New York, NY August 3, 2021 — Mantra Health, a digital mental health clinic that partners with higher education institutions, today announced Merari Flores Saldana, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Clinical Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, as the recipient of the Mantra College Mental Health Provider Diversity Scholarship for the 2021 academic year. The $3,000 national scholarship was designed to serve Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander graduate and postdoctoral students pursuing a degree related to mental health and completing work in a university or college counseling center.
People of color in the U.S. are less likely to receive mental health care compared to their white counterparts. Due to the lack of diversity in the mental health industry, seeking the right provider-patient match can be challenging if a patient is interested in seeing a provider with a shared identity. Mantra Health’s diversity scholarship was created as a step toward closing the gap of racial inequities in the mental health field by encouraging more students with minoritized identities to enter mental health as a profession and add more diversity among the pool of providers.
Merari Flores Saldana used her winning essay to describe how her identity and experiences as a Latina woman and first-generation student has shaped who she is and why it motivated her to pursue a career in mental health. She wrote, “As a first-generation student and oldest daughter of four, I have taken the initiative on many challenges, including navigating university on my own.
My family came from a marginalized community in Mexico, people living there faced poverty, government corruption, and dysfunction within their own families. In Mexican culture, along with other Hispanic cultures, there is a negative stigma towards mental health.”
As a longtime Florida resident, Merari completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in Gainesville where she conducted research on how parenting styles and environmental factors can affect youth development. In addition to currently attending FSU, she is completing her summer internship at Capital Regional Medical Center, where she facilitates group therapy sessions for a university outpatient program. This program is unique because it services multiple institutions including a historically black university and helps bridge the gap of mental health services for these students. Although Merari was originally interested in working with youth, this internship has convinced Merari to make a professional shift towards working with college and university students.
“I really enjoy the intellectual conversations and ability to go deeper into topics like identity with this age group,” said Saldana. “My goal as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker would be to enhance [university] students’ self-determination by giving them the tools to promote their own healing. I would keep empathy at the core of my work by listening non-judgmentally, being compassionate, and recognizing the intersectionalities of others and embracing diversity. I’m passionate about serving other people of color and I want to show representation. I would love students to see someone who reflects them, shares similar cultural experiences, and demonstrate that people of color are capable of pursuing higher education.”
Merari is entering her second year at FSU in August and will graduate with a Master of Social Work in Spring 2022.
“Mantra is thrilled to help support Merari on her path to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker so she can continue to help university students improve their mental health,” said Ed Gaussen, CEO and co-founder, Mantra Health. “Her scholarship application stood out because like Mantra she believes everyone deserves quality mental health care and to be able to identify with the professionals they seek help from. It’s evident that Merari’s personal experiences have made her an ambitious, resilient and compassionate person and we’re confident she will have a very successful career. We thank her for sharing her story and hope it helps to inspire others.”
To learn more about the importance of developing culturally sensitive care experiences for historically-marginalized student communities at colleges and universities, check out Mantra Health’s webinar.
About Mantra Health
Mantra Health is a digital mental health clinic on a mission to improve access to evidence-based mental healthcare for young adults. Through augmenting high-quality clinical services with software and design, we’re on a mission to improve the mental health of over 20 million university and college students through partnerships with higher education institutions and health insurance plans. Learn more about Mantra Health at MantraHealth.com.
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