by Erin Garvey ’22
Are you ever stressed? Anxious? Depressed? Do you have a group of people that you can go to when you feel this way? Many students on campus will say they have found a group that they can go to, but would you be open to talking to them about mental health concerns? If you answered yes to feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, but answered no to having a group you can freely talk to, that needs to change.
October is both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Both are very important issues that many of our students and faculty are affected by today. So why is it that while mental health is a very important concern in our community, activities on campus that have to do with mental health awareness are not a main priority?
Is it because students are ashamed to be associated with a mental illness? Without a doubt, it is extremely hard to go out and associate yourself with a stigma that has a negative connotation.
We feel embarrassed to admit that we have mental health concerns, and we especially do not want to be associated with a stigma that may influence how others treat us. But when we have clubs on campus such as Active Minds and student-elected mental health boards, specifically the Student Advisory Board for Mental Health, it should not be so hard to want to join a club that advertises itself as a safe space for those with mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, lack of communication between the student community, and even the faculty, makes it hard to take advantage of mental health events. There are posters everywhere on campus, but does anyone read them? Even if they read the posters, do they acknowledge the importance of these events?
For the most part, the answer to these questions is no. Barely anyone reads the posters, and they especially do not take the time to take note of the date to ensure that they attend the events.
So how can we bridge the gap and break down the barriers between the students and clubs, fixing the communication? One way we could do this is by having a table permanently set up in Slavin to promote upcoming events. Many students feel more comfortable attending events after being invested in a conversation with someone. It makes students more willing to go to events when they learn, firsthand, what will be discussed at the event. Posters can become repetitive and boring, but interacting with a peer from our community can help break down barriers and is always interesting and worthwhile.
In the meantime, while clubs work on their communication with the community and hopefully have more students join, there have been other important mental health events on campus that students should be aware of. One such event is Fresh Check Day, which occurred on Oct. 8 in Peterson Recreation Center. Each mental health awareness club was in Peterson with a booth and each had a theme. The executive members of the Student Advisory Board for Mental Health explained that their theme was “elephant in the room.” The goal with this specific theme was to demonstrate that many students have an unacknowledged ‘elephant in the room,’ but that by bringing them up, we can reduce stigma and realize that we are more alike than different when it comes to dealing with mental health.
While we work to break down the barriers between the student community and the mental health clubs, it is important to remember that stigmas do not represent true character.
Acknowledging and accepting mental health struggles, while worthwhile in the end, is an extremely difficult and challenging process. However, surrounding yourself with peers who do not judge and understand your struggles can help in maintaining better mental health. Furthermore, opening up this dialogue as a campus community can help even more students to take advantage of the many opportunities and resources on this campus that are helping to break down the stigma associated with mental health.