I just finished graduate school, with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I was in high school when I first found out about The Foundation of Hope. When I was a teenager, I had two different heart problems—one of which you typically find out about post-mortem. They were able to fix both problems, and when they fixed the second one, I had this epiphany: I wanted to spend my life doing something that mattered, helping other people.

Around the same time, I discovered that I was interested in human behavior and took an Intro to Psych class. Senior year, I was a TA for an AP Psych class, and I also had a requirement for hours to meet. I started doing some work with the Foundation of Hope, and I loved the work and got really involved with it. I kept doing that throughout college and grad school.

I’ve done prep, putting signs out, helping out around the office. On the day of the Walk, the past several years, the registration table is where I’ve been.

Having been hands-on in this field, I understand that the research part is so important, to ensure we’re getting the best possible treatments. Getting better treatment options or getting closer to some kind of cure, that’s huge.

Even outside of my work, I’m around it. There’s very few people who haven’t personally felt it or know someone who has. I’d go to work and be around it; my personal life, I’d be around it. I think an organization like this brings the hope that it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s like the light in the darkness. Being in an organization that’s fighting for more and better, that helps make it all worth it.

People come up to us [at Foundation events] and tell us, “I’ve been struggling with this thing, and I’m finally getting help,” and just being able to say that, and feel that they’re in a safe place, to share that, can be such a cathartic experience. Being around that is great.

I hope our society gets to a place where we talk about mental illness the same way we talk about a broken bone. I think each time someone shares, we’re closer to that.

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