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Mental Health

Candid Conversations: Drew Ferebee on Mental Health

In the face of adversity, one can either grow or fold from their challenges. Drew Ferebee, 21, was determined to not only build herself up but help others on her journey to discovering her purpose. Mental health is a priority among the many things she intends to address. Although she is starting in Norfolk, Virginia, her vision is projected to reach the masses. Ferebee wants everyone to know it is OK to not be 100 percent stable, but one has to be accepting of their conditions and seek help.

Ferebee is a human service major, studying to be a life coach and licensed marriage and family therapist. Throughout her college career, she noticed people struggling with mental health issues due to the associated stigmas and lack of dialogue around this topic. Moreover, she realized she was also carrying traumas from her childhood into adulthood. 

From experiencing her mother in abusive relationships and enduring abuse as a child physically and verbally, Ferebee felt obligated to be strong. Not only did she have to be strong for herself, but for her family and peers, also. 

“I remember saying one day, ‘I feel empty. I can’t feel anything.’ Mind you while I’m still sad, I’m doing everything I can for other people,” Ferebee explained. “It’s not because I’m depressed it has to be something else.”

After being reluctant to admit that something serious is going on, she said to herself, “This is bigger than you, Drew. You need some help. You don’t have to figure this out on your own.” 

Ferebee realized that when someone is always strong for themselves, they often don’t have anyone else to confide in. Self-dependency leads to internalizing one issue after another, and in many cases without an outlet for self-expression.

While doing research, Ferebee came across the statistic that 18.5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from mental illness per year.

“That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” she said. “The reason why that number is so small is because no one is really coming out and saying, ‘I’m dealing with this.’ They’re suffering in silence.”

Negative attitudes and beliefs prevent people from seeking help and learning more about mental illnesses for better understanding. Ferebee explained mental health is overlooked because “no one wants to be labeled as crazy.”

Being a young professional in the counseling field, Ferebee faces opposing views due to her age and religion. “It’s still a battle, honestly,” she expressed. Hearing that a characteristic affects someone’s confidence in her abilities leads her to doubt herself at times — let alone not having control over those attributes. Some believe she does not have enough experience because she is younger than the average therapist.

“Everyone goes through stuff whether they choose to realize it or not, but everybody doesn’t choose to deal with it,” she said. “I have been through a lot of stuff in these 21 years that I’ve actually dealt with, that I didn’t ignore. I had to go back to some places that I didn’t want to go to, but it was necessary.” 

Due to a lack of expression and feeling as if her voice couldn’t be heard, Ferebee refuses to be silent. “I had to dig deep and see that I had a voice. When I saw it was a pretty good voice, it was like I couldn’t be quiet anymore,” Ferebee stated. “So many people have silenced me my entire life. I know who I am now, and I have to tell everybody.”

Through helping others and utilizing her voice Drew has since spoken at events for women empowerment, youth initiatives, and a local detention center in the Hampton Roads area. She uses the phrase, “walking in your purpose” as a choice to help others find their voice and fulfill their goals in life.

Experiencing self-doubt has motivated Ferebee to overcome her insecurities in the hopes that she can encourage someone else to do so. She decided to share her story by writing a book titled, “Living Out Loud.” 

“I just started writing. I didn’t know what I was going to write about, but I knew I needed to say something,” she explained. “Somebody needs to hear something that I have to say.”

In her book, Ferebee touches on how people can be their best self without considering the views of others. She explained that to live out loud means be authentic, resilient, and even broken. Everyone has their flaws, and through her work she hopes her audience can find the beauty in what makes them imperfect.

“When it comes to life, change what you can. The things you can’t change, just change your attitude,” Ferebee stated.

When asked what she wants to be remembered for, Ferebee said she wants to be known as the world’s biggest mental health advocate. She hopes society can get to the point where everyone is concerned about one another’s well being, not out of obligation but because it matters. 

 

All photos provided by Drew Ferebee

Sierra Jenkins is currently a student at Georgia State University studying journalism and African American studies. Jenkins aspires to enlighten and inform others through her writing. She believes it is important to have conversations and create dialogue around topics that aren't always discussed publicly. Jenkins strives to break societal barriers through her use of words and set an example for other women from all walks of life.
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