Bringing Attention to Mental Health and Bullying

Jessica Bayuk at Miss Florida 2017
By Andres Tamayo

Jessica Bayuk at Miss Florida 2017

Bringing Attention to Mental Health and Bullying

By Andres Tamayo
Miss UM, sophomore Jessica Bayuk, has taken her own personal experiences with mental health and turned them into positive messages for others.

Rising sophomore Jessica Bayuk is the epitome of a budding superstar at the University of Miami. During her freshman year at UM, Bayuk won the Miss University of Miami Scholarship Pageant, became a member of the Freshman Leadership Council in Student Government and later placed in the Top 15 at the 2017 Miss Florida competition. While Bayuk has grown into a strong and driven young woman at UM, it is her past that has helped shape who she has become today.

Jessica BayukBayuk grew up in the small town of Frederick, Maryland, raised in a conservative family. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and struggled to be in public because of her unique tendencies. 

Because of her uncontrollable obsessive and compulsive behavior, Bayuk found herself being bullied by others because she was different. The taunts were so much to bear sometimes that she would stay inside to avoid the outside judgments and bullying. 

“I suffered from OCD very severely and I couldn’t function out in public,” Bayuk said.

Bayuk became shyer around others and more insecure as she searched for her place in the world. Eventually, she began treatment with a specialist on a regular basis, where she slowly learned how to cope with the disorder and live her life unafraid.

“Without the help of my psychologist I wouldn’t be where I am today with the progress I’ve made with my mental disorder,” she said.  

It was during this low point in her life that Bayuk found her true passion in helping others struggling with mental health disorders and bullying.

Bayuk also had to overcome the loss of one of her best friends to suicide at the age of 12, which was devastating, but also helped fuel her in her pursuit “to help others who struggle with mental illness.”

A few years later, while she was still a shy and insecure 15-year-old, Bayuk’s parents encouraged her to enter the local Miss Frederick’s Outstanding Teen 2014 competition to help hone her public speaking skills and give her a platform to bring awareness to anti-bullying through her “Take a Stand Against Bullying” campaign.

Bayuk recalled entering and “not actually thinking I would win,” but the young teen, as she had done before, overcame the odds and won the competition.

As she experienced success in the competitions, Bayuk’s campaign also began to take off. Since she launched the “Take a Stand Against Bullying” campaign in 2014, the anti-bullying message has reached more than 30,000 people and opened doors for her to speak at 85 schools, according to Bayuk.

“Because of my friend and my own personal experience with bullying and mental illness, it has really saved who I am today. All I want to do in life is to be able to give back to kids. I want to become a child psychologist,” Bayuk said.

Bayuk would go on to win both Miss Western Maryland’s Outstanding Teen 2015 and Miss Maryland’s Outstanding Teen 2015 awards before being accepted to attend the University of Miami, where – unbeknownst to her – her grandfather also attended.

As a freshman, Bayuk was crowned Miss UM and was the second youngest contestant to finish in the Top 15 in the 2017 Miss Florida competition. She is also on the Campus Liaison Council in Student Government, has coordinated events with Best Buddies and UM students, and is a member of the Sunsations Dance Team.

Bayuk’s dedication and passion for mental health awareness and bullying has been a driving force in her life and has led her to major in psychology at UM. Now, as she enters her sophomore year, she hopes to “navigate independence and maturity” and aims to be a role model for others struggling with the same mental health illnesses she faces each day.