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PAU Voices Speak Up for Mental Health Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Mental Health Awareness Month
Each year in May, Mental Health Awareness Month, provides a national opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues, about the stigma associated with mental health services, and to highlight the need to support those suffering from mental illness. 
As a leader in psychology and counseling, PAU is at the forefront of this national movement, bolstered by an amazing community of faculty, staff, alumni and students who have chosen this important field and make a difference in people’s lives every day. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we posed the question: Why does the field of psychology, counseling and/or mental health matter to you? Here is what they said:
Maureen O’Connor – President, PAU
”In 1985, a close family member was hospitalized for debilitating schizophrenia. My husband and I became primary advocates for her care. I became acutely aware of the importance of well-trained, creative, and compassionate mental health professionals, the very people we provide to the world at PAU.”
Rebecca Cook – Second year, Psy.D. Program
"Mental health is important to me because it creates the space for people to live their lives, make healthy and constructive decisions, and develop and maintain their relationships. As a therapist in training, I have the privilege of getting to listen to my clients’ minds and hearts and witness their growth and struggles. They then go into the world and spread the love!  It’s a beautiful process."
Shirin Aghakhani – Senior, Psychology and Social Action Program
“Coming from a cultural background that does not acknowledge issues with mental health, I deeply understand the stigmatization surrounding it. Here at PAU, we are advocates for mental health. We have the opportunity to alleviate this stigma by educating people on the importance of mental health." 
Will Snow – Professor and Chair, Department of Counseling
“If the United States is to have greater access to mental health services, a better sense of mental health overall, or less stigma around mental illness, then we must have qualified and competent mental health professionals. This starts in undergraduate and graduate degree programs like Palo Alto University’s.”
Angely Piazza Rodriguez – Third Year Ph.D. Program & Student Council Co-President 
"When I was 7 years old, my neighbor broke our front door hiding from demons that wanted to kill him and his father. Hiding behind the living room wall, I saw how my father interacted with his hallucinations and provide him comfort and safety. That incident made me realize that we have a whole universe above our shoulders, wanting to be discovered, understood, and protected."
Ricardo F. Muñoz – PAU Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology
"I am very proud that psychology has 1) developed many effective treatments for mental, emotional, and behavioral conditions, 2) that we are now using what we have learned to prevent the onset of these conditions, and 3) that we are continually trying to provide access to these interventions to those most in need across the world." 
Lourie Bonsu – MA in Counseling Program
“Mental well-being is not about feeling good all the time but taking control. Be in a good spirit, fierce, well and safe.”
Lisa Brown – Professor and Director, Trauma Area of Emphasis
“Depression, anxiety, and memory problems are not a normal part of aging. Older adults are often underserved in regards to receiving mental health care treatment. Each of us has a responsibility to help others who may be unable to help themselves when struggling with a mental health issue. Reach out to offer assistance and support to those you think might benefit from meeting with a mental health professional.”
Alinne Barrera – Associate Professor 
“One in seven pregnant and postpartum women are personally impacted by maternal mental health issues. We are ALL impacted in one way or another by a mother who suffers from depression or anxiety during and after birth. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, and maternal mental health matters to me."
Carol Bobby – PAU Trustee and Former President and CEO of CACREP  
“Like our society's current experience with the coronavirus, individual feelings of grief, social isolation, fear, anger, insecurities, hurt, and indecision know no boundaries in terms of age, gender, sexual identity race, religion or culture. Seeking the help of a mental health professional when these feelings become too much to fight alone is an important part of staying healthy, because maintaining a positive attitude in life also helps us to have the stamina we need to fight physical ailments.”
Donna Sheperis – Associate Professor of Counseling
“We talk about mental health problems as if they are something we should just live with, if we talk about them at all. The vast majority of adults do not seek help for anxiety or depression. We feel like we should be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps! I don’t know about you, but my boots just don’t have those kind of straps. We need help. That is what counseling is for.”
Jorge Wong – PAU Trustee, Alumnus and Clinical Faculty
“May is not only Mental Health Awareness month but also Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. In California, May 10th is also APA Mental Health Awareness Day. Asian Pacific American communities, like many others non Western Eurocentric communities, continue to be underserved when it comes to seeking and benefiting from available and effective mental health services. As a licensed psychologist, educator, community provider, advocate and leader, I am dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental illness in the APA communities, train students, professionals, and the public, as well as inform legislation and policy developments to best address the needs of our diverse communities.”
Teceta Tormala – Associate Professor and Director of Equity and Inclusion at PAU  
“We need greater awareness of mental health so that, as a society, our inner psychological and emotional health, and our growth into mental wellness, is seen, valued, and prioritized for all. This means addressing vulnerabilities faced by groups who have been historically traumatized, marginalized, and minoritized, and creating pathways to socially just environments and quality mental health services for all people.”
Patricia Zapf – Vice President for Continuing & Professional Studies  
“A growing literature on mind-body research is demonstrating just how interrelated our mental and physical health really are. One of our responsibilities as mental health professionals is to help the public understand the importance of both physical and mental health to an individual's ability to survive and thrive. Talking openly about the importance of all aspects of health is key to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness."      
Donna Sheperis – Associate Professor of Counseling
“Primary barriers to access to mental health care in the US are money and time. We let our mental health go without treatment in ways we would never do with our physical health. Tele mental health is a great alternative and often much more affordable. Don’t just be aware, do something about your mental health.”
Note: Quotes may have been edited for brevity.


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