Autumn Cain is entering her freshman year at the University of Michigan. She is a fearless advocate for mental health specifically, but has volunteered over 2000 hours to creating a better world.
When Autumn was 14, she attended a youth leadership conference called MYLead, and ever since she has become engaged in social change. After the conference, she realized her true potential and she joined the Kalamazoo County Youth Council. Autumn has many notable accomplishments under her belt, including founding not one, not two, but three non-profit organizations, running for public office, volunteering over 2000 hours, giving a TedTalk to discuss her work, and serving those across the United States to create positive impacts. Autumn would say she is passionate about STEM education, climate change action, and homeless care, but has primarily worked in mental health advocacy.
“We treat mental health issues as being somewhat “made-up”, yet mental health issues are as prevalent and real as any physical issue. It really is a simple concept, yet it is one that many don’t understand and misunderstanding it can lead to very dangerous consequences for many. Because of this, we are made to feel that we should internalize and repress any negative emotions we face. If I could change something right now, it would be to change this system. To explain to our children that it is alright to communicate negative emotions and to have doctors and mental health professionals that treat each person's with concerns with equality. To not look down upon those in neurodiverse communities or those struggling to regulate their emotions. To live in a world that provides kindness and understanding to everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, socioeconomic background, or mental health conditions. These are the issues that I am the most passionate about and the issues I will pursue for the rest of my life, one story and one person at a time.”
Autumn’s non profit organizations are all breaking down barriers for different groups of people, all with the mission of helping others reach their full potential. The first organization she founded is called Thrive Relief, which is a subscription box organization to aid those who struggle with mental health issues, all while donating to charities like Mental Health America and de-stigmatizing mental health illness as a whole. She founded the second organization through the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet, where she is a founding member, and it is called Empower the Shower. This organization has the goal of establishing mobile showers in southwest Michigan and expects to do in the Spring of 2020.
The third organization is called Autisma, which she is currently in the process of launching. Autisma is an organization to help women on the spectrum find a welcoming community and receive equal representation, diagnosis, and overall support. Women with autism, especially those of color, often go incredibly undiagnosed. This is primarily because the only representation we see of autism in everything from the media to research tends to be targeted towards white, teenage boys, leaving many girls and women undiagnosed and underrepresented. From sharing the stories of women on the spectrum to providing scholarships, it is her goal to redefine the face of autism.
Autisma is particularly an area Autumn is passionate about as it is a barrier she overcomes everyday. “The most notable barrier I have overcome was actually myself. I was recently diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, and the path to receiving these diagnoses was substantially more difficult than it should have been. The road to getting my diagnoses and the treatment I needed was substantially more arduous than it needed to be. I struggled for years on end since I was about 13, voicing all of my concerns to my doctor, yet getting no helpful response in return. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I finally started to get the help I needed, which for many women is relatively early. It is also unfortunately too late for many others. I want to help those with mental health issues find the help that they need and an inclusive community for them to feel welcomed and at home, one person and one story at a time.
I am motivated simply by helping others come out of their darkest moments as I have over the past few years. I am motivated to help these individuals find the resources that will continue them down the most fulfilling and joyful path possible - because, to me, that’s what we all deserve in the end. We deserve a life in which we can understand ourselves fully, not one where we are shoved into society’s idea of ourselves. I get my inspiration from hearing the stories of those who have struggled with their mental health and have found their way out of such a seemingly bottomless pit. I get my inspiration from those that tell me that the resources and listening ear I provided them set them on the path to fully healing. I went through most of my life not only struggling with these mental health issues but feeling invalidated and almost a failure because none of my doctors that I had throughout the years would provide me any help or assistance. It is now my goal to make sure this situation does not happen for other girls, women, and people of color around the nation and around the world. No one should have to plead to their doctor for mental health evaluations and treatment. No one should be convincing their doctor that they are struggling and receive little to no response in return.
I have also overcome homelessness, but it was at a much earlier age. I was about 7 when my house began burning down because our neighbors had set theirs on fire for insurance money. I suppose that experiencing such a barrier at a young age truly introduced me into how difficult life can be and will be. I often look back upon that time as being the reason why I work so hard in everything that I do. Why I continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone for not only the betterment of my future but the betterment of society as a whole. I think it is also what has brought me a greater level of empathy in life. Experiencing homelessness brought a new level of understanding to me for those who are struggling in life, whether they are struggling to finish their degree or find a roof to stay under.”
Autumn is also passionate about STEM education. Autumn is currently majoring in aerospace engineering and science communication, and her long-term end goal is to become a NASA astronaut. That may seem a bit out of place considering all of the things she has been working at, but Autumn firmly believe that having multiple passions is the best way to experience life fully. She also plan on entering the Air Force as an officer after completing her degree and ROTC program. She hopes to use the science communication side of my degree to share the wonders of STEM with the public, inspiring young girls to pursue STEM along the way. She is currently the host of a small science show on YouTube (@AstroAutumn) and in an ideal world, she would love to take this show to a greater audience.
She also plans to continue running and expanding Autisma, so that we can not only create the greatest impact nationally but also globally. It has become an immense passion of Autumns to help guide others through difficult times and to show them resources that can potentially revolutionize their lives. It is also incredibly important to her to de-stigmatize mental health in the public as a whole, and show everyone that your mental health is just as important and valid as your physical health.
Autumns also hopes to give another TEDTalk (and so does Being Our Future!), this time talking at length about women with autism and how we need to change our understanding of the face of autism so that women, gender-nonconforming individuals, and people of color with autism are not disproportionately affected.
Overall, although it may sound a bit odd, Autumn wants to push for destigmatizing mental health illness while building rockets to travel to areas in the cosmos we have never been to.
We are super excited to see Autumn continue to lead in her own community, but also out of this world even. Autumn is the perfect example of a young person who didn’t let their circumstances affect them, but empower them to create change for others. We are so excited to feature Autumn, because we also believe that young people can and should have multiple passions. From mental health, stem, homelessness, and more, Autumn is certainly creating a change person by person. We can’t wait to see Astro Autumn in space, and maybe beyond!