September 12, 2023
Tell us a little about yourself…
Hello everyone! My name is Natasha and I am a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine. I study both education and psychological science and find myself heavily interested in pursuing a career in research. As I approach the culmination of my undergraduate journey, I am brimming with excitement at the prospect of delving deeper into the world of academia and research. The realm of research has always held a special allure for me. I am fascinated by the potential to explore uncharted territories of knowledge, to contribute to the understanding of human behavior and cognition, and to impact the lives of individuals positively through the findings of rigorous inquiry. My ultimate aspiration is to build a career devoted to research, where I can contribute meaningfully to the scientific community and society as a whole. Outside the academic sphere, you can often find me engrossed in a good book or weaving my creativity through the gentle art of knitting
What is your connection to Orange County?
My journey began with the pursuit of education at Irvine Valley Community College in Orange County. Over the course of roughly five years, I have made this vibrant city my home, immersing myself in its culture, opportunities, and diverse experiences. Along the way, I have been fortunate enough to engage in various jobs, which have not only provided me with financial stability but have also enriched my understanding of the community and its people. When I first arrived in Orange County to attend Irvine Valley Community College, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and curiosity about what this new chapter of my life would bring. As the years passed, I embraced the challenges of academics, forming valuable connections with professors and peers, and nurturing a thirst for knowledge that continues to drive me forward.
Share a little bit of your outlook on life…
Education is a fundamental right that every woman should have access to, regardless of their geographical origin. Personally, I count myself fortunate to be where I am today, as my family's roots lie deep in the heart of Pakistan. This background has ingrained in me a profound appreciation for the opportunities I have and a strong belief in the transformative power of education. I firmly hold that determination is a driving force that can propel individuals to reach for and attain their dreams. Despite the challenges and obstacles that may present themselves, I am convinced that with perseverance, hard work, and a steadfast mindset, anyone can overcome adversity and achieve their goals. This conviction is not just rooted in my personal experiences, but also in witnessing the achievements of countless individuals who have risen above circumstances and societal norms to carve out their own paths. As I look towards the future, I would like to see a society that is more equitable, compassionate, and understanding. I aspire to contribute my part in fostering positive change and envision a world where opportunities are not limited by one's gender, race, or background.
What is your favorite book?
My current favorite book is “The House of the Spirits” written by Isabelle Allende.
What is your favorite self-care activity?
The activity that brings me the most joy and rejuvenation during moments of self-care is engaging in cleaning and decorating. For me, it holds great significance as it emphasizes the importance of cherishing and nurturing the environment that envelops us.
What drew you to being involved with community mental health work or advocacy?
My passion lies in actively participating in community mental health work and advocacy. One of my primary objectives is to promote and normalize the idea that seeking help for mental health concerns is not only acceptable but also an essential aspect of overall well-being. I firmly believe that breaking down the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health is crucial in creating a supportive and understanding society. I am committed to becoming a voice for those who have been marginalized and unheard. There are individuals within our communities who have not been granted the opportunity to share their experiences, struggles, and needs. It is my aspiration to be a representative for these individuals, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their stories are acknowledged with compassion and respect. Through community engagement and educational initiatives, I aim to destigmatize mental health challenges, fostering an environment where people feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination. By encouraging open conversations about mental well-being, I hope to inspire a culture that places a strong emphasis on self-care and support for one another.
What is your preferred art medium (for example: writing, drawing, painting, graphic design, etc.)?
My preferred art medium is drawing!
What drew you to your preferred art medium?
My fascination with painting was sparked by my exposure to museums. It all began when I came across a collection of building renderings left behind by my uncle, who was an architect. Intrigued by the intricacies of these designs, I set out to recreate them by hand. This endeavor gradually led me into the world of drawing, and as I delved into mastering perspective drawing, my passion for painting was ignited.
What role have the arts played in your life, especially your mental health?
During a particular phase of my life, art became my solace, offering comfort and a means of expression when I felt like there was little else to turn to. During difficult times, art stood as a reliable companion, always there to capture and convey my emotions without requiring me to articulate them verbally. Art offers an outlet to pour my thoughts and feelings onto a canvas or paper. It became a powerful medium through which I could convey the complex and intricate nuances of my inner world, even when words failed me.
What do you think Orange County can do more of to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health?
By actively encouraging open conversations about mental health, emotions, and personal struggles, we can create an environment where asking for help is viewed as a sign of strength rather than weakness. Emphasizing that it is okay to seek assistance fosters a culture of empathy and compassion, promoting overall well-being and building a supportive community. It is essential to recognize that relationships and cultural norms vary widely across different communities and backgrounds. Embracing a mindset of cultural sensitivity and understanding can bridge gaps and build connections between individuals from diverse backgrounds. By acknowledging and respecting the uniqueness of various cultural perspectives on relationships, communication, and social interactions, we can cultivate a more inclusive and harmonious society.
Why do you think youth/young adults should attend community mental health events, like those hosted by Connect-OC?
It is highly beneficial for young individuals to actively participate in community mental health events, particularly those organized by Connect-OC. These events provide an excellent platform for young people to not only foster new friendships but also establish a strong support network they can rely on during life's ups and downs. Through these gatherings, they are exposed to diverse cultures, allowing them to broaden their horizons and embrace a variety of perspectives. By engaging with a diverse group of individuals at these events, young people have the opportunity to surround themselves with people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. This exposure fosters an environment of openness and acceptance, helping them to become more empathetic and understanding towards others. Moreover, these events provide a space for young people to learn about coping mechanisms and resilience strategies. Additionally, connecting with others who have faced similar struggles can be profoundly reassuring for young individuals. They discover that they are not alone in their experiences, fostering a sense of solidarity and mutual support.