The Stigma Will Fade with Emma Farrow
with Sara Massey
When tasked with choosing the first woman to feature on “Check Her Out,” Emma Farrow was an easy choice. A University Fellow senior double majoring in International Studies and Spanish with a minor in Political Science, Emma had just enough time to tell Truth + Dare about what she does as the Director of Community Development and Outreach for the Alabama Panhellenic Association. In this Q + A, Truth + Dare decided to focus on her work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Q: Was there a specific event or reason that you are so passionate about mental health?
A: “I started to get involved with mental health issues and raising awareness about it on campus my freshman year when a member of my sorority lost her boyfriend to suicide. It was devastating to our entire chapter, and it was shocking to me. I had never lost anyone to suicide. Then in the spring when I was on Panhellenic, part of my responsibility was educational programming. We lost a lot of members of the Greek community to suicide that year. Through being in that position I became very aware of it, and it was something I realized was a big issue here on campus. The resources on campus were not being allocated to the ones who needed it the most, and people were not aware of what is available. The reason I am the most passionate about it is that on September 28, 2016 I lost my brother-in-law to suicide. He had been struggling with mental illness, he was bipolar, and during one of his depressive episodes decided to take his own life. I had already been involved with AFSP and planning the “Out of the Darkness” walk, but that was the moment that hit home the most.”
Q: What is one common misconception that you have run across in dealing with mental health?
A: “How treatable mental illness is, and the importance of seeking that help. Unfortunately, a lot of not only students, but people across the world, do not seek the treatment that they deserve because they think that there is still a stigma attached to it. They believe that if they go to a doctor to get help that they will be put on medication the rest of their lives, and that is not true.”
Q: What is one thing about mental health you wish you could tell the entire Alabama campus?
A: “Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. It is not something you can control; genetics have a huge factor in it.”
Q: How does mental health affect women?
A: “Women are more prone to depression than men, as well as eating disorders and anxiety. I think a lot of that stems from the cultural aspects of how men and women are supposed to act. We as women are supposed to internalize our thoughts and concerns whereas men are supposed to shake it off and move past it. Women are also culturally stimulated to compare ourselves to everyone else, all the time. Never thinking we are good enough can definitely lead to a lot of depressive episodes that men seem to somehow not struggle with as much.”
Q: What advice would you have for someone that has a friend or family member struggling with a mental illness?
A: “First, do what you can to make sure that this friend or family member knows that you’re supportive. That being said, if you feel that this person is in danger, you have to act regardless of whether or not you think it will hurt their feelings. At the end of the day, having the potential to save a life over losing a friendship, a life is more important. They may not see it now, but in the future they will.”
Q: Anything else to add?
A: “The ‘Out of the Darkness’ Walk is this Sunday [October 8th at 1pm beginning from the Ferguson Plaza]. We want to encourage students and community members to come out even if they have not lost anyone to suicide, but to support the community that has. The biggest change that is needed for mental health here on campus is people need to start talking about it. You have to start the conversation, because as soon as it is, the stigma slowly starts to fade away. My brother-in-law was a psychology major and knew how mental illness worked and affected his brain and even he, in one of his depressive episodes, could not get over the stigma.”
Although we could talk to Emma about her efforts with mental health on campus all day, we asked her a few lighter questions to get to know her a bit more.
Q: What inspires you?
A: “My family. My parents are very incredible people and have always inspired me to not only just talk about change, but to be proactive. Beyond that, I am inspired by seeing a tangible impact be done.”
Q: What is the most interesting thing about you?
A: “I have studied abroad in Cuba twice and went a third time as a consultant. I went twice through the University, and was asked to come back this past summer and live in an elderly home and give consulting on suggestions for improvements.”
Q: You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?
A: “A turquoise blue, because it is my favorite color. But also, I am originally from Los Angeles, California and the beach is my happy place. Blue reminds me of the ocean and happiness.
Q: In the spirit of the Truth + Dare blog, which would you pick? Truth or Dare?
A: “Truth. Sometimes it forces me to answer questions that are very personal that I wouldn’t usually share with others, but gives a better insight into me.”
To say that we were sad our interview had to come to an end was an understatement. By the time we let Emma go, we were dying to be her best friend and be surrounded by her positive, proactive spirit. We encourage you to visit the Ferguson Plaza on Sunday October 8th at 1pm to register and participate in the “Out of the Darkness” Walk to kick off Alabama’s Suicide Awareness Week. If you would like to register to join the walk click here, or if you would like more information please visit this website.