Amarachi Okafor- Bridging the Gap in Mental Health

L.A. AFRICAN: What are 3 interesting facts about you that only people close to you know?

AMARACHI:

1. I love Disney music! No, but really, it makes me happy!

2. I do not like cheese, but I like mac & cheese. Weird. Yeah, I know.

3. I study A LOT. Like minimum 6 hours a day!

L.A. AFRICAN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and background?

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AMARACHI: I am 22 years old. I am Nigerian-American, but I grew up in Kansas City, MO. I attended Arkansas State University for undergrad and I am currently attending Utica College for their accelerated BSN program.

Growing up, I did not fully know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I wanted to inspire people and play with brains. Odd I know lol! Long-term, I aspire to become a Psychiatric DNP, college professor, and continue to spread awareness about minority mental health.

I choose this industry because I love helping others, but specifically I love to interact with the mind. I believe the mind is what keeps us from achieving all that we want in life. Therefore, I know I will live a satisfied life if I do anything I can as an individual to alleviate stress, make others feel as if they are not alone, and manage their mental well-being.

Did I always see myself as a nurse? NOPE, not at all!

I originally went to undergrad for medicine, but quickly learned after graduation that my heart was not 100% in it. I knew I wanted to stay in the health profession, but I wanted a lot of flexibility to do all my heart desired.

One thing I love to do and hope to continue doing when I get older is public speaking. I love talking and inspiring individuals to be the best they can be!

L.A. AFRICAN: What have been some challenges you've faced on your journey? What did you do to overcome them?

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AMARACHI: Well, one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my journey of life has been battling with validation.

I would say the perfectionism attitude that most Africans have is good/bad. We always strive to be the best, but at what cost? I saw myself getting so consumed in trying to be this "ideal person" that I began to lose who I was and why I was actually striving towards my journey. Was it for me or was it for my parents or the community?

One thing we have to realize is that our parents will be proud of us no matter what we do as long as we can sustain ourselves. I did not realize the passion I had for mental health until I had a major mental breakdown that almost cost me my life.. It is crazy how in the midst of a storm is when you realize that the glistening light in the distance is going to show you your purpose. Honestly, as an individual who advocates for mental health and self-care so passionately, the biggest thing I have had to overcome is the side-eyes from my community.

In the African community, mental health is not something that is looked at or even acknowledged. It is brushed under the rug or told to go and pray. The way I am working to overcome this (because I am still overcoming it in all honesty) is by standing firm in what I believe, and not letting the validation of others justify the work I do and who I am.

L.A. AFRICAN: One person you look up to? 

AMARACHI: Monique Doughty (@iamnursemo). She has no idea who I am, but I am in awe of her! Her work ethic and effort to expand nursing in an influential aspect is amazing! She travels the world to do motivational speaking, and still finds time to scrub in and out of the ICU. OMG! A queen, okay! I look up to her and hope to be as remarkable as her one day!

L.A. AFRICAN: What currently keeps you motivated? 

AMARACHI: My family is what keeps me motivated. The Lord keeps me motivated. The knowledge of knowing that one day I will be standing in front of a crowd speaking about mental health, and can save just one life who was feeling down before they entered, keeps me motivated. Honestly, just realizing that everyday I get up is an opportunity for me to get more in-tune with myself, learn about myself, and invent myself motivates me to get up and go.

L.A. AFRICAN: What music album is currently the most played on your playlist? 

AMARACHI: Hmm.. well I usually listen to Afrobeats or Disney! But besides that, Jhene Aiko's “Trip” album is always playing on repeat. It is just such a nice album to vibe to.

L.A. AFRICAN: What advice would you give?

AMARACHI: The advice I would lend to an individual looking to get into my industry is to work hard. Healthcare is not easy AT ALL, but it is sooooo worth it! Lots of hours in the books is worth the smiles you see come across the faces of your patients.

The key specifically for mental health and advocacy work is always reminding yourself why you are doing this work. This keeps you humble, but also motivated.

In general, one advice I would like to give anyone reading is, "live in the moment". We millennials are so awesome because we are always looking to push limits and achieve our dreams, but we forget to enjoy where we are at because we dreamed about this part too.


L.A. AFRICAN: If we gave you $50,000 and said you had to do something with it in the next 24 hours, what is the first thing you would buy/do and why? (CANNOT INVEST)

AMARACHI: I would pay my student loans! LMAO because baby, might as well clear shop when you have a chance! Then of course I would do all the wonderful nice things people do, shop, donate, and give some to my parents.