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Mental Health Matters

When Abraham Sculley arrived as a freshman at the University of West Florida, he thought he was on a fast track to success and financial security for his family. Then, during his second semester, the challenge of taking courses while working 30-plus hours a week to pay his bills started to wear him down.

When a concerned friend asked why he was missing class and skipping church, mental illness was far from Abraham’s mind. Mental health was never discussed in his Jamaican American household growing up, and he

described himself as an optimistic guy.

Abraham reluctantly sought out counseling services on campus and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. He later decided to withdraw from school for three months to focus on his mental health. The time he invested in his recovery empowered him to complete his bachelor’s degree in psychology and become a mental health advocate who speaks around the country about his life, his story, and his passion for mental health awareness.

Abraham will be leading a webinar next week with EMERGE college students through Active Minds, a nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. Active Minds embraces the power of peers to change the conversation about mental health and reach people where they are – on campus, at home, at work, and in their communities. Students involved with Active Minds encourage their peers and networks to learn about, talk about, and seek help for mental health issues just as they would for a physical issue: without shame or silence.

EMERGE sought out Active Minds’ assistance after noticing an uptick in mental health concerns being voiced by college students during the last year and a half of the COVID pandemic. Colleges nationwide are struggling to help students cope with mental health challenges (paywall) exacerbated by the loneliness, fear, economic distress, and constant uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled classes to observe a “wellness day” last month following a death by suicide and an attempted suicide among its students. Active Minds has lots of great resources available on its website, including information about signs and symptoms of mental illness, ways to get help in a crisis, and ways to help a friend who may be struggling.

While this event is targeted at students in college, we are mindful that our high school students face stressors of their own. On top of anxiety about college applications and school burnout, EMERGE students often face the added challenges of poverty, immigration issues, and/or housing instability. And they’ve also been affected by the pandemic and the challenges of remote learning amid job losses, family illnesses, and other emergencies. We’ll be working with our program managers to help them support their students when mental health challenges arise.

Here's more info on Abraham's talk for our college students:

Date: Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Time: 7pm CST

Location: Zoom


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