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Student Spotlight: Senior Ted Holahan on Serving Trauma Victims

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

Ted Holahan at VOICES golf event

Senior Ted Holahan, far left, helping at VOICES 8th Annual Golf Outing fundraiser.

Students at Mount St. Mary’s University are known for their tireless service to their community on campus and afar, and many spend time on service trips all over the country and the world. Senior Ted Holahan learned how to help trauma victims, opening his eyes to the world and answering his call to serve.

Community mental wellness services are often understaffed. Last summer Holahan had the opportunity to help provide mental health assistance to dozens of people and raise money for the Voices Center for Resilience (VOICES).

A human services major, Holahan applied skills learned in class by working with a nonprofit organization that helps communities recover from traumatic events. VOICES, founded shortly after September 11, 2001, is a digital memorial honoring those who were lost that day. The collection now has tens of thousands of pictures, oral histories from friends and family of victims, as well as survivor stories, all to preserve the memory of those lost. Holahan helped expand this collection by researching local newspapers and finding articles about each victim from that day.

Today the nonprofit’s mission has evolved and expanded to offer crisis support to any community that has suffered a traumatic event. Holahan assisted graduate-level counselors in their meetings with grieving families: “I would help aid the social discussion groups and I learned how they operated. I taught participants different tips and tools to deal with their conditions,” he explained.

Mental health continues to be a sensitive topic to discuss. Working with professionals and seeing different strategies they employ to help people understand their emotions are valuable experiences for someone who wants to pursue a career in this field. Holahan is grateful for his professors in human services and the values that he has garnered from his liberal arts education. He was able to apply many of the skills he learned in the race and disability class taught by Associate Professor Jack Trammell, Ph.D. “The importance of this is that we take two stigmatized identities and use them both to compare their experiences to learn more about disability as we understand race better,” Trammell explained.

Holahan employed the values of respect and inclusivity to empower people to talk about their struggles. When remedying mental health issues, the language used must not promote any stigmas that hinder people from seeking assistance. Holahan shared that patience and vigilance were the most important skills he has honed at the Mount, and he got to apply them often at this job. On vigilance, he commented, “When working with people with mental disorders you must remain focused on the goals of the patient and not let setbacks discourage you.” Both Holahan and the people he was helping expanded their capacity for patience: “I struggle with patience because I have ADHD…it’s rewarding seeing my patience grow and in the people I was helping,” he said.

Holahan plans to continue his social work mission this summer in Cambodia with World Race, so his work with VOICES was the perfect position for him to diversify his experience. The Mount attracts many students, like Holahan, who devote their lives to service and leave the university prepared with the skills they need to serve others.

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts