Burington, VT-based Amanda Mahony has travelled around the world doing service work and acting as an advocate for mental health. She currently works with the World Federation for Mental Health, and has attended multiple mental health Congresses. From Cape Town to Cairo, she is taking a stand for improving global health and welfare. She documents these experiences and revelations on her blog, A Kind of Mind.
In this season of thanks and giving, we are thrilled to introduce a young women who has devoted her life to giving back to others.
- Age: 25
- Location : Burlington, VT
- Field of Interest: Mental health and travel
- What Inspired You Today? My mom’s blog – she inspires me daily.
- What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? I have really good ears and a great set of eyes; I listen to and look after those I love.
Questions + Answers
1. In your work with the World Federation of Mental Health, you travel the world to interview the delegates and promote the major focal points. How do approaches to mental health change around the world?
I’ve been to 15 countries. Much of my work with the World Federation of Mental Health has been on-the-ground, at the Congresses, such as when I went to Argentina, South Africa, and Egypt. There are many attendees, from all across the globe, at these Congresses, so I get to witness a lot of interaction between cultures.
So far, the major difference I have seen is that many countries in the developing world have different focuses before putting mental health on the top of the list. If you’re concerned with where your next meal is coming from, AIDS and other diseases, a corrupt government, or securing a safe home, it’s much harder to be focused on how to care for your mental health.
One of the blessings with the World Federation of Mental Health is that it invites in many facets of professionals within this realm. Nurses, medical doctors, PhDs, psychologists, social workers, and others can join in on the discussion.
One of the many things I have learned, throughout my life but also within this realm of mental health, is that we all pretty much want to be loved, to be healthy, to have our family be safe, warm, fed, and happy.
2. What has been your favorite moment or memory from your work so far? Perhaps your most significant revelation?
I think the most favorite moment I had occurred during my first Congress, in Cape Town, South Africa. I knew it was an insane proposition, to try and go to this Congress, alone, during my senior year of college, without any money or prior knowledge of the country, and just a passport and an invitation with me, but that was the best moment for me.
I witnessed how important mental health awareness is to the numerous people who donated to help make my trip a reality in the three short weeks before I arrived in Cape Town.
Once at the Congress, I melted with joy at how many different nationalities were in attendance, how diverse the topics were, how, at a casual luncheon, I was able to rub elbows with members of the UN and the WHO. At 22, this career boost was immeasurable, and has led me to two more Congresses since, and positioned me to be an activist for life.
3. Travel and mental health are your main interests, and you write lyrically about both on your blog. How are these interests related? How do they both influence you?
I am mostly a volunteer when I travel. So far, I worked at the largest non-profit public relations firm in Ireland, working on the Irish Heart Disease campaign, during my study abroad experience in Dublin. I’ve taught English and built a school, two summers in a row, in Tanzania. I’ve blogged from Cape Town, Buenos Aires, and Egypt, from the World Federation of Mental Health Congresses, and I’ve flown into [less advantaged] nations to do so.
Most of the places I have been are my favorite places to travel. If you’d have asked me at 14 years of age, would this be my life 10 years down the road, I would’ve laughed. There’s something about the first trip, the first experience working in an orphanage in Tanzania, that changed me as a person forever. I was only 18, but the knowledge of how much support I had at home, both from my government and my own family, made me want to help and volunteer around the world forever.
The more I can write about, and document, what I am witnessing or what we are doing to help in other parts of the world, regarding mental health, the more I feel I am taking an active role in my life and in improving the lives of others.
4. There is still a stigma against talking openly about mental health, even in the U.S. How do you break down that barrier? What’s one thing, or perspective, you wish more people knew?
I wish we all knew that the face another is putting on is just for show. As I’ve grown older and more mature, I’ve seen countless individuals, both in my own life and through friends, struggle with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and more. It’s not uncommon to reach your mid-twenties and have a suicide attempt under your belt. It’s not uncommon to feel alone, or ill at ease in your own body, with your own mind, at all stages of life.
I wish people understood the impact of their words, or even a smile, on another’s day. I wish more people read PostSecret.com, or Humans of New York, and could draw the connection between one human to another.
5. We’ve written a lot about the complex relationship between mental health and social media, and how social media can create unrealistic expectations and harmful value systems. Have you experienced anything like that, personally or professionally?
Of course! I’ve felt left out before I even turned 23 by the alarmingly fast-paced relationships of many of my peers. I’ve seen high school friends have jobs, babies, houses and husbands, before I even graduated from undergrad. I’ve felt inadequate and insecure from ‘Fitspiration’ on Instagram or ‘Get Quick Fit’ tips on Pinterest.
It’s all relative though; I’ve felt confident and secure when I’m alone, in my room, writing on my blog, ignoring the notifications on my phone from the endless stream of social media sites.
Too often, our culture finds validation and security, but not within ourselves. We seek endless likes, comments, and shares, but we aren’t seeing how this affects our confidence, self-esteem and souls beyond the keyboard. I’m as guilty as the next person.