“How many others are there like me?”
For Katrina Cole this is the question that led to becoming a leading advocate for those with mental health issues in Loudoun County. It’s a normal Tuesday for Katrina, who has paused her day-to-day activities to help me understand the people behind Friends of Loudoun Mental Health. Since 1955 Friends has been run by passionate volunteers whose question “How many others are there like me?” started an empathetic campaign to advocate for those with mental health needs in Loudoun County. For Katrina, Friends is a passion of hers and very personal. Born and raised in Loudoun, Katrina has spent her life observing what happens when Mental Health issues go unaddressed.
“My mom had a bad upbringing and didn’t get help for the trauma that was done to her. We know now that she struggled with Depression, but back in the 60’s they just called it psychosis. Because of the lack of advocacy and help, she ended up self-medicating which took a toll on our whole family.”
Despite her mom’s health issues, Katrina says that she grew up in an environment that emphasized helping and accepting others which led her to being involved with camps for the mentally disabled throughout her life. This ethos stayed with her and inspired her in difficult moments, including her own bout with an abusive marriage, attempted suicide by her son, and personal struggles with depression.
Resilient, determined, and empathetic, Katrina recognized that she was not alone in her struggles with mental illness and became determined to do what she could to see a difference in the way mental health was talked about, educated on, and the services provided for those suffering.
Working on behalf of Loudoun County and volunteering with a nonprofit, Katrina has seen first-hand the important role of nonprofits in supporting and responding to needs in the community.
“Friends was started by a group of parents, local educators and doctors…it has always been about community members meeting the emotional needs of those in Loudoun and that makes us unique. We were the first to bring in a child psychologist to serve the community here and what we know is that this help and the community caring make a difference”.
Supporting these nonprofits who support the social fabric is vital to the well-being of the community. Katrina noted that supporting those now has a ripple effect. “What I’ve seen is the people we have helped early on, have been able to comfort and support others in the community…so the impact of just helping one person has a ripple effect on the community at large.”
Katrina is just one person behind the Causes we give to at The Junction. When you donate to the Junction, participate in one of our leadership events, or become a member, you are helping us empower the community. To learn more about Friends of Loudoun Mental Health, head to their website.