Dimple Patel is a current doctoral student studying Clinical Psychology at The Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She is a member of PROJECT 375’s Associate Board and an avid supporter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
PROJECT 375: What’s been your biggest challenge as you’ve dealt with the loss of your mother to suicide?
Dimple Patel: It was about four years ago when I found out that my mother committed suicide. In one moment, my world was turned upside down. It felt as if someone ripped out my heart and took the one person I loved the most away from me. What hurt most was realizing that my mother had taken her own life. I did not know how to react and neither did my family.
One of my biggest challenges back then was how to adjust to life in my early twenties without my mother. During this time I was in my very first graduate level course in a masters program. I was scared and felt completely lost. I did not know how to handle it and reached out to my professor and the chair of the program to tell them what happened. It was their support and guidance that kept me going. I took their advice and went to the counseling center on campus for a short time.
I used school as a distraction to avoid how I really felt about everything that happened at home. It was the best distraction I had because it was the only stable thing I had going on. I needed consistency as well as structure. Additionally, a month after my mother passed, my grandmother also passed away. Once again I jumped back into my academic work because that felt like my only escape.
I never got a chance to fully process what I was going through. I regret not taking the time then to go see a therapist to work through those issues I was struggling with. In an instant I had to take on other roles that I was not ready for such as: doing household work, as I was the only woman in the house, and taking care of my father and brother. I was always stressed out, but I kept moving along. It was not until last year that I took the step forward to go back to therapy to work on all the things I had been avoiding for the past few years.
Not having my mother around anymore is always going to be difficult. She will never get to see me graduate from my doctorate program or call me Dr. Patel. She will not get to go wedding shopping with me in India. She will miss my wedding and meeting my future kids. These are all challenges that I know I will have to face. However, she may not physically be here anymore, but there are always ways to include her in everything!
PROJECT 375: What is your favorite childhood memory?
Dimple Patel: My favorite childhood memory was when I used to live in Bensenville, IL and we would wait during the summers for the ice cream truck to come everyday. My cousins and I knew his schedule and which ice cream we loved. I cannot remember the last time I got ice cream from an ice cream truck! I feel like I can hear the music playing as he drove onto our street. We were always ready with what little money we had as kids.
PROJECT 375: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?
Dimple Patel: My biggest accomplishment to date would be my acceptance into a Doctorate program in Clinical Psychology. Education is very important to me, as I am the first generation in my family to finish high school, go to college, and attend a graduate program.
My previous experience as a client in therapy has provided me with invaluable skills, as I now navigate the road towards being a future clinician. Therapy allowed me to shape my understanding of the world around me and helped me find my own path. My greatest strength is now my resilience, and my ability to seek help when needed. I have taken on many leadership roles through the difference phases of my education, however, I aspire to be more active in providing psycho-education to other minority cultures on the advantages of seeking psychological services.
PROJECT 375: What do you do for fun?
Dimple Patel: Haha what fun? There is not time for fun in graduate school! In our program we often discuss the importance of self-care and burnout. Being in school full time and doing a practicum at the same time can take a lot out of you. So I have made it a point to travel more this year. This past January, I went to Thailand for two weeks with a few friends. It was the best trip of my life! I did not think about school or a thing related to it! It was amazing to just relax. I also like to watch a lot of movies and bake for others.
PROJECT 375: As a clinical psychology major, what do you hope the future looks like for you?
Dimple Patel: There is so much I would like to do, but I have learned that taking one task at a time is the best thing to do for me. I am currently working on my dissertation on South Asian mental health. I want to complete this within the next year, apply for an internship and finally graduate with my doctorate – I am so close!
Ideally I would like to work with adolescents in a hospital setting. My current practicum provides me the opportunity to work with children, adolescents, and adults. When I feel more established, I would like to open up a small private practice on the side.
I want to continue my work with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and become more involved. One of my side projects is to help raise awareness for South Asian mental health as it is highly stigmatized. In order to start a conversation within this area, we need to provide more psycho-education around it. The goal is to do more presentations and speaking events in this area to help others know how and where to access mental health providers, as well as help individuals recognize the warning signs of psychological disorders or suicidal ideation/intent.
There is so much I would like to do, but I have learned that taking one task at a time is the best thing to do.