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Erasing the Stigma

By Trey Crumbie | Photography provided | Published May 2021
Ebba Terefe

Taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your body, and NKU graduate student Ebba Terefe wants that message to be spread as far as it can go.

“There’s a lot of mental health stigma,” he says. “People are very iffy about seeing providers or sharing their mental health, and I kind of feel like that’s something that needs to be discussed.”

Terefe, who enrolled in the NKU masters of science in psychiatric mental health nurse  pracitioner program in 2019, is currently working in Columbus, Ohio as a clinical care coordinator for PrimaryOne Health based in Columbus. He helps those who do not have private health insurance or any health insurance get the care they need.

“I have seen that if you sit down and speak with these people and really understand and not judge them, they’re willing to work on their mental health, which is very important,” he says.

Ebba, who immigrated to the U.S. at a young age from Ethiopia, also noticed some communities may not openly discuss mental health and wants to help erase the stigma on such an important topic.

“Whether it’s African-American, Ethiopian or Hispanic, that’s not something that’s discussed,” he says.

He enrolled at NKU after a friend, an NKU student, told him that the university was very receptive her needs, whether it was scheduling classes or financial aid.

“She would get a response right away,” he says. “Usually, you don’t get that in academia.”

Upon choosing to return to college after several years of managing hotels, Ebba was accepted to go another school, but he choose NKU instead.

“It’s been an amazing journey so far at NKU,” he says. “While the process of earning a master’s degree is difficult, I have been able to keep a high GPA due to the learning atmosphere created by NKU staff.”

Ebba says the conversation around mental health is getting better, but there are still those who are misinformed. For example, some people who have anxiety are labeled as undisciplined, when there might be factors outside the person’s control.

“We need to educate as many people as we can in our communities and things like that, so people can live a healthy, productive life,” he says.

Following graduation, Ebba plans to continue to working for clinics that help underserved populations, whether it be in Ohio, Kentucky or anywhere else. Raising general awareness about mental health is also a goal of Ebba’s.

“They might not even be aware what they are going through,” he says. “Whether that’s depression, anxiety or whatever the case might be. So, I want to be make sure that people are aware that there is help, and I also want to help other people know that they can be of help, just like I am.”

For those concerned with their mental health, Ebba encourages speaking to general health care providers or calling 800-273-8255 for more serious worries.