By Elise Banks, M.S., LPC
The start of my platform Healthy Mind, Successful Life began when I was only 9 years old, although I did not know it at the time. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 3 years old. Therefore, all of my memories of her are of someone who did not even know I was her granddaughter. When my grandmother passed away, right before my 10th birthday, I was able to see the devastating effects of how a mental illness can take a toll on a person and their loved ones. This experience is what prompted me to be involved with the mental health field. I never wanted another family to go through what mine did during that time.
As a therapist, I have felt the tremendous honor of being invited into my patients’ lives in order to help them navigate through a time of crisis. Working with individuals who are thinking about suicide, addicted to drugs and alcohol, have severe psychosis, among other things, has challenged me in a variety of ways. Although it has also allowed me the opportunity to recognize that in many cases there were situations that could have been prevented if the proper tools and resources had been in place. I realized that I should be the one to do this, and with that thought, Healthy Mind, Successful Life was born.
With my platform, I have had the opportunity to speak to children, teens and adults about the importance of staying mentally healthy and breaking the stigma associated with mental illnesses. We live in a society where talking about mental health is sometimes considered a “taboo” topic. So my mission is to start the conversation. This allows people to feel more comfortable discussing questions they may have about their mental health and seeking professional help.
As Miss Texas International, I started working with NAMI as their ambassador to continue my efforts in breaking the stigma. I will continue to work with them on our joint effort to break the stigma associated with mental illness. Since NAMI has a national presence, I have the ability to visit other NAMI offices throughout the United States. I have been connecting with state directors and board members to focus on expanding the outreach of my platform. NAMI Texas has invited me to be a speaker at two of the conferences coming up this fall where several thousand mental health professionals will be in attendance. I am beyond thrilled about this opportunity. Although I will be there as Miss International, this is a huge step forward in my career too!
In my efforts to “start the conversation” about mental health, I will be going to schools to talk to students about mental illness and being comfortable asking for help. I will attempt to teach them positive coping skills that they can use in their daily lives. Hopefully these skills will be able to reduce the symptoms that they are experiencing and eliminate the need for professional help. However, since a lot of people need professional help, I will continue to provide people with the resources that are available for them. As Miss Texas International, I started visiting different facilities in order to meet with staff and know what is available for those who need professional services, which is something I will continue to do. Although I am a licensed therapist, there are still resources that I am not aware of. So this has been a wonderful learning experience for me too!
As Miss International 2015, I am thrilled to strengthen my connection with NAMI in our shared mission to bring a positive light to an important topic. To have an organization that matches what my personal platform stands for is an absolute blessing, and I am honored to be a part of work that will change lives.
Elise N. Banks, MS, LPC-Intern, is a graduate of Baylor University where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and the University of Houston, where she received her master’s degree in counseling. She is a licensed therapist who works with families and individuals in the Houston Texas area. She is also the reigning Miss International and her platform is Healthy Mind, Successful Life.
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