Advocating Faith-Friendly Mental Health Practices
Melissa Major has always known she wanted to be a therapist. The Psychology and Fine Arts student volunteers for various initiatives such as Alegria and BU Ministries, but it was her work mentoring local youth that solidified what she had already decided. “I have worked with adolescents who have faced many struggles,” she says, “It is understanding their difficult backgrounds and working with them that inspires me to help others.”
She has also done similar work with her religious community, which influenced her honors thesis research and opened a new path that she wants to pursue. “Most religious communities will not reach out because they believe it puts their faith into question, and I wanted to dig deeper to understand their point of view and encourage them to seek out help”, she explains.
The 23-year-old student lab coordinator is passionate about self-acceptance and tackling struggles of self-doubt, and wanted to learn more about how to work with clients dealing with these issues. Wanting to combine this with her interests in religion and mental health, her B.E.S.T. Project will lead her to a week of seminars and lectures at the Cape Cod Institute. She hopes that her time there will further her knowledge. She tells us of a course she is excited to attend. “There is one class offered I am excited to participate in called ‘Reintegration of the Separated Selves’, and although it does not deal specifically with religion I hope to use what I learn to work with those struggling with their need for mental health help and questioning their faith”, she says, “It will allow me to understand self-acceptance and self-doubt, which is something extremely important to me.”
Melissa hopes to bring back her knowledge to the University. “I plan on creating workshops and presentations that will focus on self-acceptance and trauma by using creative and artistic methods to enable healing”, she says. Furthermore, she hopes to bring back what she has learned to her religious community by opening up the conversation. “My dream is for spiritual people to have a safe space when it comes to their mental health”, she says, “And what I will discover in Cape Cod will be applicable to any religion, culture, or ethnicity, which means I will be able to make it an inclusive environment.”
This is the second time Melissa applies for a B.E.S.T. Fund Project. She applied in 2017 but was not selected. She decided to try again this year and was successful. She encourages students to apply for funds like B.E.S.T., even if it means the possibility of denial. ‘Rejection is a part of life”, she says, “But you have to believe in yourself, and if you are supportive and kind towards yourself then I believe you can do anything.”