I had the pleasure of interviewing Nayeon Park, a university student at the University of Ulsan, located in South Korea. She is an active member of her community and has a lot of experience interacting with youth from all over the world, as she continues to participate in various camps, programs, etc.
Why is mental health an important topic to you?
Mental health has always been an idea that has surrounded my life since a young age. Although at the time I was not able to fully grasp the concept of mental health, I have always seen my friends suffer through different types and degrees of it. Because I never felt that my friends were “weird” or “different” from the others, it broke my heart and was bizarre to me to see other children calling them names. Therefore, I grew a strong passion for advocating against the social stigma surrounding mental health that start to influence all of us from a young age.
What advice would you give someone who is going through difficult times?
Personally, I am not the type of person to give personal advice to others. I believe that it is more important to show the person suffering through your actions that you are supporting them. The best advice I can give to them would be to show them that I care about their story by showcasing them through my actions.
How has poor mental health affected your life, whether it be you personally or those you know?
Like I mentioned before, mental health has always been around me from a young age. Because I was exposed to it from childhood, I was fortunate enough to not grow any of the stigmas or pre-perceptions around them. Mental health has given me a new goal in life, as I slowly learned the impact of hurtful, unnecessary words that can impact people suffering from mental health. It has driven me to do more research and volunteering in areas related to mental health, which has eventually driven me to the position I am in right now.
Why do you think mental health is something people don’t tend to talk about?
For what I have seen in the past, it seems to me that the primary reason is out of fear. The first thing people seem to associate with mental health are negative connotations of it. I would say that from seeing my friends, it would also be because they do not like type of sympathetic looks that people give them when the tell them about their mental health. Being “normal” and belonging has become an obligatory part of our lives that we try so hard to keep. Therefore, not a lot of people want that safe boundary to break because of mental health, which is unfortunate.
What has helped you to practice self-care and overcome your struggles?
Because I am someone who easily gets stressed out over small things, I try my best to balance out my workload and schedule. I try to avoid dwelling on school work for long periods of time and regularly go for exercise or walks.
How has your (mental health related) work through these leadership roles made an impact in your community?
Although I haven’t been able to make a huge impact to my community, I can proudly say that the people around me have learnt more and more about mental health, and most importantly the fact that you do not have to shy away from your personal feelings. It really surprised me to see some people come up to me to tell me that they have changed their attitude towards mental health.
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency number immediately.