Bethany Mendoza, a second year student at Adler University, has shown outstanding leadership and tireless advocacy in addressing and raising awareness about issues of mental health stigma and the importance of civic responsibility and activism in our community. Her work served a central role in creating a comprehensive mental health services directory for undocumented immigrants in Chicago and surrounding areas, as part of the Coalition for Immigrant Mental Health. This coalition, instituted at a time of much uncertainty for undocumented individuals, was in direct response to several immigrant-focused organizations throughout Chicago being overwhelmed with requests for mental health aid by their undocumented constituents and their loved ones in the wake of policy change on Capitol Hill. Bethany's work continues to support the Center for Civic Learning and Community Action's community-based processing circles for immigrant and refugee residents in Chicago.
I first became involved in advocacy and social change as a volunteer for Mental Health America. Here I began to witness first-hand the stigma associated with mental illness, and many of the barriers that those with mental illnesses face in obtaining adequate mental health treatment. As a doctoral student at Adler University, I have acquired knowledge that exposes the cultural and systemic inequalities that impact this vulnerable population. As a representative of the Adler University community, I have taken part in efforts to help promote social justice and to foster partnerships that serve vulnerable populations in the local community. Through grass-roots community engagement efforts, I have taken part in creating a comprehensive mental health services directory for undocumented immigrants in Chicago and surrounding areas. Additionally, I have assisted with voter registration efforts in Chicago, educated citizens of potential barriers that may decrease their ability to vote, completed research on social issues impacting vulnerable communities in Chicago, and helped coordinate interactive events and exhibits on campus in collaboration with faculty and staff. In the future, I hope to utilize my doctoral degree to challenge the stigma of mental illness and to help bring quality mental healthcare and psychoeducation to underserved populations.