Many Helping Hands
Never underestimate the power of taking the initiative. Sometimes—as in the case of Ceara Scanlon ’16—it can lead you to places you never expected. When Scanlon, a psychology and sociology double major, learned about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she did a little Googling and found the contact information for the Maryland chapter, based in Columbia.
“I sent in a bio of myself, some background, and I asked if they were looking for volunteers,” she says. “Kate actually called me back and offered me an internship at the office in Columbia.” Kate is Kathryn Farinholt, executive director for NAMI Maryland, and she ended up working closely with Scanlon most of the summer on a variety of projects.
The internship was unpaid, but it gave Scanlon an opportunity to speak about NAMI at Baltimore’s Sheppard Pratt Hospital alongside students from the University of Maryland and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. And, it has motivated her to develop a NAMI affiliate at Washington College and possibly in Kent County—one of only two counties in the state that lacks one.
“It’s a nonprofit grassroots mental advocacy organization,” Scanlon says of NAMI. “The grassroots part means they give other people the tools to do the advocating. They go out into the community and teach how to raise awareness about mental health issues, lobby to change legislation, that sort of thing. They also teach courses for people who are living with mental illness. They’re just kind of a voice for those with mental illness.”
One of those initiatives is called Peer-to-Peer, a program that helps educate people who are living with diagnoses like anxiety, mood disorders, and depression to better understand their diagnosis, collaborate with a community, and find mutual support. Scanlon says Farinholt asked her if she would like to take the training to lead her own Peer-to-Peer group, and she hopes to do so over the winter break.
Scanlon came to Washington College thinking she’d be pre-law, but she loved her general psychology class so much during her first year that she knew she had found the subject and the department where she wanted to focus her efforts. She added the sociology major because she believes they work well together, particularly in the area of forensic psychology, which is where her interest lies.
“I want to work in prisons one day, that’s my end goal, and that brings in the law aspect of doing policy or advocating for their rights,” Scanlon says. “As a psychologist I can understand the mental illness of all of it, and as a sociologist I understand the implications of not just them on society but society on them. So it would give me a holistic picture of understanding my clients.”
Currently applying to doctoral programs in clinical psychology, Scanlon has made the most of her time at WAC. She’s an RA; president of the Student Events Board; vice president of the College’s chapter of Psi Chi, the honors society in psychology; a member of Alpha Kappa Delta, the honors society in sociology; a member of Omicron Kappa Delta, the national leadership honor society; and a member of the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows.