Mission to End Mental Health Misconceptions Takes Senior To Florida Capitol

Katelyn Yarbrough (left) and UCF student Kadambari Vyas at the Florida State Capitol.

Senior Katelyn Yarbrough of the UCF Department of Psychology has a mission to end the harmful misconceptions surrounding mental health diagnoses.

That mission got a boost recently when she was invited to the Florida Capitol to present her research on anxiety, depression, eating disorders, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“I’m looking to create dialogue about the many misconceptions that are attached to the phrase ‘mental illness’,” said Yarbrough. “I want people to understand that mental illnesses do not diminish a person. Rather, we should celebrate these people for having brains that work a bit differently than the average.”

In 2022, over 22% of college students reported they suffer from symptoms of mental illness according to a nationwide survey done by the United States Department of Health. These illnesses are a direct focus of Yarbrough’s research.

To better understand perceptions of illnesses such as depression, data collected on the campus of UCF gave Yarbrough the chance to see just how misconstrued the conceptions surrounding mental illness are.

Over the course of several weeks, Yarbrough surveyed students of all different ages, majors and backgrounds on their understanding of different mental health diagnoses. Analyzing the results was shocking, Yarbrough said.

“You’d be surprised how many people hook on to the stereotypes of illnesses like depression or anxiety,” said Yarbrough. “It’s unfortunate because it perpetuates misinformation.”

Yarbrough presented her research to Florida legislatures alongside three other UCF students chosen for the opportunity.  Not only did the representative students have a chance to present their research, but to speak and participate directly in Florida politics.

“A lot of important people were listening to my research, hearing me speak,” said Yarbrough. “I think this is only the beginning to some very important conversations that need to be had.”

In fact, this was only the beginning for Yarbrough, who will continue presenting her research as she pursues her thesis in clinical psychology.

“We need to learn to be more tolerant towards those that think differently,” said Yarbrough. “I want the research I conduct to help people that are not neurotypical feel less alone.”



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