Where Are They Now? Shaelin helping those with mental health challenges

Above: Shaelin Siniscarco and her grandmother Jessie Siniscarco. “There is a huge need for mental health, and I realized I wanted to help the mentally ill,” Shaelin said. “When most people think of ‘sick’ people, they often think of the physically sick people, but the mentally ill are also sick and need to be taken care of as well.”

Shaelin Siniscarco is just 23 years old but has the wisdom of Solomon. She is a psychiatric nurse who has dedicated herself to helping those with their mental health, realizing that’s a major concern in the world today. Speaking of the world, she wants to help people in other countries deal with their challenges.

It’s amazing how time flies. It seems like yesterday you were an altar server and now you are a psychiatric nurse at a Syracuse hospital. What got you interested in that field?

While completing my psychiatric clinical in nursing school, I really enjoyed talking with the patients and hearing about their life stories and diagnoses. There is a huge need for mental health, and I realized I wanted to help the mentally ill. When most people think of “sick” people, they often think of the physically sick people, but the mentally ill are also sick and need to be taken care of as well.

What do you find most rewarding about your occupation?

My favorite population to work with is patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or drug-induced psychosis. I often work with people in their early 20s who have their first psychotic break. Seeing them go from having a normal life to being delusional, disorganized and confused is very disheartening. Once we stabilize them on medications, seeing their transformation and how the brain responds to medications is amazing. The patients are able to become mentally stable again and are able to function in society and live out their lives. 

What do you find most frustrating?

I often work with a lot of homeless people who struggle with mental illness, and it’s sometimes challenging to find appropriate housing for them. I wish everyone could have stable living situations, but there is a lack of resources in the community that can provide them with stable living situations, and it’s disheartening to see at times.

One of your biggest goals is to volunteer in underprivileged countries and assist with vaccinations, medical care and providing health education to people. Please explain why you would like to do that.

I’ve always wanted to travel, but I wanted to travel using my nursing background, and I would love to give back to people and help people who don’t have access to quality healthcare. I think it would be really rewarding to provide medical care to people to get them on the right track of living a healthy life. People in underprivileged countries don’t always have the best access to healthcare, and even something as simple as giving a vaccine could be life-changing for them. 

You like to travel and experience different cultures. What are some of the places you have been to and where would you like to go?

I went to Ecuador in college for a few weeks to take a Spanish course, which was a great experience. Ecuador was one of my favorite spots I have been to. I stayed with a host family, and the people were really friendly. In South American culture, people value family time and spending quality time with one another, which I enjoyed. I also recently went to St. Lucia on vacation in the Caribbean, which was also a beautiful island. Next winter, I plan to visit Chile in South America with my boyfriend for a few weeks to sightsee the country. Some places I would like to go to in the future are to see more countries in South America, and I would also like to travel around Europe and go to Ireland and Italy.

Another goal is to finish your master’s degree in nursing education and would like to teach at a collegiate level. Why is that important?

After COVID-19, it is apparent that nurses are getting burned out and want to leave the profession. It is a goal of mine to ignite the passion back into nursing, and I want to be a part of educating future nurses and helping people get excited about nursing again. Being a nurse is my proudest accomplishment, and it is so rewarding. Even when being a nurse is hard, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel that my vocation in my life was to be a nurse, and I would like to help others become nurses as well.

Soccer is one of your favorite sports, having played it for years on the club level, in high school and college. What do you enjoy most about that sport?

I spent a lot of time playing soccer and it’s something I was very dedicated to growing up. I loved learning new foot skills and playing competitive games. I played midfield for the majority of my life, and my favorite part was sending in crosses to my teammates and making assists. By being a midfielder, you have an opportunity to be a key part of the defense and offense, and I enjoyed being a part of both. 

Now, you are into kickboxing. How did that come about?

I started kickboxing back in college, and then when I graduated and moved out to Syracuse, I joined a kickboxing club. Kickboxing has been a great stress reliever, and it’s a fun way to exercise. 

You grew up in our parish. Your dad has been a parishioner his whole life and grew up in East Utica. What do you remember most about Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament?

One of my favorite memories was the Mount Carmel feast processions. I was a flower girl with my sister, and I would throw the flower petals at various spots when people would stop to say a prayer, with the Red Band playing in the background. I also remember attending church every Sunday with my family and grandma. Then after church, my dad would take my family to Caruso’s bakery for pastries and cappuccinos. My family gave my faith a good foundation, and I am thankful they instilled that in me at such a young age. 

When you attended Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament, you were an altar server for many years and a lector. Were those experiences meaningful for you?

I was an altar server for about eight years, and then I was a lector for about three to four years. I really enjoyed altar serving, especially for Holy Week. It was really nice to be a part of such beautiful Masses, and it made me feel really close to God and connected to my faith. Whether it was being an altar server or lector, I enjoyed being able to serve the church in a different way, and it allowed me to grow stronger in my faith. 

Now that you are out on your own and away from the area, is it difficult keeping up with your faith and how have you been able to maintain it?

It has been somewhat challenging at times, especially because my job requires me to work every other weekend, so I haven’t always been able to maintain going to church every Sunday. However, when I do have the opportunity to do so, I try to go and keep up with going to church. I do have to say, though, there hasn’t been a church in the Syracuse area that has that home-like feeling that Mount Carmel has, and I miss that. I often incorporate my faith into my job, though, which I do daily. I work with many patients who are severely depressed and suicidal. Many of these patients feel that no one cares about them or loves them, and they don’t see the value of living their life. As a nurse, I have discussions with patients about faith and remind them that their life is a precious gift from God and that no matter what hardships they are going through, they will get through it, and God is with them every step of the way. I sometimes use the quote, “God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.” Many patients are open to discussing spirituality, and it makes me feel good knowing I can use my faith to help them through their problems. 

Being a young person today who went through her teen years, what advice would you give to those younger than you about faith and its importance?

It’s important to be grounded in your faith, and it provides a lot of good moral values as well. Faith helps you be able to develop meaningful relationships in your life. It’s important to stay close to God because it’s always good to thank God for the blessings in your life, but there will be times when you will need to rely on God to get you through difficult times. 

What is the one lesson in life that you learned that has been the most important to you?

One important life lesson I learned is to trust the process. Oftentimes, people want things on their time, but it’s important to remember that everything will come in God’s time. 

Shaelin Siniscaro 

  • Age: 23.
  • Family: Father John, mother Mary, brother John, sister Fallon. 
  • Education. Graduated from high school in 2017; bachelor’s degree in nursing from Utica College in 2021; currently pursuing a master’s degree in nursing education at SUNY Delhi.
  • Employment: Psychiatric nurse at SUNY Upstate hospital in Syracuse. Also, clinical instructor at Utica University teaching a psychiatric nursing clinical for senior nursing students.
  • Things you like to do: Going to comedy shows in Syracuse, trying new restaurants and different cuisines, kickboxing.
  • Favorite book: “Night” by Ellie Wisel.
  • Favorite movie: “Just Go With It.”
  • Favorite TV show: “The Office.”
  • Favorite musical genre: Listen to a variety of music, but my favorite is Reggaeton and R&B.
  • Favorite quote: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela