons. Since my mom’s suicide, I have been wildly passionate about mental health and have struggled to find my place in this work… until the last year.
For various reasons, I have gotten the opportunity to provide more and more mental health education to the staff, parents, and students in the school district where I work. As I create each presentation and speak to others, I realize this is my place in this world. Each step of my path finally makes sense and my purpose has never been clearer. While this does not mean there hasn’t been roadblocks, frustrations, and pains throughout the last year, I feel a calmness knowing what it is I am to do with my life. I finally feel like I have found my place… which is comforting since I have never felt like I had a place as I searched for my purpose over the last few decades. While I enjoyed the various parts of my journey, there was always a hidden feeling of not feeling like I truly belonged.
Mental health education is my passion, it is my purpose. I truly believe it is the only way we are going to start to tackle the mental health crisis and rising rates of suicide. While it is critical we have systems and supports for those in a crisis, I am passionate that we get information to people and equip them before it is a crisis. If we are only waiting until a student wants to kill themselves before we step into the picture, we are missing critical months, years of support that is needed. Just as it is beneficial to help a student with diabetes before they reach a crisis point, mental health is no different.
I believe it is not an either/or but a both/and situation. Just as much as I present on the signs and symptoms of a suicide crisis, I equally find it important for parents, educators, and students to understand the early signs of anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health situations. If we can understand the early stages of depression and anxiety, we might stop being surprised by the rates of suicide and self-harm and instead start intervening early.
Each time I get an email, text, message from a parent or staff member seeking help for their student, my purpose is reinforced. I realize by being open about mental health I reduce the stigma and I can only hope helps others. I have no clue where the future will take me, but I know mental health education is my passion and purpose. While my life has often been a time of me lacking confidence in my ability and knowledge, I can say I am confident, passionate and energized about making sure those in public education (staff, students, and parents) have mental health education.