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Daily Inspiration: Meet Autumn Francisco

Today we’d like to introduce you to Autumn Francisco.  

Hi Autumn, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Overcoming adversity has led me to where I am today. I am really passionate about mental health and women’s health. My interests as a social worker stem from personal experiences. Two main ones are destigmatizing the Black family from a mental health perspective, as well as the health disparities surrounding reproductive health, research that I’ve done has also centered around the injustices that women and Black people experience. 

I grew up in a single-parent home in the inner city of Columbus, OH. My mom and I moved around frequently as we lived in poverty. We lived in segregated neighborhoods, and I went to inner-city, segregated public schools. Though my home environment seemed pretty healthy, the circumstances were pretty traumatic. I was exposed to a lot of violence; I have lost more friends than my fingers can count from gun violence, with the first murder taking place when I was 15 years old. I got my first job at 16 to assist my mom with bills. At that same job, I watched a kid take his last breaths in the parking lot. The victim was another person who did not show up at my high school the following morning. Not only was this traumatic to witness, but traumatic experiences followed. I was unaware of how traumatic my environment was until I went to college. I thought it was “normal,” and that was how it was supposed to go. We are all products of our environment, and I thought if you were really “about it,” you had to die or go to jail. When I was 18 as a freshman, I moved to Cincinnati, and it was a major cultural shock. I began to feel like I was not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough. I was not aware of social and societal issues. I knew racism still existed because I heard people talking about it, but I did not think I lived in it. I did not realize that segregation was a result of systemic racism. I still mourn the deaths of my friends, but I also understand that I got out of that environment for a reason which was to better my life. 

After facing countless experiences of adversity during undergrad, I graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Magazine Journalism. After being in the workforce for a couple of years, I decided that I really wanted to make a difference and give back to my community. My experiences led me to this point and as I progress, I meet fewer and fewer people who came from places similar to my background. With that being said, within the last five years after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I have completed a master’s program and done an ample amount of community service. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I believe everything is all about perspective. It depends on how you look at it. After working in the marketing field for a couple of years post-grad, I decided that I wanted a career with more profound meaning and started looking up the steps to becoming a mental health therapist. I went to many “info sessions” and meetings with potential programs and was told not to even apply by some due to the grades in undergrad. I felt stuck for a second as this was discouraging, but I did not let that deter what I was called to do. The reality of the situation is that those programs weren’t for me, which is OK. After deciding that I wanted to pursue a master of social work degree, I only applied to ONE program; on top of getting accepted, I was told that my application received an honorable review. The challenges were worth it because they led me to a smooth process and to a program where I felt appreciated. Now, I hold a degree that will allow me to reach new heights and help more people. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a recent (April 2022) graduate of the Master of Social Work program at the University of Cincinnati. Over the last two years, I have interned in the mental health field working with underserved populations. My experience as a therapist has prepared me for what’s to come. 

I believe that my interests share a unique story about me. I thrive off of passion and value; I am morally driven. Doing what I love keeps me going and that is helping people. The quote “be who you needed when you were younger” speaks volumes to me because that is who I strive to be. I created “Emotionally, Me” back in 2018 as a blog originally discussing mental health and lifestyle. This was during a period when I was struggling badly with my mental health. Over the years, it has turned into a mental health Instagram account that has grown tremendously and has led to me speaking at numerous events surrounding mental health, women’s empowerment, and sisterhood. 

I am always looking for ways to serve the community in ways one may not consider. A few years ago, I had the idea of creating a drive to combat period poverty which led to me being the co-founder of Change the Cycle, a 501(c)(3) organization to reach even more people in need. Change the Cycle’s mission promotes period equity and combats discrimination by providing feminine products to organizations that empower and improve the lives of menstruating people including youth, those experiencing homelessness, and drug-addicted people. Back in my hometown, a good friend and I decided to send gifts on Mother’s Day to the mourning mothers of our friends we lost. We thought this was a good way to send love and let them know someone is thinking about them; we hope to keep this going for the years to come. 

As I continue to grow as a social worker, I plan on opening a private practice specializing in Black mental health. I want to target perinatal mental health. I want to counsel women through their presenting problems and highlight their heightened mental health symptoms during pregnancy, menstrual cycles, and early postpartum. I want them to know that their voices are heard, and their feelings are valid. 

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Resilience is the good luck I have had in my life. I always try to look at the different perspectives of things, especially when something “bad” happens, it is how I keep going. I am pretty sure there will be more “low” points to come and there will be times when I may feel like giving up as I face challenges for the next goal, but my resilience always prevails. 

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Image Credits

Jay Lackey

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