I come from a historical village in Transylvania, nestled between beautiful mountains that have the power to make you feel one with nature. My village was small, and there was a fantastic tight knit community. Growing up, one of my favourite memories was around Christmas time when the village would be covered in a blanket of snow, and we’d go outside and play.
I've always had a tremendous connection to those who have suffered, and I've been encouraged by their drive to change their situation. My parents divorced when I was very young, and I know what it’s like to be in a distressing situation and need support. I think it’s important to learn the lessons of the past to be able to look forward.
I’d always dreamed of going to the UK to study, and I decided to apply to the University of East London through clearing into the Clinical and Community Psychology degree programme. During my time in university, my colleagues and professors became a massive source of inspiration. I knew that I didn’t want to limit myself to research, but I wanted to get actively involved in translating evidence-based solutions to low and middle-income settings, and in particular to humanitarian contexts.
When the war in Eastern Europe unfolded, I empathised and felt connected to the people affected by this crisis. I wanted to know how I could get involved and what I could do to help. Inspired by other projects in the field of global mental health, I co-founded the Global Mental Health Humanitarian Coalition with a daring ambition to balance the power dynamics in crises, empower affected communities, especially vulnerable groups, to have a say in emergency responses, influence policymaking, practice, research, and improve the overall mental health outcomes. It translated into wide-open panel discussions, bringing together different voices such as leading academic figures, researchers, donors, policymakers, clinicians, as well as people with lived experiences, including volunteers, journalists, and frontline service providers to fully understand what the best course of action should be. These valuable learnings converted into evidence-based pieces and served as basis for other projects, including shaping active interventions with vulnerable communities in adverse settings.
Mental health is something that has always been underfunded but is now gaining much more recognition. I learned that there is a significant treatment gap between people who needed the services compared to those who accessed the service, which may be exacerbated by crisis contexts. To approach this treatment gap, one needs to look at the broader context and work harmoniously with the community with the goal of empowering that community to find the solutions within themselves. Equally, I think there is a significant stigma around mental health in many parts of the world, and especially in Eastern Europe. The way to tackle this stigma is by raising awareness of this problem, and that with adequate public health support packages you can improve the mental health and well-being of not just an individual but for the whole society.
If I could give a piece of advice to anyone, it would be to love yourself, be inspired, and find people from different fields that you have an interest in and learn from them. There will never be one person who will hold all the knowledge, so you need to ensure you hear from different voices to truly learn. Allow yourself to become inspired, and in that inspiration lies your passion and purpose in life.