A fateful camping trip with a group of Saybrook University students pointed Haley Lowe, a one-time high school dropout, on a path to an impactful career in children’s mental health.
Growing up in a blue collar logging town in the Pacific Northwest, Haley Lowe was keenly aware of the connections between class and race, power and privilege. As the daughter of a hairdresser and a one-time high school dropout herself, her dreams for her future were limited. Growing up, work ethic was prioritized, while education was never part of equation. She went on to see how access to education and health care created distinct disadvantages for some groups, and privileged other groups. She wanted to be part of the solution to address these disparities but didn’t quite know how.
A fishing trip on the Yakima River with a group of like-minded humanistic scholars from Saybrook University became her turning point, leading her on a journey of discovery, self-awareness, and transformation.
“They had a language—a way of talking about the world—and it made me want to be a part of whatever it was they were doing.”
Inspired by what she heard about the Saybrook experience, Lowe went on to become the first person in her family to go to college, graduating with an M.A. in Psychology from Saybrook in 2012. Today, working with the state of Washington’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR), she is providing critical services to young people suffering from early psychosis.
“Without this intervention, the outcome for a young person experiencing psychosis was often a lifetime of disability, homelessness, substance abuse, and even suicide,” says Lowe, explaining that The First Episode Psychosis Project is part of the state’s ground-breaking efforts to increase early psychosis identification and intervention. “With intervention, young people are able to stay engaged in their goals and remain in school, work, and other activities that give their lives meaning and purpose.”
Now Lowe finds herself confidently speaking the same “language” she heard that night around the campfire—a language of light, mindfulness, and purpose being put into action with the young people in her charge.
“It sounds lofty and idealistic, and yet this approach has given me a career using my talents to truly impact positive change,” says Lowe, who also earned a specialization in Systems Counseling. “This awakening allowed me to see systems more clearly, develop genuine relationships, and bring my authentic self to all that I do.”
Lowe is now hard at work helping to launch her agency’s first-ever Early Psychosis Initiative (EPI). Aiming to improve the long-term trajectory of those experiencing schizophrenia, the EPI calls for an intervention plan and the creation of a system that provides appropriate levels of evidence-based delivery to patients.
“Large system work requires having the right people at the table,” she says. “This is where I feel my greatest strengths are—bringing the right people to the table to advance our efforts with maximum efficiency.”
Lowe has come a long way since that night on the Yakima River. She broke through the barriers of privilege by going to college. She shattered the myth of her blue collar culture by pursuing dreams once thought impossible. And she has done so with grace and courage.
“I left Saybrook a life-long learner with a commitment to contributing to the greater good,” Lowe says. “Saybook taught me how to respectfully challenge the status quo and engage in difficult conversations. The world is hungry for the type of engagement Saybrook encourages in its students every day.”