Psychology student’s passion for mental health comes from personal experience

While learning to better manage her own mental health, Maddy Furgiuele also made it her goal to help others.

The third-year Brock Psychology student first noticed a feeling of anxiousness while in Grade 8, but assumed at the time that everyone felt the same anxiety she did. That impression would soon change.

“When I started high school, one of the teachers talked to us about anxiety, and I made the connection that I might be struggling much more than some of my friends,” she said.

Furgiuele gained further insight into her anxiety and its tie to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when she began seeing a therapist in Grade 11.

“It was really such a validating experience,” she said. “I would talk about how I felt anxious, and my therapist was able to explain and help me understand why that was taking place, and provided me with some coping strategies.”

As she continued to explore her mental health, Furgiuele became fascinated with the topic.

“I never loved dance, basketball or soccer the way some of my friends enjoyed those types of hobbies, but when I started learning about mental health, it was everything to me,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about recovery and treatment and helping people.”

She would go on to lead the mental health awareness club at her high school and set her sights on helping people as a career.

“I chose Brock because the Psychology program is the first step towards hopefully becoming a therapist and opening my own office,” she said.

Furgiuele said there was another reason Brock stood out.

“When I was exploring universities, I learned that Brock was ranked No. 1 for mental health supports, which was really important to me,” she said. “Knowing those resources are here has been comforting and helpful for me, and it’s been amazing to see how quickly they have been accessed by friends in need.”

Furgiuele has also made it a priority to candidly share her own mental health journey with those around her.

“Initially I was really nervous and I wouldn’t say anything, but over time, it’s become more comfortable for me to tell people I have OCD and what that looks like, and everyone has been really supportive,” she said.

As she pondered how to be open about her mental health during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, Furgiuele decided to start an Instagram account, where she continued to discuss her journey virtually, when not able to see friends in person.

“I think I have always been someone who is a bit more private about mental health, but now that I’m running an Instagram account, I’m feeling more empowered to talk about it in the moment and to let people be there for me when I need help.”

On her Instagram page, Furgiuele is careful not to give out advice, as she is not yet a mental health professional, but there is one message she hopes to get across to everyone she comes in contact with both virtually and in person.

“Talk to someone about what you are feeling,” she said. “When I was silent about what I was going through, I thought I was alone, but when I learned it was OK to talk about my mental health, it was the first step towards recognizing that I needed help.”

To learn more about mental health resources at Brock and in the Niagara region, visit the University’s mental health website.

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