In middle school, Kelly battled anxiety and depression severely to the point where she needed to seek help after surviving a suicide attempt. It wasn’t until years later, mental health treatment, and several experiences that she realized her story began much earlier, after being abused in her daycare facility as a young child.
Now she’s a senior studying psychology at Florida Gulf Coast University, an intern with Lee Health’s Behavioral Health Department and mental health advocate and activist. Helping others helps her heal.
As a speaker at student-run Normal is Overrated, she shared her abuse, part of her story she had never shared before. Her own experience made her interested in understanding how trauma evolves, since her childhood trauma was buried deep and didn’t resurface until she was much older.
In college, she started working with Active Minds, a national mental health nonprofit for young people. After attending a national conference for Active Minds and hearing other people’s stories, she realized that feeling depressed and suicidal was not something she should have to battle alone, so she took a leave of absence from school, attending a residential treatment center to work on her own mental health.
Later, after connecting with the counseling department at Florida SouthWestern State College and Kids’ Minds Matter, she felt she had the support she needed to go back to school and increase her advocacy.
She founded the Active Minds chapter at FSW and became a student representative of FSW’s Mental Health Matters committee. After transferring to FGCU, she helped start a chapter there and became part of the national board of Active Minds, one of up to 30 students in the country who work with more than 600 chapters nationwide.
Her career choice to help others was influenced by her experiences in middle school.
“Sharing your story is one of the most difficult things to do, but I also think that’s one of the most healing things for yourself and for other people,” she said.