Meet Shavana Clarke, a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and the newly crowned Miss Connecticut USA. In a recent interview, Shavana shared her deeply personal journey, one of courage, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to authenticity in mental health conversations.

“Mental health is a topic that is really important to me,” Shavana begins. “It is something that I champion in my everyday life as well as a title holder.” Her decision to join the Let’s Face It campaign stemmed from a deep-seated belief in the power of openness and vulnerability. “I’m someone that’s really, really open about sharing my diagnosis, sharing different types of therapies I’ve been to, sharing my experience in mental hospitals,” she shares. “Because I think that’s really important to be extremely authentic in the conversations we’re having surrounding mental health.”

In 2021, Shavana faced a pivotal moment when she received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was a terrifying yet validating experience. “Although it was very difficult for me, it was the first time that I received a diagnosis that felt so accurate for me,” she reflects. Despite the relief of validation, she faced stigma, even from a medical professional.

Amidst challenges, Shavana found solace in her support system and therapeutic interventions like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). “In doing [DBT], I met a lot of people that I consider very close friends now,” she shares. “And them being open and talking about their BPD and their experiences with different types of stigmas, it has helped me.”

She highlighted the importance of diverse coping mechanisms, acknowledging that what works one day might not work the next. “I have a tool belt… when it’s feeling harder for myself, I use a tool. And if that doesn’t work, I try another tool,” she explained.

As she reflects on her journey, Shavana offers words of encouragement to those grappling with their mental health. “Don’t compare your journey to other people’s journeys,” she advises. “Just because there have been detours doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to accomplish and do the things that I dream of.”

Today, as Miss Connecticut USA, Shavana continues to use her platform to advocate for mental health awareness and embrace her story, “this is my reality and that’s okay. I struggle with my mental health. I’m diagnosed with BPD and that is my reality. And yeah, that means that some things are different for me, how I process information, how I think, it’s different for me. That is okay to admit because in admitting that is how I get the best help that I need.”

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Join us for the last few days in May to hear from community partners, staff, and MHC participants on how they #FaceIt. View past posts here.

Looking for resources or support in CT but don’t know where to start? Visit MHC’s Resource Directory at https://www.mhconn.org/education/resources/