“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” -Rumi

Age: 24
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Gender Identity: Female
Ethnic Background: Persian
County: Alameda

Family & Household

How many siblings do you have, and where do you fall in terms of birth order?
I only have one older brother who is 12 years older than me. I am the second child.
What type of living arrangement did you have during your childhood (e.g., nuclear family, single-parent household, foster care)?
I had a nuclear family growing up. When I was ten years old, my brother left Iran to pursue his education. When I was 15 years old, I immigrated to the U.S. and my parents were separated for six years.
Did you experience any significant changes in your family structure during your childhood (e.g., divorce, separation)?

Yes. When I was 15 years old, my parents and I immigrated to the United States from Iran. However, after a few months, my father returned to Iran due to different challenges. At the time, we did not have enough financial resources to move out of my aunt’s house, who supported us in coming to the U.S. and shared space with six other family members. My parents were separated for six years, and my mom and I lived in my aunt’s house for those years and shared one bedroom together. When I was 20 years old, my mom and I were able to move out because of affordable housing. My parents were reunited when I was 21 after my father had a heart attack in Iran, and I have been living with both my parents ever since.

Coping Mechanisms

How do you cope with stress or difficult situations?

For a long time, my coping strategy was watching movies and TV shows. However, recently, that coping strategy was no longer working for me, and that meant I had to find something new. I didn’t know anything about LEGOs until I learned about them around three years ago and fell in love with them. I love following instructions, and it’s relaxing to put the bricks together and create something new. Another strategy that helps me cope with stress is making jewelry. I use seed beads for my jewelry making, and it’s so easy to make a bracelet or a necklace. Also, my happy place is in an art museum, and while it’s not something I can do very often, I have many art books and look at them when I feel stressed. All of these strategies help me take my mind off of things. However, when I am dealing with more difficult situations, sleep is what helps me most. After sleeping for a few hours or getting a good night’s sleep, I feel relaxed and can control my emotions better.

Have you received professional help or counseling for any challenges you’ve faced?

Yes, I started going to therapy for the first time when I was 16 years old because I was diagnosed with depression. I was the first person in my family to go to therapy, so I didn’t know what to expect. That was the darkest point in my life. I was frequently overcome with an inexplicable sadness, and things that would make most teens happy—such as hanging out with friends or family—didn’t bring me joy. Social interactions were exhausting. I was never in the moment, and I couldn’t shake the deep sadness that hung over me. My experience with my first therapist was not ideal, and I had no idea back then that it was ok to change my therapist. I thought if I needed a new therapist, that meant something was wrong with me. After graduating from therapy, my depression got better, and I became an advocate for mental health. I decided to return to therapy when I was 21 due to my struggles with anxiety. I was also worried about the potential challenges that might arise after my parents reunited after six years of separation. I had a much better experience with my second therapist.

Are there any positive role models or supportive individuals who have influenced your life positively?

My mom has been my biggest supporter and role model. Growing up with many household dysfunctions, my mom always tried her best to be there for me. She was the person who encouraged me to go to therapy when I was 16, even though this was a new concept for her. Also, I have been able to have a life in the U.S. because of my aunt’s support. My brother and sister-in-law are also very supportive of me, especially when I decided to change my major from biology to public health.

Educational & Employment

What is your current education or career path?

After transferring from a community college, Ohlone College, where I studied biology and human development, I graduated in June 2023 from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Science in public health. I truly enjoy public health and plan to work in the public health field for at least a few years. I also aspire to get a master’s degree in public health in a few years.

Have your ACEs influenced your academic or career choices?

Yes, absolutely. I was on the pre-med/ pre-dental route when I started community college. However, being a biology major wasn’t suitable for me, and I felt an immense amount of pressure on myself. I was always extremely stressed and thought I would not measure up. I also felt miserable and realized that the stress of my classes was really triggering for me. During that time, I discovered public health and realized that it aligns more with my values and strengths. I love that public health is prevention-focused and emphasizes social justice and health equity. I’ve seen these factors play out as an immigrant. I’ve had to overcome so many different challenges, like the language barrier, and that has affected me and my family’s health. Also, I am very passionate about youth mental health and ACEs because of my lived experiences. When I realized these are public health topics, I became excited and decided to dedicate my career to this cause. I aspire to be part of policies and practices that enhance our younger generations’ overall health and well-being.

Social Support

Do you and your friends feel comfortable discussing mental health topics openly?

I have always been an open book when it comes to discussing mental health topics. I know that there is a lot of stigma around mental health issues. More recently, I have realized that my friends have been more open and have been discussing their mental health challenges with me. One of my high school friends recently reached out to me to see if I was still in therapy, and she let me know that she has started going to therapy recently, and it has been life-changing for her.

What actions or behaviors help create a supportive environment among your friends?

I have always been open to talking about my own struggles to create a safe space and implicitly hint that I am open to having conversations about mental health with any of my friends who feel comfortable sharing. I truly believe normalizing talking about mental health creates a supportive environment among my friends. I don’t think anyone should be ashamed to share that they have mental health challenges or that they are in therapy. Mental health needs to be normalized the same way we share openly about our physical health problems. Another behavior that helps create a supportive environment among my friends is to check up on them regularly to see how they are doing.

Future Aspirations

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

My hopes and dreams for the future revolve around becoming a successful public health professional, with a particular focus on positively impacting youth mental health and adverse childhood experiences. I am deeply passionate about creating awareness, implementing effective interventions, and fostering a supportive environment for young individuals facing mental health challenges or healing from ACEs. I aspire to contribute to developing comprehensive public health programs that address the unique needs of youth, helping them overcome adversity, and promoting mental well-being.

What is one thing you want to do or accomplish? (This could be learning a new skill, visting a new place, something related to school/work/life/relationship)
I want to learn more about statistics, quantitative research, and coding. I also would love to visit Europe because I have never been!