Science Stories: Sara H. and Mental Health Awareness

Sara H. attacks research opportunities with tenacity and advocates for an intersectional approach to mental health awareness.

Science Stories is an ongoing series launched by the authors of the Science Society blog which unearths the experiences of Science Students at Carleton.

EBUBE OKAFOR: Sara, thank you so much for doing this interview.

SARA H: Of course!

OKAFOR: So, Sara. How did you get interested in neuroscience?

SARA H: I remember before picking neuroscience as a program, I looked up the

course descriptions for what I’d be learning and found it fascinating.

OKAFOR: That’s awesome. I find neuroscience at Carleton is so attractive

because the course offerings can be so niche – especially the upper year courses.

OKAFOR: With what you know now being a third-year student in neuroscience,

what did you wish you knew before picking your program?

SARA H: I wish I knew that getting involved in research is not a one-way track.

OKAFOR: If it’s not so straightforward getting into research, does that mean that

there are limited opportunities or its exclusive in some way?

SARA H: [No]. If you don’t get a certain research position, there’s so many other

opportunities being offered.

OKAFOR: It sounds like getting into research involves a lot of trial and error. Any

advice for underclassmen trying to enter the research space?

SARA H: The important thing is to persevere and keep looking for opportunities

despite the rejection.

OKAFOR: You sound like you have a strong drive. I hope those who are reading

this interview will be able to draw upon that!

OKAFOR: Right now, do you have any role models in life that are guiding your career goals?

SARA H: My mom is a foreign-trained [medical] doctor who immigrated to Canada and remains to be my biggest role model and motivator throughout school and my career. She taught me the value and importance of hard work and consistently persevering despite the challenges that arise, especially as an ethnic and religious minority, to achieve my career goals.

OKAFOR: A parent can be the most impactful role model in one’s life. It seems like she has really shaped you into the person you are today.

OKAFOR: Switching gears a bit, why did you choose to study neuroscience at Carleton?

SARA H: Carleton was the only school that I felt financially, socially, and academically supported at because of all the different opportunities it offered me. For example, the entrance scholarship remains throughout undergrad, the university environment, and the neuroscience program specifically is very student-centric rather than institution-centric, and academic support such as the Science Student Success Center always offers excellent workshops for academic and career development that helped shape my path.

OKAFOR: I love that you’re plugging the SSSC. Carleton really tries to be a supportive institution relative to other universities.

OKAFOR: Now, for our last question, I want to ask about your thoughts on mental health awareness becoming more integrated into the mainstream media.

OKAFOR: What do you feel is being done well now with respect to mental health awareness in the media and university spaces and how would you like things to improve?

SARA H: One thing being done well both on social media and university spaces is eliminating shame around living with mental illnesses and so it creates a community of support for those who need it. It also allows other people who may not be suffering from a mental illness to recognize the signs of someone in distress and therefore be able to help their loved ones if they are experiencing mental health distress.

SARA H: However, there needs to be improvement on the support services being offered for students and individuals in the community into making them more inclusive for minority students, especially those coming from cultures that heavily stigmatize reaching out for mental health support when needed.