Introduction to behavioral health field inspired social work graduate

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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Edie Mestas based her decision to enter social work on many contributing influences, leaving her hard-pressed to name just one particular inspiration.

"I guess you have to know me to understand why. I have overcome my fair share of obstacles, which, as a direct result, led me on the path of social work,” said Mestas, who is earning a Bachelor of Social Work degree and is the School of Social Work’s fall 2021 Outstanding Graduate.

“Overall, the moment I was introduced to the behavioral health field, I knew it was something that I wanted to forever pursue,” she said.

The Phoenix resident said that throughout her undergraduate career, she realized much about the field is far from easy.

“From setting up services to navigating resources to getting transportation, just everything that goes with pursuing services (for clients) can be difficult, especially for those who already have some kind of limitations,” Mestas said. “I thoroughly enjoy helping people help themselves, when an individual comes back and shares with you the difference that you made in their life.”

Mestas said as her graduation approached, another revelation struck her: There is still much more for her to learn.

Social work is such a huge area of study with so many subdivisions that can be broken down into even smaller subdivisions. All of them require a great deal of attention, and are required to essentially assist the individual, the program and the community as a whole,” said Mestas, who intends to pursue graduate study in social work. “As services, people and resources are forever changing and evolving, so is this program. I want to be a part of that. This is just the tip of the iceberg and my journey is surely not over.”

Mestas also finds motivation from her two young daughters.

“Most importantly, I have two small little humans that are depending on me. Those two little girls deserve the world, a world full of opportunity and love,” she said. “It's my job to make sure they have the best upbringing that I can offer them.”  

Read on to find out more about Mestas’ ASU experience and her future plans:

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer:  I had acquaintances go through the ASU social work program and heard nothing but great things, not only about the faculty but about the program overall. I have had the pleasure and the honor of working with one of the school’s faculty, who shall remain nameless — no, she has not been my teacher. Her passion, knowledge, motivation in how she conducted herself — not only in a professional manner but as a mom, a co-worker and an instructor — was inspiring. I wanted that. That is why, overall, I chose ASU.

Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A:  It's more like, whom didn't I learn an important lesson from? I have some of the best teachers. I have learned not only the material, but also so much from personal experiences they would share. But if I have to pick two, it would be Alison England and Karen Kattau.

I was impressed by the way Alison England conducts herself. There is an overall genuine sincerity about her that is contagious. She is always available and always makes sure that I understand the material. 

Karen Kattau heard me. For the first time since being at ASU and all my rants that I had given to some of my teachers, she heard me. I got to sit down with her, and some of the most amazing women I have crossed paths with, and develop resources for new students. New students may not know how to navigate certain areas that are essential for pursuing a career in social work. This is so huge. We are doing great things within ASU and I am excited to see how this goes. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Make it a habit to practice self-care. This line of work can be challenging and exhausting, and it's so important that we take a minute to ourselves. What got me by were the moments where I had a chance to breathe. So remember to breathe. Everything is going to be OK. Be patient with yourselves.  

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life? 

A:  I think it would be the outside area along Verde Mall on ASU’s West campus. It's really peaceful and serene. Great place to study!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A:  I am going to take a year off and spend some time with my kiddos. It's been a journey with them and they deserve me. Then I will work on my Master of Social Work degree in the advanced standing program.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A:  Homelessness! I would love to buy up some property and build a bunch of tiny houses. The conditions and resources that are available now just are not enough. I feel like if we had the opportunity to create opportunities it would decrease the amount of people experiencing homelessness we have here in Arizona, along with the crime rate, substance abuse and other contributing factors that are generally associated with homelessness.

The number of severely mentally ill people who are undergoing court-ordered treatment, who are continuously hospitalized, would decrease if they had somewhere to lay their heads and a safe place to resume their medication management. 

That's just one example of a specific population the money would affect. Let's also discuss our homeless veterans, who fought for our country knowing it could cost them their lives. For others it cost them their mental health. If their mental health isn't good, then neither is their ability to maintain residency. Everything is connected in some way. Finances, mental health, physical health, limitations, abilities: they are all contributing factors. If we could tackle the housing aspect, and then set up resources to assist with the others, what a huge difference it would be.

The School of Social Work is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Mark J. Scarp
mscarp@asu.edu