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Chavis Scholar Kristen Stefureac: Helping families living with mental illness

Kristen Stefureac, a first year full-time MSW student, was awarded the 2011 Brett Chavis Memorial Scholarship.  This scholarship was established by the generous friends and family of Brett Chavis, and is awarded to a student interested in direct practice with individuals with mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.

Stefureac grew up in Wilmington, N.C. and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011 with a B.A. in Psychology. As an undergraduate student, Stefureac was actively involved with mental health awareness and advocacy both on campus and in the greater community. She founded a chapter of Active Minds, a national mental health advocacy group, and has been an active member of the Triangle Consortium for Suicide Prevention. Stefureac also volunteers at a children’s bereavement camp where she works with children who have lost a parent, sibling or other loved one.

“I am so grateful to be receiving this scholarship in Brett’s memory,” said Stefureac. “Individuals with mental illness are so often stigmatized, and I want to help change the way that our society views these individuals.”

After graduation, Stefureac hopes to work with families living with severe and persistent mental illness, as well as families grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide.

“It’s important to look at how the mental illness impacts the whole family, not just the individual with the diagnosis,” she said. “In particular, I’m interested in how children are impacted by parental mental illness, and hope to help this particularly vulnerable population.”

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