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  • Haleigh Shedd

Winthrop Graduate Student Seeks to Destigmatize Mental Health Disorders

Laura Simpson, a graduate student at Winthrop University, is studying to earn her master’s degree in Counseling and Development. Initially completing her bachelor’s degree at Winthrop as well, she decided to stay close to her family in Charlotte, NC and be a part of the prestigious master’s program. She is on track to graduate May 3, 2018 and hopes to soon after gain a position as a professional counselor.

Ever since she took her first psychology class in high school, she was hooked. She is interested primarily in mental health issues due to family members who have suffered in the past with mental illness. “I wanted to help alleviate the negative stigma associated with mental health and mental disorders,” said Simpson. She has had family members who struggle with depression and personality disorder.

Simpson believes that the future for her industry will be bright with a continued need for psychology professionals. “With the trauma our world seems to be facing, it may become even more prevalent and needed.” Mental health has been a hot topic over the past few years with more advocates fighting to raise awareness for those who suffer with mental illnesses.

Ten years from now, Simpson hopes to own a private practice and work with children using play therapy and other related methods. Ultimately though, her goal is to lessen the negative stigma surrounding mental disorders, as well as show compassion and understanding for the people who may not have the support of their friends and family at home.

Currently, she has been enjoying her program at Winthrop, but she is ready to graduate. Her favorite parts about her learning experience have been the hands-on approach with her curriculum, and also the two practicums and two internships that have prepared her for life after college. However, these have also been some of the biggest challenges she has faced in her program. Between juggling work, school, and her social life, she has had to learn how to prioritize her time effectively. She eventually quit her job at a local restaurant to make room for the required internship hours.

Regardless of how demanding her schoolwork and internships are, Simpson is thankful for the experience. She advises anyone who wants to pursue the same career path to be diligent, gain experience whenever possible, and to expose oneself to other professionals to determine what path is the best fit.

She would also advise students who want to travel down the same path go straight into the doctorate program, rather than obtain a master’s degree straight out of undergraduate. “If I had done this, I would already be two years into my degree instead of starting over.”

Despite the change of heart for her academic path, Simpson is proud of her accomplishments. During her two years in her master’s program, she joined an honor society and has maintained a 4.0 GPA, which is a daunting task for anyone at any level of education.

Following graduation, she hopes to spend more time on her hobbies--relaxing with friends, drinking wine, and playing with her beagle, Bella. With less than two weeks before she walks across the Winthrop graduation stage for the last time, that wine, friend, and dog-filled dream will soon become a reality.

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