By: Jacquilyn Davis, Executive Assistant, Mental Health Connecticut
Meet Rachel Prior – Residential Support Assistant at HARC and fifth semester student at Goodwin College. Rachel is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Human Services and has a career goal of becoming a Psychologist. She began 2016 by seeking volunteer opportunities with organizations that aligned with her aspirations. Mental Health Connecticut (MHC), a statewide, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve mental health for all Connecticut residents, was her first stop.
“I have always been passionate about mental health.” said Prior, “My main goal is to help people and make a difference.”
For more than 100 years, MHC has worked to improve mental health services, promote recovery for people with mental health conditions, educate the community about the importance of mental wellness, and combat discrimination resulting from a mental health diagnosis.
Prior approached Mental Health Connecticut with a plan to raise awareness within her community of Berlin, CT. After seeing a post on Facebook about a walk to benefit cancer awareness and research, she wondered if her town had a similar walk for mental health.
“It dawned on me that I had not once heard of any mental health walks in our area. I decided to look for volunteer opportunities to support mental health. I came across MHC and emailed them about my idea of a walk within our community,” said Prior.
Prior outlined her plan for the awareness walk as part of her final assignment for her Community Organization and Advocacy course at Goodwin, taught by Assistant Professor of Human Services, Karen Carney.
“Rachel went ‘above and beyond’ the requirements of the final assignment, which was to develop an advocacy plan based on the student’s own idea. It was not a requirement to implement the plan,” said Carney.
Receiving an “A” for her assignment and the support of her professor, Prior continues to prove that she is up for the challenge ahead. Prior says her positive outlook and belief that nothing is impossible comes from her brother Dave, who taught her that no dream is too big, and the continued encouragement from Carney and another professor at Goodwin, Betsy Delacruz.
“Rachel is a dedicated, enthusiastic, and tireless advocate for mental health awareness,” said Carney. “Her presentation to the class outlining the plan that she developed, to organize a walk for Mental Health Awareness Month, was inspiring.”
With the support of MHC, Prior’s idea is growing into an exciting event. With plans of launching the walk in May 2017, she has already begun recruiting supporters who will participate with her in the Berlin Memorial Day Parade on May 30th, 2016. Over 20 individuals will march together under the banner of MHC as one of its closing activities for Mental Health Month. Following the parade, participants are invited to Bertucci’s in Newington for MHC’s Community Fundraiser where 15% of all purchases will be donated to MHC upon showing the event voucher, located online at www.mhconn.org.
“This year I hope to raise awareness within the community as well as get our walk for May 2017 known to the public. I hope to raise awareness and defeat the stigma of mental health in our community, as well as raise money to support MHC for all they do,” said Prior.
Join the Facebook page – Berlin Mental Health Walk 2017 – to learn how you can help Rachel Prior complete her goal. Become a volunteer, sign up as a walker, make a donation as a corporate sponsor, or make an individual donation to the walk. “The mission I have can’t happen without the support of our community.”