By: Ryann Tanap, Coro Fellow
Mental health affects everyone. One in four people experience a mental health disorder each year. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked in our society. Americans are taught to keep hardships to themselves, for more emphasis is placed on independence and success. Thus, many people live in silence and may be afraid to ask for help.
In September 2013, I became a volunteer field advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). In memory of my good friend and mentor, Steven Enriquez, I participated in my first AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk, which raises money for suicide prevention and research. I also started reaching out to my state legislators to urge them to vote on bills that would bring mental health to the forefront of the national discussion. A month later, in October and over brunch with Leah, a high school friend of mine, I resolved to further pursue my passion for mental health by starting to consider professions in the mental health field.
In January 2014, I started Mama Tanap, a blog that: 1) promotes personal health and wellness, 2) disseminates topics seen in the news, media, culture and through lived experience, and 3) aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help (professional, holistic alternatives and self-care). With the support of many advisers, family, friends and mentors, I also submitted my application for the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs.
I began the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs through Coro Pittsburgh in August and have been learning a lot about leadership and adaptive challenges. Last fall, I also decided to get trained in Mental Health First Aid. After all, it’s free in the state of Pennsylvania, which I was really excited to learn about from a colleague of mine. I finally got trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid this past January, and will be getting trained in Adult Mental Health First Aid in a couple of weeks.
For my final project placement through Coro Pittsburgh, and with the support of UPMC Health Plan to fund a Coro Fellow like myself, I am eager to announce that I am working on a six-week placement with NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania – the same organization that facilitated my Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI’s mission is something I truly value and believe in.
Now, I am wrapping up my first week at my final project placement, where I am researching and making recommendations on online marketing and community engagement. I am assisting in the launch of NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania’s new website, social media strategy and other online exchanges – essentially, what I’ve been doing for Mama Tanap! I look forward to gaining experience and engaging in dialogue in this rising field.
About the Writer: Ryann Tanap graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2012. Her work focuses on youth development in underserved communities. She is an aspiring mental health professional. She aims to educate and empower youth, and promote holistic approaches to wellness (including nutrition, fitness and creative expression).