Amanda Hopcroft

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
University of Pittsburgh-Oakland
Heinz Programming Area: 
Children, youth, and Families
Study Abroad Country: 
International Experience

Amanda Hopcroft spent five weeks at the Primary Health Care Institute in Iringa, Tanzania taking courses in the Culture and Society in East Africa, the Health issues of East Africa, and Swahili Language and Cultural Immersion. During her time out of the classroom, Amanda was able to visit local schools at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Through these visits and her coursework, Amanda was able to examine the relationship between women and education and observe the difficulty Tanzanian women face in obtaining quality education at all levels. Amanda also made many visits to local clinics and hospitals to observe available healthcare in the country. Amanda observed HIV/AIDS care, mental health care, maternal and neonatal care, immunizations, and family planning. At one clinic, Amanda was able to witness firsthand a women receive an etonogestrel implant. She took special interest in mental health care in Tanzania and was able to see a mental health ward with patients suffering from psychoses and schizophrenia. One weekend of her trip was spent at Foxes’ NGO in Mufindi, Tanzania where she volunteered at the children’s village and went on home-based care visits. At the children’s village, Amanda was able to learn Swahili and proper caregiving from the Mamas as she assisted with babies’ dinnertime, baths, teeth brushing, laundry, and bedtime. During home-based care, Amanda visited families afflicted with HIV/AIDS and discussed with them their lives and struggles. Amanda felt fully immersed in Tanzanian culture as she lived with local students and spent much of her free time in the marketplace practicing Swahili and bargaining. Amanda learned to cook traditional meals, including chapati and pilau, and also how to make beaded jewelry with the help of local women. One day, Amanda was able to attend a Catholic Church service to facilitate her understanding of Tanzania’s extensive religiosity. After this service, Amanda was able to walk in a Eucharistic procession throughout town with thousands of individuals celebrating and observing the event. She was able to spend her last weekend abroad in Zanzibar during Ramadan, where she experienced a very different culture, people, and religion from the mainland.

Community Engagement Experience
CEE Title: 
Unveiled: Opening Up the Conversation About Mental Illness

Our international experiences and observations of global mental health attention, as well as our understanding of our local community’s mental health climate inspired our CEE. The goal was to bring awareness to the importance of positive mental health and break down some of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. The event began with a screening of a Ted Talk titled, “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” that discusses the stigma surrounding mental illness and the necessity to break down that stigma. After the Ted Talk, we had actors perform skits that we created to display the importance of recognizing signs of distress in friends and reaching out for help personally. The skits were performed first in a way that is often seen in the community and then attendees were asked how the situations could be done differently. The skits were performed a second time with a different result to demonstrate how subtle changes can make a great difference in how mental health is addressed in the community. After, a guest speaker from the University of Pittsburgh Counseling Center shared her experiences as a mental health professional working in college environments as well as international contexts. She taught everyone what mental health resources are available, how to address signs of mental illness, and how cultural and international differences impact mental illness and stigma. Our event concluded with roundtable discussions to allow everyone to process the information from the event and share any thoughts and feelings they had. While conversations were taking place, everyone was able to learn coping mechanisms and relax with stress-free activities, including coloring and stress ball making. We were able to shed light into the darkness and stigma of mental illness to a group of approximately 60 individuals from the Pittsburgh community. Hopefully each of these individuals goes on to open up additional, similar conversations in their communities with friends and family so that these conversations overwhelm the local community and the mental health climate of the world eventually changes.

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