Leila Warraich: Challenging Mental Health Stigma

Leila Warraich is a current graduate student at The Johns Hopkins University obtaining her Masters in Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the School of Education. Leila had a very unique childhood living eight years in Texas, five years in Pakistan and six years in Qatar. Leila graduated with her Bachelors from Texas A&M University in May 2016. She is passionate about mental health, especially in eliminating stigma surrounding Muslim communities.  This story was produced by photographer Carlos Khalil Guzman.


Who has been the most important person in your life?
I have to say that without a doubt my mother is the most important person in my life. She is my cheerleader, my role model, my therapist and my teacher all in one. I know that most people have great love and admiration for their mothers, but my mother is superhero. My mother taught me to love everyone no matter who they were or where they were from. My mother showed us how to serve our Creator by serving his Creation. My mother taught me how to connect with my thoughts and emotions, and express who I am proudly. My mother taught me to be independent and strong. My mother is a feminist. She taught me how to have compassion and mercy. She taught me how to get back up after falling down. And most importantly she taught me to always be grateful to our Creator for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon me.

What is your earliest memory?
As far back as I can think I remember this one day in particular from my childhood. I must have been five or six. It was a weekday and for some reason my mom and I were out at the mall. I lived in a college town till I was 8 years old, and so the mall was small. But back when you are a kid all the places feel a lot larger and more spacious. I remember thinking that we walked from one end to another because it took us so long and I was so tired, when in reality it probably was less than a five minute walk. But I had fun, even if we were just roaming around looking through different stores. At the end of the day my mom bought us McDonalds, in particular a happy meal, and it was kind of the most incredible day of my life. I was so excited to have my happy meal, but I was even more excited for the toy. I don’t really remember what happened after but when I think of good times, I remember this one incredible day with my mom. It was so simple and nothing eventful happened, but as a child it meant the world to me.

When in life have you felt most alone?
I have felt alone many times in my life, but perhaps the most was when I moved back to the United States for college. I graduated high school in Qatar and then moved back to Texas (where I was born and grew up) for my undergraduate degree. Even though we had a lot of family friends in the area, that first semester was very difficult. I missed my parents dearly and as other freshman’s parents came to visit them or they drove back home on the weekends I started to realize just how different my situation was. Here I was, adjusting back to life in the US, trying to juggle my first semester of college on top of missing my family dearly. I Skyped them pretty much every day (I still do!), and I started to involve myself with the local mosque and the Muslim Student Association. And soon I started to make my own home and find supportive loving friends. Looking back, undergrad was an incredible time in my life with amazing opportunities, but it was a process of learning and growing and being honest with myself about my feelings that led me there.

How would you like to be remembered?
Alhamdulliah (praise be to Allah) I feel as if I have lived a very blessed life so far. Each individual has his or her tests in this world but God gives us the strength to face them when the time comes. I don’t want to be remembered for anything too grand but just for how I made people feel when they were in my company. I hope people remember me as someone who loved and cared for them deeply. Someone who always wanted to help a fellow human out in any way that I could. I want to be remembered as being an advocate for mental health and for helping fight against the stigma associated with it. I want to be remembered as the girl who watched too much Netflix and fangirled about things way too hard but really enjoyed her life and tried to live it to the fullest. I just want to be remembered as God’s servant who worked on serving Him and His Creation.

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