Alexandra Lamas is a mental health advocate committed to building a community for people to find their voice and share safely through her organization, Faces Behind Illness. She’s currently a UCLA Pre-Medical student and Wellness Coordinator, and a graduate of UCSD! We had the opportunity to speak with her about her experiences. Check out her profile to learn more about Alexandra and the work she is doing to eliminate the stigma on mental health!
Q: You majored in psychology and global health at UCSD and are currently pursuing a Pre-medical certificate from UCLA! Can you share about your college experiences and any advice for undergraduates interested in applying to grad school?
Alexandra: “Some of my favorite memories come from my time as a member of Psy Chi, the international honors society of psychology club at UCSD, and in particular, a time when we all went to a mental health convention. At this event, I was really able to immerse myself in this coming together of great people involved in the field, learn new information and also feel inspired by the speakers. For undergrads applying to grad school, I’d say to make sure that they are confident in what they’ve chosen to pursue in life, before committing themselves to more education. Grad school is of course very specific to whatever the chosen field of study is, so it’s important to make sure what you are studying is related to what you’re passionate about. In the end, going to grad school is a big decision, but to be considering that path in itself is a huge achievement, and one that should be celebrated!”
Q: You’re a mental health advocate and the creator of Faces Behind Illness! What was your inspiration behind creating this organization, and why are you passionate about mental health?
Alexandra: “When creating Faces Behind Illness, I had one thing in mind and that was this idea around stigma and mental illness. It’s always been such a phenomenon to me that our mental struggles are often ignored because of their invisibility while physical illness is paid attention to because it’s so apparent. I wanted to build a community where people suffering could find their voice and share it safely and comfortably, so that others would see that mental illness is not taboo, scary, or rare. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 of us, it’s completely real, common, and absolutely worthy of being recognized. Faces Behind Illness exists to accomplish the hard fight in eliminating stigma and supporting those that deserve to put a face behind their illness because there is a story behind each label and it deserves to be heard.
Human behavior has always been such a curiosity growing up! I asked too many questions as a kid, my poor dad, haha. I remember in High School I wanted to take an AP class and my only options were Computer Science and Psychology. I was terrified of both, but heard the Computer Science professor wasn’t as strict, so I went with it. I ended up dropping the class after the first day and then switched to Psychology. That was the best decision I could have ever made. I walked into a discussion about dreams and was blown away that people study dreams and that was it. I was sold! It was one of those lightbulb moments where you didn’t know something you loved even existed until it was right in front of you. As far as what keeps me inspired I would have to give credit to my grandma. She passed away in March from Breast Cancer, but she lived and breathed positivity until the end. We would always have hour long conversations about my love for psychology and when I lived in SD and attended UCSD I got to see her every day. My family has had some history of mental illness and my grandma and I spoke transparently about it. She always stayed hopeful of the change and transformation Psychiatry could make for the future of mental health. She reminded me everyday to stick with this goal of mine. I often remind myself that I wished there was someone that could’ve helped those in my family, and even myself as a young child, and I truly believe that’s what keeps me dedicated to this forever. I want to be that person.”
Q: You also model during your spare time! What is your perspective about mental health in the fashion and modeling world? Do you have any advice on how people can take care of their mental health and practice mindfulness in this industry specifically?
Alexandra: “Modeling has been one of my favorite hobbies, it’s really fun to meet new people and collaborate on creative projects. However, one of the greatest problems facing the fashion and modeling world is body shaming, and the impossible expectations being set for women. Through my own modeling work, I hope to help bring attention to this issue. My biggest advice is to learn to accept who we are as beautiful, and the expectations set by others do not have to take away from how we see ourselves, and instead of focusing on the negativity, learn to praise and appreciate your own beauty without depending on the praise coming from someone else.”
Q: What has been your proudest accomplishment?
Alexandra: “I would have to say my proudest accomplishment has been graduating from UCSD, having pursued my passion and even through all the hurdles along the way, I was able to push through and for the first time in my life realize that anything we want is possible, so long as we invest in ourselves, take responsibility, and go towards our passions.”
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self? And where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
Alexandra: “Well, first off, I wouldn’t be able to stop talking! But if I had to pick one thing, I would say to just breathe. To let go of the little things and enjoy what matters, don’t worry about the $10 you’ll spend on getting ice cream, don’t worry about the time, enjoy the moment and do what makes you happy, because years from now the little things we worry about won’t matter. In 10 years, I hope to be doing what I love, to be continuing to have a growth mindset, pursuing what makes me happy, and making the most out of every day.”
Photography by MAUBY Official
Story by Renée Lee