I will continue!

CEGEP students in Quebec are youth in a relay station between the secondary school system and university. The so-called ‘nerds’ among them (as I once was) experience heightened pressure as they compete for top professional programs. This can be really stressful.  

Dawson College, Quebec’s first English-language CEGEP, offers weekly science seminars to its Enriched Health Sciences and Enriched Pure and Applied Sciences students. The purpose of these seminars is to acquaint the students with a scientific research topic, a career path, and the academic journey of the presenter. My daughter, who (un)fortunately carries my nerdy genes, is a student representative of the Enriched Health Sciences program. Alongside the Program Coordinator, she recruited me to volunteer a seminar. 

In my one-hour presentation, I endeavored to take the students on a journey through mental health, mental illness, psychosis, early intervention in psychosis and treatment with antipsychotics. I shared insights from a specific study on an antipsychotic medication, emphasizing that research is not about proving our hypotheses, but rather, testing them. I also tried to debunk some myths about mental illness and its treatments. Most importantly, I sought to underscore the gaps in clinical psychiatry research and how we need the young generation to help fill them in. I also talked about my journey of how I got to be where I am today, and how that journey was far from linear. I cracked a few jokes, which, thankfully, the students found funny – phew! I concluded by genuinely asking the students whether they think this research is useful. The greatest success was receiving their evaluations and email communications, which testified to how relatable and inspiring they found my talk on mental health and illness. Even more rewarding was their seeking guidance on how to join this important line of work! 

This interaction was not only the most gratifying but also highly encouraging. Since the budding age of 11, I have been haunted by the existential question, “why am I here?”. Perhaps, it’s to do with what I am doing now. Therefore, I have decided to CONTINUE, and more importantly, to pass the torch to the great next generation. 

By: Sally Mustafa, PhD

Research Associate, Douglas Mental Health University Institute