Why I do what I do:
We were asked a brilliant question at pre departure orientation this week:”Why do you do what you do?” Other fulbright scholars presented great answers about their projects in all kinds of fields of study, but it took me a little longer to process.
I realized that I didn’t quite provide my full truth in my fulbright application. In my personal statement I wrote how I was interested in suicidality after serving as a crisis consultant in college. This is semi-true. I was and still am fascinated about the mental health and well being of my callers, and wanted to know what it was that put each caller at their breaking point.
However, my true reason is much more personal. When I was 19, a long time friend ,Brian died by suicide, and my own mental health had never been the same. He was an exceptional athlete, a warm, funny and kind African American man. As a teenager, Brian’s voice and advice always resonated with me.
However, I looked around and felt that my coach had very little if any empathy for our rival school’s teammate. And those in my communities(athletic black and/or christian) grieved for a few days, but then went back to their normal points of view, “we don’t need a therapist, that’s for white people” “I’m too strong for a therapist” and even “Jesus is my psychiatrist”.
Brian’s voice was fading.
I was hurt on Brian’s behalf, and quickly joined a lab investigating suicidality. However, I was disappointed when I realized that-like many labs-our lab focused on the demographics of college freshman:white, traditional, and female.
I felt like Brian’s voice wasn’t heard in our studies, so I made it happen myself.
My senior year I worked on a project examining suicidality and disordered eating in college athletes. For grad school, I’ll be focusing on suicidality among African Americans and other minority populations. Upon hearing a statement from a MIT scholar when I told him about my research: “Suicide? Tell your lab the answer is to know Christ”, I will be studying suicidality in the Christian community in Nigeria.
I do what I do so that all groups are represented in the fight to end suicide and poor mental health. I do what I do because all individuals deserve to lead a normal and stable life, free from stigma. I do what I do so my dear friend Brian can have a voice.