Leading with Empathy: Abigayle Peterson

The biggest problem I see in our society is a lack of empathy for one another. From racial injustice to those struggling in silence amidst COVID-19, today’s generation must rise above as catalysts for change who lead with compassion for the unseen. Bebe Moore Campbell, award-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, teacher, and co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles, paved the way for mental health advocacy that our own generation should follow. Campbell advocated for mental health awareness, education, and support in traditionally underrepresented groups who do not have equal access to quality mental health treatment. In 2005, Campbell and longtime friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, collaborated to dedicate the entire month of July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Afterward, the dynamic duo gained the support of D.C. Department of Mental Health and then-mayor Anthony Williams. They organized a giant conference in Southeast D.C., where they encouraged residents to effectively take care of their personal wellbeing. Through countless panels on advocating for mental health awareness for diverse communities around the nation, Campbell’s work greatly aided in society’s support for mental health advocacy. When Campbell passed away at age 56 due to a losing battle with cancer, her legacy sparked a brand new revolution. In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. To better honor and fairly include underrepresented groups, Mental Health America renamed to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color) Mental Health Month. While Campbell helped transform the way the United States perceives mental health, today’s generation can also serve as change-makers for good. As an Asian-American and passionate coder, I realize that I’m able to be like Bebe Moore Campbell and use my talents to advocate for mental health awareness. Throughout high school, I was put in many situations that drastically challenged my mental health. I was bullied both on and offline during my high school experience which leads to feelings of unworthiness. I failed to reach out for help, worried that I would only burden those around me. Although I struggled throughout my high school career, I’m thankful for the discomfort. From this discomfort, I grew as a person to realize the true friends I’ve always had all along and to forgive the people that bullied me. We are all human after all with a deep-rooted desire to feel like we belong somewhere. After meeting wonderful friends, counsellors, mentors, and joining clubs which shifted my focus to see my self-worth, I used my past negative experiences as the primary motivation to fully eliminate the mental health stigma. Through my love for computer science, I decided to develop Magnify, an upcoming free mental health app. The app’s mission is to provide high-quality emotional wellness services to ensure everyone gains equal access to mental health support. From a therapeutic chatbot to a gratitude journal, Magnify’s features are all completely free. Ultimately, I desire to bridge the gap in mental health access for everyone. I hope and pray our generation will continue what Bebe Moore Campbell started by continually uplifting others with genuine kindness, bravery, and empathy for all. To learn more about Magnify, check out their Instagram page, and get notified when the app is released.