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Mental Health in the Age of COVID-19


March 10, 2021

By Kate Robins

Clinical psychologist Dr. Ashley Doukas says the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic, together with social and political upheaval, has been a reminder our own limitations as both professionals and human beings. Doukas serves victims of trauma, particularly survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, at Bellevue Hospital’s World Trade Center Health Program.

This past year presented a unique scenario for professionals, she observes, because in certain ways they’re in the same boat as clients. “A lot of people feel like their struggles are not normal, that they should be feeling better,” she says, and that struggling is “a totally normal response to an abnormal situation.”

Doukas’ passion to help others came from painful childhood experiences in which her father was hospitalized with mental illness and her parents lost their family home. Her parents were high school graduates with little expectation that she could go to college. She assumed they were correct. That changed when she attended high school and enrolled in the Educational Teen Talent Search program.

[Know a TRIO alumnus like Ashley? Nominate them for the 2021 National TRIO Achievers Award here.]

Her counselor peppered her with practical questions. “Can you afford the SAT? Have you thought of college? Do you know what you would want to major in?” and “The answers were no, no, and no.”

Doukas attended the University of New Hampshire, becoming the first from her family to graduate from college. With the help of the McNair Scholars program, she attended the New School for her MA and Ph.D in clinical psychology, becoming the first in her family to get a doctorate in 2017.

For alumni, this year, COE hosts a virtual fifth annual TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum on Saturday, March 20. Participating TRIO alumni will share strategies for successfully navigating post-college life (family, career, finances, etc.) and learn more about TRIO history to preserve the TRIO legacy.

Doukas looks forward to the upcoming panel discussion about Mental Health in The Age of COVID. “This is a time of experimentation, to encourage as much flexibility on the part of students and educators and leverage strengths with compassion.”

Hear Doukas discuss her experiences in TRIO and her work in mental health by registering for the TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum here.