(Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment in a new series that takes a look at how recent graduates’ (class of 2020) lives were turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Mental health is a key component to one’s life.
The way one deals with emotions, psychological and social well-being, can completely change the way one acts towards another person.
During times like these, where there is so much uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become even more important.
Yet, despite a renewed focus on getting help to those who need it, a stigma still surrounds those who do. That hasn’t stopped recent Gunnison High School graduate Natalie Brauch from wanting to one day become a clinical psychiatrist.
“I've met a lot of people and been friends with a lot of people who spent a lot of their lives struggling mentally,” said Brauch. “It's starting to fade now but there's a large stigma around psychiatry, when really it's like going to the doctor for your head. I've met people who didn't even realize that was an option.”
The passion and desire Brauch has for helping people was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However like many, Brauch has taken this time to focus her attention on being there for her friends.
“It made me focus more on my friends because I no longer had as much exposure to strangers. I've just been trying to stick by my friends and when they have problems,” said Brauch. “It's made it a little bit more difficult to help people, but I've still been trying.”
Brauch will be attending Colorado State University in the fall — taking classes partially online and on campus — while she is undecided at the moment, she is leaning towards majoring in biology and health science.
The curriculum will put her on the right path of becoming a clinical psychiatrist, and set her up to pursue another passion of hers — fantasy science fiction writing.
“My ultimate goal would be to become a fantasy science fiction author, which having a degree in biology would help with writing more accurately,” said Brauch. “I've always been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and he did some pretty cool stuff with his stories in his field of linguistics, and so I thought it would be interesting to do biologically accurate science fiction to the extent it's possible.”
Brauch discovered the passion to write in second grade, when she decided to write her first book, which was 10 pages in a notebook.
“I was really proud of it at the time,” said Brauch.
That passion continued to grow over the years, and resulted in Brauch writing every night at one point.
“For a while I was writing more than a 1,000 words a night,” said Brauch. “But now I tend to just write when inspiration hits me … which is still pretty often.”
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brauch has written 12 short stories, in addition to longer form and incomplete work. On top of helping people and improving her writing skills during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brauch has also started to learn how to cook new dishes, and started playing the piano again, skills she will take with her this fall.
(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)