Kate MacHugh, MSW
Kate MacHugh, MSW, is 25 years old and a national expert, sought-out speaker, author and activist on the topic of the bullying of children in society. She’s penned 2 books, UGLY: The Story of a Bullied Girl and TORMENTED. The former recalls MacHugh’s personal experiences and her life as a victim of bullying; the latter is a fictional story about a young woman who takes her life due to being bullied.
MacHugh travels the nation speaking to students, teachers, law enforcement agencies and is a keynote speaker at related conferences. So far she reached over 15,000 people with her personal message of being harassed, humiliated, and physically assaulted for 6 years. She is known for providing the evidence of what bullying means; evidence from her own life. She reads to her audience messages sent to her as a 7th grader; messages like: “You should just kill yourself already!” “Everyone hates you, why do you even come to school?” “You are so disgusting!” Her impact is unmistakable; it left one television interviewer in tears. MacHugh has been featured in articles and broadcasts by CNN, The New Jersey Spotlight, The Ashbury Park Press, the Lauren Galley Radio Show, NJ.com, Foxology Radio and The Chelsea Krost Show.
What made you want to become a social worker?
I have known for as long as I can remember that I wanted to be of service to others. My mom was a social worker, and my dad was a psychotherapist. In some ways, I feel that I was bred to be a social worker. My parents instilled in us the societal obligation to help others due to our own good fortune. Even as a child, I was the one that told the teacher when I noticed one of my classmates did not have lunch again or needed a new coat. I was the organizer of food drives, book drives, and coat drives. I was the quintessential do-gooder. It only made sense to turn that desire to help others in to a career.
Educationally speaking, how did you get from where you were to where you are today?
I received my BSW from Alvernia University and my MSW from Richard Stockton College. I passed my licensing exam in August 2014.
What advice would you offer someone who wanted to walk in your shoes professionally?
Self-care, self-care, self-care. I cannot say it enough. Burn out in this job is so high due to the demands of meeting people during the toughest times in their lives. You are going to meet clients that will suck the energy right out of you. Before you venture down the helping profession road you need to find something that you do that is just for you. I enjoy yoga, crocheting, reading, writing, and spending time with my family. I often retreat into an artistic outlet to work out the stress of my day. There will be nights you come home and think I can't even talk to my spouse, family, friends because of the day I have had. When those nights come you need to find something to ease those feelings.
Please tell us about your books.
I have written 2 books; UGLY and TORMENTED. UGLY is a memoir of my experiences as a victim of bullying in middle school and high school. TORMENTED is an edgy young adult fiction tackling bullying, suicide, self-harm, and date-rape. I am a professional speaker, and I travel the country telling my story at schools and national conferences. I love that I am able to help others that are experiencing what I endured. I enjoy meeting students and hearing their stories as well.
What made you want to write UGLY?
I was speaking professionally and the next logical step was to document my story in writing.
How has your life changed since writing it?
I received a lot of backlash from my first book, and there are many nasty reviews on Amazon from those that bullied me, which is essentially cyber-bullying. I had to learn to develop a thick skin and not allow people that have no bearing on my life cause me to feel upset. I learned to be proud of my accomplishments and not worry about those people that wanted to bring me down.
What did you learn from writing UGLY?
I learned that I was more resilient than I had realized. When I began to think about my experiences and how awful they truly were, I was surprised that I did not become another statistic. Every day, teens are killing themselves due to bullying and mental health issues and I was able to overcome it.
How has the book affected your professional life/practice?
The books have given me more credibility as a clinician and being able to say that I am an author holds a lot of credence with those that are interested in my services.
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