The Immigrant and First-Generation Immigrant Subcommittee would like to share the following piece written by member Lowell Polite and its accompanying graphic by member Chelsea Nguyen.
Hi, my name is Lowell Polite! I am a student aiming to transfer to the University of California, Irvine and attend the School of Social Ecology to pursue a major in Psychological Sciences. Eventually I plan to specialize in Music Therapy in graduate school. I would like to share a story that both contributed to where I am today and inspired my career goals.
One day in grade school, my classmates and I were playing a game of kickball. I was sprinting backwards to catch the ball in the air without realizing I was heading towards the metal pole in the middle of the playground. I made contact and my vision went black and red. I laid there injured and unnoticed for some time. When my sister approached me and asked if I was ok, I reassured her that I was fine even though I wasn’t completely aware of my own condition. But then the remainder of my lunch was ejected onto the blacktop floor and my vision went black again. My sister immediately ran to find school staff. Everything happened so fast and I felt like I had been abducted into a mysterious machine that was going to send me into a wormhole in space.
But as I fell back to reality, I was no longer in space. Instead, there was a man in a white gown announcing to my parents that the CAT scan was finished and that there was no major damage. It was just a minor concussion. As I moved onto middle school and high school, something else hit my head. This time it was something I could not even explain, much less know what to do to help myself.
What hit my head also made it feel heavy and noisy, and it showed itself around my body from baggy eyes to choking joints. Even though I felt severely injured, I did not know what to do so I kept it to myself. I believed it was just a distraction to my everyday priorities. This belief was reinforced by the stigma of teachers, parents, and students around me. I also began to see firsthand how others would cope with their struggles the same way I did— by keeping their own problems to themselves as a result of the stigma. Now I’m older and know that the term mental health exists and that it is completely related to the struggles that I had been experiencing.
Even more so, I learned that mental health was something that doctors acknowledged. I decided to pursue psychology in the quest to better understand the emotions and memories that had caused me so much pain. I also started to question, why was my mental health not treated in the same way as my concussion? Why was I made to feel uncomfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings about mental health? Why was I feeling so much pain that always went unnoticed by others, even when the toll left some visible effects on my appearance? Why couldn’t I walk into a hospital to get checked up for it just as easily as the day I hit my head?
These questions and more continued to pop up as I joined the Neolth program where mental health is treated as normally as any other physical sickness. Their digital platform offers something similar to what a bandaid would do for a physical cut. Neolth offers guided practices to allow the mind and body to learn coping strategies that will help heal the injuries of stress. Many people have difficulty coping with stress, and you shouldn’t avoid seeking solutions that can better your well-being due to the fear of judgment. Neolth provides care by giving access to advice and activities guided by professionals. This digital program can be in the palm of anyone's hand, and especially students who may really be struggling with stress, pressure, and stigma. Thankfully, it also helps normalize conversations about mental health by sharing student stories like mine. Especially in these unprecedented times, stigma should never be a barrier in matters of mental health and wellness!