Meet Ciara Kelly: Recipient of the 2018 Active Minds & NSCS Mental Health Advocate Award

Active Minds
Active Minds

Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.

This year we partnered with The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) to recognize students who promote mental health programs and advocacy efforts on college campuses across the United States.

We’re so proud to announce that UCLA student and Active Minds member Ciara Kelly is the 2018 inaugural recipient of the Mental Health Advocate Award!

In her first two years at UCLA, Ciara has worked to improve the mental health landscape on campus as a fierce mental health advocate. She has volunteered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on policy issues and co-led major projects on the intersection between mental health and culture as a member of the UCLA chapter of Active Minds. Her efforts often result in one-on-one connections with strangers, friends, and professors whose frank conversations about their own struggles have made a big impact on her.

“To realize that one conversation with someone can change their mind on mental illness and encourage them to become an advocate themselves is so utterly important,” said Ciara.

We’re so inspired by all of the important, stigma-reducing work happening on campuses across the country, and thrilled to recognize Ciara this year.

Learn more about Ciara below:

Where is home to you?

Oceanside, CA

What does Active Minds mean to you?

To me Active Minds means hope and community. I joined Active Minds as a way to help me grieve when I lost two friends to suicide, I knew I needed to do something about this issue and Active Minds was the perfect organization to get involved with. By getting involved in Active Minds I found a group of people who would never judge me for anything I’m going through. These people inspire me with their ambitions and hopes for the future of mental health and knowing that there are people passionate about making a change in the conversation we have about mental health is comforting.

What would you say to someone who’s having a difficult time right now?

If I was with someone who is having a difficult time right now, I would listen first. I would let them get what’s bothering them off their chest. Then I’d help them figure out how to keep fighting that fight and tell them how brave they are for doing it because internal battles are not an easy feat.  I think the most important thing is to give them someone to talk to and reassure them that they are not alone in this battle, and it is okay not to be okay.

How do you take care of yourself when you are balancing life, academics, clubs, etc.?

To take care of myself I strive for optimal time management. I know I have to give myself at least an hour or two a day to just be me, whether that be to write and reflect, read, or spend an hour with a friend. I have realized how much I cannot neglect myself and definitely need to prioritize me-time. It’s not healthy to be engaged in some sort of work all day everyday. One thing I do to give myself a break is let meal time be purely that; I’ll eat my meal and enjoy it. That can be with a friend or alone but I avoid my phone or reading or any other work during that time and just relax.

What does being a mental health advocate mean to you?

Being a mental health advocate means inspiring others, teaching others, listening to others, and advising others. To me, a mental health advocate should listen carefully first and foremost, because with that ability you find what’s wrong with the conversation around mental health, and you also hear potential triggers for people. Once you understand that aspect you have the ability to continue to advise someone on the way they speak about mental health or inspire someone to keep fighting their internal battles. Being a mental health advocate isn’t a choice to me, it’s something so extremely important to everyone’s life that it just comes naturally.

In my free time you can find me…

In my free time you can find me either in the pool swimming or at a new coffee shop reading or catching up with a friend.


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