As a student in the University of Northern Colorado's Rehabilitation Counseling M.A. program, Allie Tate has conducted extensive research on the stigma surrounding mental health
“It's important to start out by saying stigma is a huge concept. It's an abstract
idea that's sometimes hard to grasp. Societal barriers, prejudices and discrimination
exist when it comes to individuals with disabilities. We're shining a light on those
invisible barriers so we can move toward creating equitable access for everybody,”
She explained stigma impacts classrooms, workplaces and health care settings, among
Tate grew up and still lives in rural Missouri, where there are few resources for
individuals with disabilities. To learn how she could help improve access to resources
in communities like hers, she sought an accredited graduate program. UNC’s trauma-informed
care approach appealed to her, as did the ability to study remotely. Previously, she
earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from William Woods University.
In addition to her role as a graduate student, Tate works as a violence prevention
specialist at a domestic violence shelter. Within her community, she provides abuse
and sexual assault prevention education and spreads awareness about the facility’s
resources. Her studies have provided her with both a theoretical grounding in evidence-based
research along with practical skills for being an empathetic clinician.
“The UNC program taught me what trauma-informed care looks like. I've been able to
apply what I've learned not only in the classroom, but also outside,” Tate said.
For example, she has raised awareness about individuals with disabilities being at
high risk for sexual assault. Her UNC professors have helped her learn how to approach
"Societal barriers, prejudices and discrimination exist when it comes to individuals
with disabilities. We're shining a light on those invisible barriers so we can move
toward creating equitable access for everybody."
— Allie Tate
Because nearly everyone will experience disability, whether it's chronic illness,
depression, anxiety, etc., Tate believes her research on disability-related stigma
is relevant to the average person. Its relevance to colleges and universities is indicated
by growing concerns over the last decade regarding teen and young adult mental health.
According to the American College Health Association’s 2021 National College Health
Assessment, 29% of college students have been diagnosed with anxiety and 24% with
Tate, who plans to graduate in December 2024, works as a graduate assistant for Associate Professor Erin Moser, who chairs the Department of Rehabilitation and Human Services inUNC's College of Natural and Health Sciences. She and Moser worked together to prepare a presentation about their research on accommodating
higher ed students with psychiatric disabilities at the National Symposium on Rehabilitation
Counseling in June 2023 at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
“Dr. Moser allowed me the freedom to be creative, and she helped me shape my thoughts
into something cohesive. She also elevated how I presented myself as a student and
a professional. Throughout my time in the program, she has encouraged my development
and challenged me to face educational obstacles head-on,” Tate said.
Tate and Moser's research on stigma has resulted in joint presentations, co-authored
articles, and a chapter in the forthcoming book Corrections and Disability by Springfield College faculty members Michael Accordino and Lindsey Fullmer. Their
chapter focused on the difficulty of finding jobs and other limitations facing people
with a criminal record.
Moser said Tate’s excitement and thirst for knowledge are some of the best qualities
a graduate student can have. It's those qualities, she said, that lead to the desire
and commitment to make positive changes in the world.
“She'll really dive in and work diligently. With a topic like stigma, the only way
we’re going to make changes in a world that has a lot of stigmas toward people with
disabilities is to educate them. For example, if somebody has schizophrenia, that
doesn't mean that they are violent or that they’re going to hurt somebody. That’s
the type of stigma we try to combat,” said Moser.
After working in the field for a few years, Tate plans to pursue a Ph.D.
— written by Brenda Gillen