MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the last few months, WCCO has shared plenty of stories about kids whose lives have been changed because of Washburn Center for Children. But now we’re focusing on one of the people who does the changing.
Dr. Tina Shah serves two roles at Washburn Center for Children: Counseling kids and mentoring other therapists who are learning to help them.
Both of those roles are linked to her own childhood.
“I just feel like I can understand the impact of children’s mental illness on a family as a whole,” said Shah. “I feel like I can understand that, and also I feel like I have more empathy towards children that are experiencing that.”
It’s empathy developed through experience. Growing up, her entire family struggled with her sister’s mental illness. The right help wasn’t available until she was older.
“Emotional outbursts, conflict with my parents and she experienced a lot of learning difficulties at school, bullying,” said Shah. “I just wonder what her childhood would have been like if she’d had that at that point.”
It inspired her to help others and become a child psychologist.
“I feel like it’s my duty to have that empathy,” said Shah. “My sister didn’t receive that. And so I feel like it’s so awesome that I can provide a space where kids can come and feel safe.”
Children’s mental health services have changed since those days. Washburn has been at the forefront.
Shah feels she can contribute even more by bringing that empathy to her role as a teacher. She brings an extra perspective because she was once a student at Washburn herself.
“(That’s) part of the reason I like supervising,” said Shah. “I feel like I have a broader reach.”
That’s why her desk is surrounded by thank you cards from kids, from students and all because her own experience inspired her to help others.
“I think that they are excited that I am able to provide services to families and children that wanted to receive earlier and they weren’t able to,” said Shah.
Shah believes cultural differences played a role in her sister’s struggles, too. Her family is Indian, and moved here from Africa. So, she tries to bridge those gaps, as well.
To see the other stories in this series and to learn more about Washburn, just go to WCCO.com/Washburn.