Student Spotlight: Mae L'Heureux, Master of Public Health Program
Mae L’Heureux is a student in the Master of Public Health program, Membership Co-Chair of the APHA-SA, and Member of the Graduate Programs in Public Health Advisory Committee here at UNE Online. Recently we had a chat about her experience in the program, how she likes the online format, and how getting her Master of Public Health is enhancing her professional career in youth mental health management.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, and what encouraged you to pursue your Master’s in Public Health?
I discovered my interest in public health in a somewhat roundabout way. I began working in the mental health field after experiencing my own mental health challenges in college. Once I graduated, I decided to take a service year in order to develop my skills and get experience in the mental health field through hands-on service.
My year-long service position was with NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, in their Nebraska chapter. I worked there for the entire year of my service program and was responsible for answering the Helpline.
When my year of service was over, I took an internship in Florida with the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. I spent fifteen weeks on the Eastern Coast of Florida and served as an intern with TWLOHA’s administration team. It was a great continuation of the work I performed in Nebraska. At the end of the internship in 2015, I came back to Maine and took a job doing social work case management for about a year and a half. I thought I wanted to go into clinical social work after my experiences on the macro-level in Nebraska and Florida.
Although being a case manager was an amazing learning experience, I quickly realized that clinical social work wasn’t for me. I found that I had much more interest, and passion, in working on the macro level. I hadn’t really heard of public health at that point, but a friend had said that they thought that I would be a good fit for that field.
After doing a lot of research, I came to the understanding that public health was exactly what I was looking for!
I find that as a public health student, I’m able to look at problems from a more broad lens. Some questions I am interested in exploring are:
- Why is the suicide rate increasing rapidly and what public health interventions can be designed to lower it?
- Why are certain populations more at risk?
- What prevents people from seeking help for their mental health and how can the public health field collaborate with stakeholders to increase help-seeking behavior?
Being in the UNE MPH program has greatly enhanced my skill-set and I am excited to use what I have learned to make a difference in the mental health field.
What type of public health and mental health work do you do?
I work at NAMI Maine – the Maine chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. We are the state’s and the nation’s largest grassroots support, education and advocacy organization committed to the issue of mental illness and suicide. In Maine, one in five people is affected by a mental health condition and we lose a Mainer to suicide every 1.5 days. These statistics are obviously heartbreaking, and also very alarming.
The work that we do every day is to try and connect people to assistance and decrease stigma. We help people come to the realization that they’re not alone, that hope is available, reaching recovery is possible, and that having a full life is something that can be achieved with the proper help.
Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health, and at NAMI Maine we work to help people get connected to the right resources so they can find wellness.
Right now, my position at NAMI Maine is Policy and Quality Assurance Manager. I work with our Executive Director to move forward legislation that is designed to improve the lives of people with mental health challenges. Once I graduate from UNE with my MPH, I’ll be transitioning to the Youth Mental Health Program Manager role. Youth suicide prevention is my true passion, and in that role I’ll be managing all of our youth mental health programs. I’ll also be working with my supervisor and our Executive Director to develop the programs further and make them more robust.
How did you decide on UNE?
I grew up in Maine, and I’m into supporting all-things Maine, so when I discovered UNE had an online MPH program, I was very excited! I was looking for an online master’s program because I didn’t want to sacrifice working at a place that I was really passionate about in order to go to school.
The online master’s option allowed me to continue doing work that I love while also furthering my education. I also loved the fact that UNE does not require the GRE!
What would you want a potential student to know before starting this program?
Stay on top of when things are due, and manage your time really well. All of the classes are eight weeks long, and they go by very quickly. You have to make sure that you schedule yourself enough time to do your assignments and get them done on time.
Also, have an open mind. Be open to the feedback of your instructors and your peers in order to get the most out of the program.
Did you feel as though you were in a community while getting your MPH?
I did! All of my instructors have been really supportive, and I feel like I’ve made solid bonds with some of my peers. I got my undergraduate degree at a really small school where I felt very connected to the community. I will say that I was a little nervous about potentially feeling disconnected because of the online aspect, but honestly, it hasn’t been that big of a difference.
The friends you make are almost never even in the same state as you are, but we’re all supporting each other and rooting for each other just the same. Right now, I’m in the thesis class and everybody is super encouraging – we’re all excited to learn about each other’s projects and give feedback.
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