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Learning How to Make Meaningful Change: My Journey to Becoming a Global Mind

Written By: Jessica Carswell

I think one of the greatest challenges that we face as change makers is not knowing where to start.  There is so much suffering in our world and so many things that need changing, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin, to imagine that you can make a difference.  One of the greatest lessons that I took away from the Global MINDS 2017 Summer Institute is that you can’t do it alone, that we are in this fight together.  When we are reminded that there is a whole world out there of people who are passionate about positive social change, of lessening the global burden of mental disorders, of social justice and health equity, the tasks that lie ahead of us seem possible, they transform from a vision into something tangible.

As my group and I move forward with our project, I am amazed when I think about how far we have come.  In the beginning, I can recall how unsure and hesitant we were about our ideas and what we could do to affect real, positive social change, and now we have a focus and a clear vision.  We are attempting to create a student volunteer-based initiative centred on creating opportunities for people with and without mental illness to participate in meaningful community activities.  We were able to move beyond those feelings of being overwhelmed by the possibility of failure, or of not being able to do enough, and have embraced the process of social innovation.  By working together and sharing our ideas we have been able to create something that I could never have predicted coming into the institute.


During the Global MINDS Summer Institute in Machakos, Kenya, Team VisAbility (Mumbi Chege, Lindah Ngina, Tanya Benjamin, Brianna Jackson, and Jessica Carswell) met with members of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Kenya (USP Kenya), to discuss the project and its relevance to community needs. USP Kenya is continuing to help inform the development of the VisAbility Kenya initiative, and support with project sustainability. 


There is no doubt that what we are doing is hard, but I am a strong believer in the phrase, “nothing good comes easy”.  I am constantly challenged and sometimes overcome by feelings of doubt and uncertainty, but then I remind myself that what we are doing matters; if we do not try then we cannot succeed.  I stress the “we” because as I have said, this journey is so much bigger than me, we must collaborate and co-create in order to bring our ideas to fruition. 

When I think about all I have learned about what it takes to affect positive social change and make a significant impact in global health, I understand how integral the principles of the Global MINDS movement are to this.  The five principles are as follows: create a culture of innovation, foster cultural humility, participate authentically, be disruptive to be innovative, and build communities of practice.  I see how my group embodies these principles, and in turn, how these principles contribute to the success of our work.

As my group and I continue our work towards helping create inclusive communities, I would like to restate my commitment to the Global MINDS values and promise to uphold them both globally, and locally.  As I journey to become a global mind, it is important that I do not lose sight of the big picture, and that I continue to work together with my team on building a collective sense of purpose.  For anyone looking to get into this field, I can say that it is really easy to get caught up in the small stuff – keep moving forward, keep being disruptive, dare to be different.  The world in which we live and the challenges with which we are faced are complex, but we already have the answer – each other.  We do not necessarily need bigger and better, we just need to leverage each other’s strengths and challenge the status quo.  We must learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, to not be afraid to fail, for as I have learned, even in failure there is a great amount of success.


About Jessica Carswell:

Jessica is a 4th year undergraduate student completing her honours specialization in Psychology at Western University.  She also works full-time at the Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex, in the Community Wellness Programs department.  Throughout her academic and professional career, Jessica has developed a strong interest in mental health, wellness promotion, and community development.  She has focused her undergraduate research efforts on the various uses of mindfulness meditation techniques to enhance mental health and wellbeing.  While participating in the Global MINDS Summer Institute in Machakos, Kenya, Jessica and her team members worked together to create VisAbility Kenya, a volunteer-based initiative that will recruit university students from the community to help run meaningful activities for people, with and without mental illness, to participate in, and provide basic mental health and human rights education to the public.  Jessica will work with her team and community partners over the next year to implement and evaluate this project.


About the GMFP SnapShot Blog:

Through the SnapShot Blog, the Global MINDS Fellowship Program Fellows will share real-time, insightful and authentic reflections regarding their experiences with the program and their progress of implementing and evaluation their solutions. Each month, our Kenyan and Canadian Fellows will both contribute to the blog. You can learn more about the GMFP here