NOVEMBER 07, 2018



After high school, I was confident about picking a career where I can help others. I always found myself listening to someone’s problems, then helping them find solutions. I was a great listener, maybe it was because I did not talk much. I was also very observant. I knew people, sometimes even before actively getting to know them. This made me choose a career in mental health and human services.

My struggles earlier in life encouraged me to provide help and support for those people who were often times forgotten, bullied, and ridiculed because of who they are. Majoring in Mental Health and Human Services in college made me realize how important it was to provide hope and examples of a “normal” life for those who were told they could not have one and to help them to understand that normal is being the best you can be without comparing yourself to others.

Earlier in my career I was able to see firsthand how important it is to provide persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with mental illnesses, with hope and a chance for a fulfilled life. Educating those around me about persons with those conditions was essential to changing the stigmas they had placed on this community.

For the majority of my working life I worked with persons on the autism spectrum as well as those with mental illnesses. My work was extremely fulfilling but sometimes exhausting and frustrating. To keep me going I always remember a few words which were shared with me by a parent. I remember how hopeful and proud she looked as she sat in one of her son’s frequent meetings. “As I look at my son now, it seems like he has not made much progress, but when I think about how he was a year or five years ago, I could truly see how much improvements he has made.” These words gave me the assurance and encouragement to know that the work that I was doing was truly important even if the progress was slow or hard to see.

A few weeks ago I was so happy to hear that New York and Virginia became the first two states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. Mental health is an integral part of our overall health and allowing children to understand that at a young age is vital.

There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.

—Matt Haig