Psychology student shares her passion for rural mental health

Cathleen Schriber grew up on a dairy farm between Waihou and Te Aroha in heartland Waikato.

14 May 2021

The struggles of people in rural communities sparked a passion for studying psychology at the University of Waikato.

“I decided to study psychology because I want to make a difference in the field of rural mental health,” says Cathleen, who is an honours student in the School of Psychology.

“It is important to me because rural communities don’t always have access to mental health support.”

She worked in a variety of jobs in her 20s, before deciding to enrol in the university as a mature student in 2018.

When a double suicide rocked her rural community, she wondered if there was a way to help those suffering.

“The entire community was affected, even people who didn’t know them; the ripples went far and wide. I wanted to know if there was something I could do to help.

“How can we do a better job for the farming community?”

Cathleen, now 27, has enjoyed studying at Waikato, particularly researching topics she cares about.

As part of a second-year community health paper, she explored suicide in the farming sector.

“There is an opportunity to do more research in this area for academics, and for rural health professionals, academics and psychologists to work together.”

As a child, she experienced attending clinical psychology appointments to get assessment and treatment for dyslexia.

“It was hard, we had to travel to Hamilton for appointments between milking, so that was time for my parents away from the farm. After a few sessions, we realised that we couldn’t do this. If something happened on the farm, or animals got sick, that needed to come first,” recalls Cathleen.

That is why easy access to professional support in rural communities is a passion for Cathleen.

She recommends Waikato as a great place to study psychology.

“The clinical psychology programme is very good, and the lecturers are fantastic and passionate about their subjects. I’ve learned so much from them,” says Cathleen. “The lecturers want to get to know their students, too.”

She’s also enjoyed the wide selection of papers to study, including the kaupapa Māori approach to psychology.

“There are a lot of directions we can go in the psychology discipline and from the first year we are exposed to the options,” says Cathleen, who also studied Health, Sport and Human Performance alongside Psychology.

She chose Waikato University not just because it was close to home, but because it was welcoming and friendly.

“I like living close to the university campus - it’s an easy walk. And there are a number of clubs and resources that help with learning and health.”

Find out more about the School of Psychology at the University of Waikato.

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