On October 10th, we recognize World Mental Health Day. As someone who has openly talked about my personal journey navigating mental health stigmas, this day means a lot. I grew up in an abusive household, and at just six years old, my mother separated from my father. It had a significant impact on my life - I felt abandoned and alone. Thankfully, I had friends during my childhood that taught me I am worthy of love, and later in my adult life, I found a counselor at the University of Houston, Downtown who gave me the strength to begin my healing process.
It's essential as young people, that we encourage open and deliberative conversations about mental health. Many times, discussions about mental health are highly stigmatized. Here at UH-Downtown, I plan to use the platform RFK Young Leaders has given me to encourage my peers on campus to have frank, honest, and compassionate conversations about mental health and their accompanying stigmas.
As a component of our University Social Justice Campaign, each chapter of RFK Young Leaders engages students on a given social justice issue. Through this campaign, our chapter at UH-Downtown aims to normalize mental health treatment and educate students, faculty, and staff about state policies that affect the quality of services available to undocumented students and those with limited resources.
Some ideas we have to mobilize students include organizing a 5K run to honor all college students who have struggled with mental health! We'll use whatever funds we raise to help bridge gaps at a local non-profit organization that provides services to young people.
We are also going to coordinate with RFK Human Rights staff to come up with a creative poster campaign that will feature student leaders on campus talking about mental health. We'll couple this with a strong social media campaign that will use a mixture of graphics, videos, and Q&A's from mental health professionals.
Finally, we are working alongside our campus counseling services to promote dialogue that will encourage students to feel safe and secure should they need to seek help.
In the near future, I plan to use my degree to become a clinical psychologist so that I can one day help others who have experienced trauma. Merging technology and psychology, I want to create a video game that will help youth reframe adversities that they may have encountered during their childhoods.
Carlos Rodriguez is a first-generation college student at the University of Houston, Downtown. He is pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Psychology. He currently serves as the Student Government Association Chief of Staff and leads the RFK Young Leaders initiative on his campus. He takes great pride in having spent the last four years serving youth in after-school programs across Houston. He plans to become a clinical psychologist and wants to use his love of video games to help young people navigate trauma.