A mental health professional, community service expert and budding politician, Charishma Kaliyanda faced various inaccurate stereotypes in her career so far. She continues to challenge the status quo and is keen to help people to make better decisions about their health and well-being.
Charishma works at Headspace Campbelltown to develop and implement a local community awareness strategy to reduce stigma and facilitate access to help for young people experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing.
She develops links with local community organisations, businesses, teachers, parents and health professionals to further the guidelines by National Youth Mental Health Initiative.
Charishma also contributes to service planning and the promotion of headspace Campbelltown through a range of social media channels. She develops psycho-educational content to be delivered both in-person and digitally for young people.
Mental health issues in young people
A current project that Charishma is leading aims to increase awareness of problem gambling and gaming in young people aged 12-25. This age demographic is twice as likely to experience harm associated with problem gambling, however, is less likely to access support.
“The project aims to develop and evaluate psycho-educational resources and deliver these in conjunction with educational, sporting and community partners,” says Charishma.
A budding politician
“I was inspired to get politically involved as I wanted to be part of the solutions to the problems I was seeing and talking about, rather than feeling constrained by a situation,” says Charishma.
“I think it’s really important that we consider what steps are appropriate for our own lives when tackling a problem we want to solve – sometimes challenges can appear too complex or overwhelming and our natural instinct is to avoid dealing with them,” she says.
“So many of the decisions that affect the way we live, work and interact with others are made on a political level – so it’s important that we take the initiative to make our voice heard and pay attention to what is happening”.
Charishma’s link between STEM and politics
“STEM approaches have really helped me to understand different perspectives, and coming from a health sciences background, I can apply a lot of my professional frameworks to my role as a councillor,” says Charishma.
In STEM disciplines, we learn to gather evidence and come to a conclusion based on the evidence.
“I feel like this is a much more constructive way of problem-solving and tackling the challenges our community faces,” she says.
“Finally, there are many famous STEM figures who have contributed to politics – this idea that they don’t go together is inaccurate!”
Facing inaccurate stereotypes
Facing inaccurate stereotypes has been a major challenge Charishma has faced so far.
“There are many generalisations we tend to make about women in STEM and people from diverse backgrounds in Australia.”
“Awareness of how these stereotypes and generalisations can hold us back is really important as it can often stop decision-makers from taking people or their ideas seriously,” says Charishma.
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Charishma is an avid advocate for diversity and inclusion.
“As someone who had straddled the dual worlds of working in a STEM profession, and being a decision-maker, I see the value and importance of having different perspectives at the table to challenge traditional ways of approaching a problem and to ensure different facets of an issue are properly considered,” she says.
Advice for young people in STEM
1- Learning through experience can give you a whole other level of perspective than simply reading/observing, so try to get as much hands-on experience in the areas you’re curious about. It may turn out to be totally different to what you expect, and open up different avenues you never considered before.
2- Put effort into finding mentors (plural) right from the get-go. Having multiple mentors who are at different stages of their careers and who may be from different disciplines mean you have access to a broad professional network that can help you view your challenges and opportunities very differently.
Career path and Qualifications
- Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts – UNSW
- Master in Occupational Therapy – University of Sydney
- President of the Student Representative Council – Arc@UNSW
- Science Marketing & Administration Assistant – Faculty of Science, UNSW
- National Coordinator, Young Professionals’ Services – Professionals Australia
- Research Assistant – School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney
- Community Engagement & Development Officer – Headspace Campbelltown
- Councillor – Liverpool City Council
Author: Dr Astha Singh
Astha is the Managing Editor at Refraction Media. She is a STEM Marketer and holds a Honors, Masters & PhD degree in Science. She has been producing STEM marketing content for over 10 years and is an avid advocate of Diversity in the STEM industry.