Hi, Angelique! Tell us about yourself and what are your pronouns?
Hello! My name is Angelique, Angel for short. My pronouns are she/her/hers, I’m 33, a partner and a mama. I like to dabble in arts and crafts, love horror movies, video games, and anything thought-provoking. I have my bachelor’s in social work with a minor in psychology and am currently getting my master’s degree in social work. My ultimate goal is to start my own practice or community-based non-profit that provides services to adolescents who have been identified as “at-risk.” I want to help teenagers who are struggling behaviorally, academically, and/or psychologically before they mature to adults. This could mean helping runaways, juvenile offenders, teens with aggression, and so much more.
HearMe leans into peer-to-peer support to foster greater empathy and compassion within each of us. How did you become a Listener for HearMe and how long have you been with us?
A little background information, before coming to HearMe, I was a crisis counselor for a suicide hotline. Before doing that, I was unsure how I would like it, or if I would be good at it, but ended up enjoying it and helping a lot of people. I wanted to do something similar, but less intensive and more light-hearted. Just a few months ago, in April, I was looking for that opportunity and discovered HearMe through a LinkedIn post. After some searching about HearMe on Google, I learned about the MSW internship program, and immediately inquired about it. The response was amazing, and I’ve been enjoying the experience ever since (about 2 months now).
Since July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness month, what do you think are some unique challenges for communities and people of color in the mental health sphere?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing BIPOC communities in the mental health sphere is the lack of BIPOC professionals in mental health. African Americans, for example, make up about 13% of the population, but represent only 2-5% of psychologists. That is a really low percentage and is alarming considering African Americans are reportedly more likely to have mental health concerns. Thankfully, there are more African Americans in social work, but even the term “social worker” has been stigmatized in the community due, for example, to mistrust of child protective service workers. I think that for many BIPOC, general mistrust is a major barrier. Whether that be mistrust of mental health professionals, agencies, or the potential efficacy of proposed interventions.
What has your experience been as a Listener for HearMe?
My experience as a Listener has been very rewarding. I enjoy the variety in conversation topics and styles of different Members. In social work, cultural competence is a big deal, and we spend a fair amount of time reading about it and discussing it. It’s nice to have the “real-life” engagement with Members from other cultures, outside of a textbook. The most rewarding though, is when a chat starts out with a Member who is having a rough day, and by the end of the conversation they say they feel better or thank me for the chat. It makes the whole experience worthwhile.
Do you have a memorable moment with HearMe yet? If so, can you talk a little about what was going on, how you supported the person, and how you felt afterwards?
My most memorable moment on HearMe was my first chat. They just wanted someone to talk to, so my main support was listening and engaging in the conversation. We talked about the purpose of life, spirituality, and the current state of the world. It was a nice start to my HearMe experience because just like starting on a crisis line, I was unsure how it would go. My first chat ended up being great and it gave me a feel of how to use the app. Since then, I’ve seen more Members who were lonely in their relationship, anxious at work, or sexually deprived. While those were more intense topics and (usually) led to a resource or coping suggestion, that first chat helped me get comfortable with the app and see the potential it had for being an option for everyone from the person who just wants to talk to the student struggling with anxiety.
From your point of view, what is the importance of HearMe in the current state of the world?
I think HearMe is important because we all need someone to talk to and unfortunately, many people don’t have someone in their life that they can talk to. HearMe is important because for some Members it may be the only “safe space” they feel they have to express themselves. For Listeners, we’re given the opportunity to be that person for someone who needs an ear, and for me that has been very rewarding.
When I learned about HearMe, I thought to myself, how many apps are out there that focus on genuine connection? HearMe is the first I’ve heard of and I think it’s an important addition to our world. With so many people who are feeling disconnected, overwhelmed, or even just bored, I think the fact the app is free, accessible, and was created with inclusion in mind is amazing and I look forward to watching HearMe grow.
What is something about mental health stigma you’d like to see change?
I would like to see a change in how mental health and mental illness are portrayed in the media. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of what we assume about mental illness comes from the media.
What impact has being a part of HearMe had on you?
To be honest, I still feel pretty new here. So far, on a personal level, HearMe has helped me feel more connected to the world. I’m not a Facebook or Instagram kind of person, because both feel very impersonal to me, but HearMe hits different in a good way. It’s the engagement for me :) . Professionally, HearMe has shown me the importance of empathetic communication, given me the opportunity to practice active listening skills, and shown me how technology can be utilized to make all of these connections possible.
When your time with HearMe comes to a close, what impact do you hope to have made?
I really hope to have made a positive impact. I would love to end on a positive note also, so I’m really curious what my “last” chat as an intern will look like.
As a Listener, how do you practice self-care?
Self-care for me is the little things I do in between being a mom and a busy body. Enjoying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while watching Stranger Things with my family, then going for a walk the next day to burn off those calories, for example, is my self-care. I think it’s a happy medium of family, work, and a slightly unbalanced diet that keeps me going.
What brings you joy these days?
I had to think about this one. As a mom, every day is a blessing, and nothing brings me more joy than seeing my boys happy and healthy. On a more personal level, I love being entertained, lol. A good movie, a board game, roller skating, painting, all of the above bring me joy. Also, I like to feel like I achieved something, even something small, by the end of each day. When I do feel accomplished, that makes me happy.
Any final words of wisdom or notes on the power of empathy you want to share?
Empathy to me means acceptance. I think when we as Listeners are non-judgmental and genuinely engage with Members, we can have a positive impact on their day. I would also add, to accept others, we need to accept ourselves. Don’t forget to practice self-care and don’t forget to love yourself.