Column: Leading to promote Mental Health Awareness

Column: Leading to promote Mental Health Awareness

Catreese Qualls

“Our mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.” – Unknown Author

My name is Catreese Qualls and I am the President of Schoolcraft College Business Club and serve as the current Student Activities Liaison for Omicron Iota Chapter, BSU, Safe Place, Native American Club, Amnesty International. My servant leadership extends across campus and into the community. My commitment and desire to help others escape many of the challenges I faced as an at-risk youth, have personally helped me to garner and align the interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills and leadership development I’ve learned as a Par Excellence Member of PTK. I’ve used this knowledge to help me become a better mother, scholar and above all a better advocate and Servant Leader within my community. I’ve chosen to create a Legacy of Hope by running for Division III Candidate for Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

My life has been filled with tragedies from my early childhood through adulthood. Each and every experience I’ve dealt with from abuse, denial, discrimination, poverty to anxiety and depression has led me to advocate for the support of Mental Health Awareness. I personally suffer from anxiety and depression but I refuse to be defeated by it. In fact, helping others is what empowers me on a daily basis to stand strong for myself, my beautiful children and those whose voices would otherwise be silenced by fear.

Over the course of 2020 I learned that I was not alone. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, “51 million Americans have been diagnosed with mental illness over the course of 2020.” That’s 1 in 5 adults and 1 in every 6 children. Mental Health impacts every aspect of our lives. How we perceive ourselves and others. How we function in our daily lives and our ability to make sound decisions.

Yet, there is HOPE!

For every problem there’s a solution and that solution begins with acceptance, acknowledgment and a desire to change the way we think. Stigma, bias & stereotypes create barriers to inclusion. More often than not they are the leading factors that prohibit individuals suffering from mental health issues from getting the help they need before a severe onset of mental illness and possibly suicidal thoughts. In order to begin the process of healing we must first grapple with the multidimensional causes that attribute to mental illness.

Inequalities in healthcare, poverty, early childhood trauma, and a myriad social and financial inequities, are some of the main reasons why we must put Diversity, Equity and Inclusion measures at the forefront of any plans to create restorative solutions to those seeking support.

As an Outreach Leader and Advocate, I serve among at risk, marginalized, handicapped and minority populations, often plagued with mental illness due to their current state of poverty and illiteracy. Based on the M-STEP standardized testing of students done in 2019, over 50 percent of Michigan’s children in grades three through seven cannot read at a proficient level.

These are statistics that can no longer be ignored.

What does this have to do with anything?

Illiteracy leads to poverty, and our increasingly technology-based economy is going to effectively cut off access for half of the population to the socioeconomic ladder. If we return to the aforementioned financial burden being a major component of root causes to mental health issues. It leaves us to ponder, what will the statistics look like after the Covid 19 pandemic and what will the future hold for those greatest affected by mental illness.

Being a part of the solution means taking action NOW!

I will be forging ahead in the fight to end the Bias & Stigma attached to mental illness and working fervently to help promote Mental Health Awareness. Through a series of ongoing panel discussions through a partnership with Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Services, Schoolcraft College Support Services, Madonna College’s Mosaic Diversity Equity & Inclusion Team along with Student Leaders across Schoolcraft campus.

Through partnerships with the Student Activities Board, Safe Place Mental Health & LGBT Club and Black Student Union. I will co-host monthly fellowship Movie Nights to encourage and promote healthy conversations centered around Mental Health Awareness,

Secondly, in partnership with Schoolcraft Fitness Center I will lead students in a weekly physical activity to aid in decreasing stress. According to Sarah Gingell Ph.D. “In a recent article in Psychology Today rates of depression and anxiety are at their highest recorded levels in countries as diverse as India, China, the U.S., and the U.K. Undoubtedly, many aspects of “modern life”—increasing social isolation, poor diets, a focus on money and image—contribute to this state. However, inactivity is another key factor.”

But the good news is that, “In fact, increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness,” according to Sarah Gingell Ph.D.

Alongside the aforementioned, I’ll be sharing continuous positive ways to self-motivate, incorporate healthier foods into your diet, with information from Omicron Iota’s Chapter Plant Based Cookbook.

Finally, in conjunction with local Mental Health Organizations, I’ve planned a Region Wide “Walk to End Bias Stigma” for late May, early June, date TBA.

To follow my planned events, post and live videos. Please follow me on Facebook @CatreeseQualls, @SCOmicronIotaChapter and @BusinessClubSC. You can find all of my scheduled events at Students can sign up for events here: – or by checking out the Schoolcraft Connection at

Photo courtesy of Rena Laverty