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Mental Health Awareness Month with Step Up For Mental Health Board Member Dr. Ivania Delgado

This May, DreamWakers joined classrooms around the country to hold space for students throughout Mental Health Awareness Month. In meaningful conversations with students, DreamSpeakers discussed their personal experiences with mental health and shared strategies they found useful in their personal wellness journeys.

As part of this flashchat series, DreamWakers connected a group of 10th-grade students at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Massachusetts with Dr. Ivania Delgado. Ivania Delgado is an educator with a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master’s in social work with over 15 years of experience. Currently, she is an assistant teaching professor at Florida International University. She is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP). She also sits on the Board of Directors at Step Up for Mental Health. Dr. Delgado’s practice is grounded in social justice, collaboration, and compassion.

Read some highlights from the flashchat below and click here to read a curated guide by Step Up For Mental Health’s Executive Director, Adrienne McCue, focused on youth mental health coping skills that you can share with the young people in your life.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

A: People feel guilty for being sad. People feel guilty for being frustrated. We have such a culture of perfectionism and a culture of productivity. We pretend we are not suffering. It’s ok if we are having thoughts that are negative or pessimistic. It’s a normal reaction… That breaks my heart. It’s hard to see on an ongoing basis.

Q: How was it to deal with mental health throughout the pandemic?

A: One of the things that the pandemic made worse for people was isolation. It’s been a re-training of sorts, teaching people how to convey empathy through the screen, making sure that we’re still able to assess and do our jobs. The pandemic definitely exacerbated a lot of anxiety and depression partially because of the loss of peer support and being around one another.

Q: What is one thing you like about your job and one thing you would change about your job?

A: I think healing happens in relationships and my job allows me to do that. Even teaching now, a lot of the forward movement happens when I prioritize the relationship with my students, instead of productivity or performance.

One thing I’d like to change about my job is that I think it’s really unfair to have someone in therapy and say “You have depression”… but we don’t talk about their social, economic, and political circumstances. I want a more complete conversation that says it’s normal to have these emotional reactions when you’re living in circumstances where you’re exposed to trauma after trauma after trauma.

Dr. Ivania Delgado speaking with Chelsea High School students
Dr. Ivania Delgado speaking with Chelsea High School students

Q: What’s your favorite course to teach?

A: Trauma & Diversity. We get to study different populations that tend to be underrepresented in textbooks and in case studies. We get to center the experiences of people that are usually rendered invisible in education and training.

Q: How can educators and students better help those with mental health struggles?

A: The stigma around mental health continues to be a barrier to not just being able to be there for students, but for the students to be able to approach individuals with their problems. Students are at an age of identity formation, but there is a lot of shaming and judging people. The first thing I think needs to happen is awareness. Create an environment, literally — the stuff on the wall, the books on the bookcases, the videos we watch — to make it visual that this is a space where we talk about [mental health], we normalize it, and we problem-solve together and have community events to help others feel less alone.

While Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to an end, it is never too late to host a flashchat on mental health topics. Join DreamWakers today and get your students connected!

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out this fantastic resource by Step Up for Mental Health to spark conversation around mental health with the young people in your life.

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