Phoenix Rising Behavioral 2018 Scholarship Winner

Scholarship WinnerCongratulations to our 2018 Scholarship Winner, Dhanielle Bartolome. She is attending the University of Arizona in Fall of 2018 and is majoring in physiology. Dhanielle plans to pursue a medical degree and is also considering picking up a second major in Microcellular Biology. Dhanielle is scheduled to graduate in Spring 2022. Phoenix Rising Behavioral wishes Dhanielle all the best in her academic pursuits. Here is Dhanielle’s winning essay that was submitted.

Chosen Essay Topic: 

  1. What do you think would help decrease substance abuse in campus dorms and student housing. Create a plan within your essay that outlines your ideas.

Substance and drug abuse is becoming increasingly more common, but only a minute percentage of the individuals who suffer from this actually seek help or recovery. As unfortunate as it was, I experienced first-hand what substance and drug abuse could do to the ones you love. I fell in love with my best friend, whom I shared the highest academic classes and fine arts classes with, and we were able to excel and succeed together. However, his “people pleasing” trait was his own downfall, because he was caught up in a cycle of drug use and parties, and somehow managed to lie to me and his family about it for years. It was extremely difficult for me to see both of our lives falling apart in front of us, as we sat together on his bathroom floor at three in the morning, wondering if there was ever an end to it. I am a survivor of depression. I never thought I would actually say that before. I never thought I would even make it to my senior graduation, but here I am, happier than I had ever imagined. Considerably, through the years I was able to develop a more open mind and new perspective towards individuals suffering from mental illness and substance/drug abuse. I now realize how these individuals do not receive the proper care or attention that they need.

The misunderstood reality of drug and substance abuse is that these individuals with this problem are seeking the “feel-good” sensation or the creation of the altered reality that they experience with the use of these substances or drugs. People often see drug or substance abusers as bad people, and I believe that is inherently wrong. As an individual recovering from depression, I also understand the situation of these “abusers” because I never wanted to die, I just wanted to take my pain away, or end the life as I knew it, with the idea of a better one in mine. I also believe that this negative connotation and reputation that individuals suffering from substance and drug abuse are a significant factor in why they choose not to seek help. Another important thing to consider is that these problems should not be treated with punishment, which is also another reason why these individuals keep to themselves as opposed to taking steps towards recovery.

It is also certainly true that drug rehabilitation and substance abuse centers are not receiving an adequate amount of funding, and are thus, insufficient in guiding these individuals back to recovery. Taking this into consideration, these individuals might develop the idea that there is ultimately no escape from their problems, or that they are in too deep to ever be pulled out. This makes total sense to me, because why would you seek help from something that you know will not help you? I fear that these individuals believe that they would be dehumanized through these centers or that they will be punished for their problems as opposed to being given proper care and comfort, as they deserve. People do not understand that substance and drug abusers do not actually have bad intentions and are not bad people, they just got caught up in the wrong place and feel that they are alone in their struggles. It is likely true that these individuals feel utterly insignificant, and they could never be more wrong.

Considering the aforementioned thoughts, I seek to take certain steps into combating substance abuse and addiction. My initial step would be to spread awareness about the actual issue, in order to deconstruct the negative connotations surrounded around these individuals. If these people feel the need to hide away from the public eye because they are afraid that they would be criticized or belittled due to the problems that they are facing, they are less likely to seek help. To begin with, I hope to get together with a few of my peers that share the same beliefs, such as my one old friend that went through drug rehab and is dissatisfied with the care that she was given at the center. With this group I plan to begin a program where we are able to speak to smaller to larger audiences about the realities of substance and drug abuse. On a greater scale, I also wish there to be a class that students take in their freshman or sophomore years that surround the topic, so that they know how to  care for individuals suffering, which might even be their friends or family members. It angers me whenever some public figure takes their life, and people consistently share the suicide hotline, because these depressed individuals are aware that the hotline exists, they just do not want to seek help from a stranger about their issues. If they are taken care of by the people they love and care about, their problems are less likely to escalate to the extremes, and this will accomodate for the loneliness that they believe they are plagued with.

With that, I also plan to create a certain program where individuals can anonymously share the problems they are facing with one another so that they can have mutual support for each other, as well as from the people running the program. This can also extend to a support group (although these actually exist) where individuals can feel safe from judgement and legal issues regarding their situations, as they would be surrounded by others who have been facing the same or similar problems. An on-campus and off-campus support group could be offered based on the comfort level that each student has with sharing their situations. This would hopefully result in a group effort for them all to find recovery and establish meaningful connections with people that actually understand what they are going through.

Lastly, on a larger scale I also wish to find a way to increase funding for rehabilitation centers, so that individuals will be receiving proper care and treatment. My initial step could be starting fundraisers for local centers and working my way up from there. I could also reach out to large organizations or companies that aim to better the community, and develop a partnership with them to spread awareness and raise money. This could potentially turn into a large local movement for change to more open-mindedness in the community, and hopefully spread to the world.

To put it briefly, I strongly believe that individuals struggling with substance and drug abuse or addiction are not receiving proper care or attention from care center and from the world as a whole. With that, I aim to reconstruct their reputation, so that they can be seen for good people that they truly are, and a reform of the care centers as a whole, so that they will no longer feel hesitant to seek help. Drug and substance abuse are serious issues, and they need to be taken seriously, not shoved aside under all other matters. All in all, I wish to give individuals a place to feel safe and receive the comfort and help that they deserve, because I was never given that option.

To be considered for the 2019 Phoenix Rising Behavioral Scholarship, learn more and apply now.

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