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Future psychiatrist hopes to destigmatize mental illness

Sean Crites out for a stroll.
Sean Crites out for a stroll.

As a boy, Sean Crites loved running in the woods, playing with his golden retriever and curling up with a book at home in Buckhannon, West Virginia.

"My parents work at West Virginia Wesleyan College," he said, "and my mother is an active member of First United Methodist Church.

"I enjoyed school and was involved with soccer, baseball, theater, band and choir. I have always loved to sing," Sean added, "and I found out at an early age that I also loved to perform, whether it was on stage in a production, at church or service, or by myself."

Sean considers himself fortunate for growing up in a stable home with loving parents. He admitted that it was difficult to see the poverty in Buckhannon, a town of about 5,000. "I had friends who had to work at a young age to support their siblings," he said, "and many people were affected by addiction."

Sean Crites singing at a school choir concert. Courtesy photo.

However, seeing the effects of poverty opened Sean's eyes and heart. "My United Methodist upbringing instilled in me always to be grateful and to help others," he said. "Most importantly, the church taught me to be accepting and to love everyone I meet. This prominent empathy has helped me improve my communication skills as well as meet many wonderful people."

Receiving a United Methodist Student Day Gift of Hope Scholarship reduced the financial burden for Sean and his parents and enabled him to be more active at Princeton University in New Jersey. "Because of the scholarship," he noted, "I was able to join a few music groups on campus and be involved with several health-related service organizations, instead of spending most of my time working. I still have a campus job, but it is less time-consuming than it could have been."

Your gifts on United Methodist Student Day, enables The United Methodist Church to supports the Gift of Hope Scholarship so that students can prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge.

Sean compared Student Day support to the "Pay It Forward" movement. "A small donation or a little bit of kindness can go a long way," he said. "One reason I am able to go to Princeton today – to learn, grow and meet so many wonderful people – is that I was supported by my United Methodist family."

Meeting peers from diverse cultures, faiths and socioeconomic backgrounds, Sean said, is teaching him "to set aside difference and talk to people civilly about the most important matters in today's society." He also appreciates opportunities to gain clinical experience through working in research labs, volunteering at a hospital or conversing on a helpline.

"One of the key factors in my interest in medicine and psychiatry," Sean said, "is that I want to help others as a child of God. I want to alleviate people's suffering. I am particularly interested in psychiatry because of the stigma shrouding mental illness and its prevalence in society. I want to use my faith to remind others that they are loved and that they are not alone. I want to spread God's love."

Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, retired from UMCom

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Student Day calls the church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. The special offering provides scholarships for qualified United Methodist applicants. 

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