Sept. 14, 2020
Chris Woodley • email@example.com
Bachelor of Social Work senior Whitney Garland has always been interested in mental health. While the College of Social Work’s curriculum and field education is preparing her for a career in mental health, serving as co-host of a podcast allows her to discuss and share her passion with others.
Garland is currently co-host of the third season of the weekly Hear Me Out podcast. The podcast discusses the experiences of University of South Carolina students overcoming mental health challenges.
“The focus of the podcast is to show that people struggle with different areas of mental health,” Garland says. “There's not a textbook definition for a person struggling. You might see a successful person seeking help or not realizing someone you see every day is dealing with mental health issues. With each episode, we want to get out the message that it’s okay to seek help because everybody should have the opportunity to make themselves feel better and do something good for themselves.”
Garland’s interest in mental health came from her own personal struggles. But through her experiences and social work studies, she realized that advocating for others with similar issues was important to her because she had her own support system. This led her to support others struggling with mental health issues.
Garland had never listened to the Hear Me Out podcast before a friend who knew her interest in mental health told her there was an opening for a co-host. Once she started listening to past episodes, Garland enjoyed how the podcast highlighted stories of students struggling and overcoming mental health struggles.
“The episodes were not about things that keep us down, but what people have done to recover and showcase resiliency,” Garland says. “It’s demonstrating the strength of people and how much they can overcome. I've always loved podcasts in general and having this opportunity to talk about an issue I’m passionate about is exciting. And I'm thankful this opportunity fell into my lap.”
Garland was selected as one of the co-hosts after an interview process which included practice interviews with other employees of the UofSC Student Health Services. During the academic year, Garland and her co-host Timothy Simmons, a junior psychology major, will discuss mental health with diverse communities. Some of the upcoming episodes will include an interview with Reylan Cook, the student government secretary for inclusion and equity, and two nursing students who were essential workers and involved in mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also intend to speak with student and administrative leaders around campus. University President Robert Caslen and Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Hilinski were among the guests last year.
Garland’s work with mental health around campus includes serving as the mental health chair for her sorority, Delta Zeta. Former Delta Zeta president and alum Ansley Hagenburger, BSW ’20, wanted to implement mental health programs and the two social work students worked together to discuss relevant topics for their sorority.
“We wanted to encourage discussions for others to start the conversation and open up about mental health, so they knew there was somewhere to go for help,” Garland says. “Even though we can’t meet as a group this semester because of COVID-19, we are looking to do mental health check-ins with sisters, which is a type of buddy system to see if others need anything. We are also creating an online form so it can be filled out if someone is struggling, need resources, or just want to talk with someone.”
Garland plans to pursue a career in the mental health field, especially working with children and families. She is grateful that the Hear Me Out podcast and experiences at the College of Social Work have prepared her to help others struggling with mental health issues.
“The best thing for preparing to work with a diverse population is to learn from a variety of individuals and take in as much information and stories as possible to hear about the different ways people cope and help themselves,” Garland says. “Hearing these diverse stories through the podcast and having an opportunity to talk to them will open up doors and ways for me to look at a situation and see it from different perspectives.”
The first episode of the Hear Me Out podcast was released on Monday, August 31 and new episodes are posted each Tuesday. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Sound Cloud and Spotify.