By Stella Delp
When I was little, I threw a fit every time I had to go to the doctor because I was scared that they would find out something was wrong with me. I was afraid to let anyone in on the reality I was living. With a smile on my face, I focused on sports and school and hid my hurt from the people who loved me most.
I’ve struggled with depression and OCD since the age of six, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school, when an eating disorder took over, that my internal pain came to the surface. After being forced to leave school, I was tossed between doctors, hospitals, and residential treatment centers for the next two years. During this time, I experienced some of the most disappointing parts of our health care system. My parents spent days on the phone begging for insurance to cover my care, doctors administered medication prematurely, and it seemed like most patients (including myself) left facilities with more trauma than they came in with. It took time, but with references from counselors and family friends, I found care providers who saw me as human, not the behaviors of my disorders. I felt like my doctors valued our relationship, person to person, beyond “fixing” me up and sending me off. When this happened, I could finally begin my healing process.
Understanding the biological and chemical aspects of mental health has played a huge role in my recovery. This is partially why I am currently a student at Stanford majoring in Human Biology with a concentration in neurobiology supporting cognitive and behavioral health. In addition, viewing my struggles as a way to empathize and empower others has motivated me to seek out innovative methods to improve mental health care.
This past Spring, I joined a community of passionate individuals excited about entrepreneurship through the Mayfield Fellows Program. During the summer, every fellow works at a mission-driven start-up company. I was introduced to Prairie Health when Maurice Chiang, Prairie’s co-founder and CEO, came to speak to our class. After hearing the mission of the company, I knew that this was where I wanted to make an impact. Over the past three months, I am grateful to have had the incredible opportunity to work as Chief of Staff for Prairie.
Our team is a collection of motivated and loving people from diverse backgrounds. We all bring unique skills and experiences to the table, but what unites us is our mission to provide modernized mental health care. Working with Prairie has renewed my hope for the future of the industry and revealed promising quantitative care based on research and technology. This empowers people to take ownership over their mental health and work in collaboration with their care providers to make informed treatment decisions.
I thought it only made sense for me to try out what makes Prairie Health unique: genetic testing. When I got my results back from my test, I learned that I am a poor metabolizer of the medications I have been on for the past seven years. My body has a reduced response to certain medications in comparison to other people, so It’s no wonder that even at a high dose, I haven’t experienced many benefits. I’ve been debating switching medications for a long time now but never had the support of my psychiatrist to do so. Now, with the guidance of a psychopharmacologist, I’ve decided to wean off my current medications and see how I feel. While it can be anxiety-provoking to try new medications, it can be equally so to taper off, especially if you’ve been on them for many years. Even so, I am optimistic that taking this step with the support of my therapist and loved ones will ultimately improve my mental wellness.
Every experience with mental illness looks different, and it’s hard to pave a way forward. I still struggle with the negative narratives that tell me I don’t deserve to feel better or that my pain is a burden to others. I still have hard times, but what keeps me moving forward are the inspiring people around me and working to change how we treat, view, and talk about mental health. I hope this post provides some context around the people behind the Prairie logo and lets you know that if you are suffering alone, there are people here who want to support you.
Stella is a junior at Stanford studying human biology with a concentration in neuroscience. She is passionate about learning how to deploy cutting-edge research from the lab to the real world through entrepreneurial ventures. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, trail running, and spending time with dogs.